Cillian Murphy wins his first best actor Oscar for role in ‘Oppenheimer' biopic

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Cillian Murphy accepts the award for best performance by an actor in a leading role for "Oppenheimer" during the Oscars on Sunday, March 10, 2024, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

LOS ANGELESCillian Murphy called himself a “very proud Irishman” after he trotted onstage to claim his first-ever Oscar for portraying the man who created the atomic bomb in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster biopic “Oppenheimer.”

“I'm a little overwhelmed,” said Murphy, who won best actor for his stellar role as J. Robert Oppenheimer. The film tells the story of how Oppenheimer and his peers at Los Alamos would test the bomb on July 16, 1945, not knowing what was going to happen — and the ensuing fallout.

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“I'm very humbled,” he said backstage. “I'm very grateful.”

Murphy, though a regular presence in Nolan films going back almost two decades, had always been a supporting player. This time, Nolan wanted him to lead.

Murphy thanked Nolan and the director's wife, Emma Thomas, a producer on the film.

“It's been the wildest, most exhilarating, most creatively, satisfying journey you've taken me on over the last 20 years,” Murphy said to Nolan. “I owe you more than I can say.”

The Irish actor said he did a screen test for Nolan as a kid and thought that would be his last opportunity with the director.

“I thought that would be it,” he said. “I thought it would be just enough to be in a room with Chris for a couple hours. I'm thankful for this.”

Murphy bested Colman Domingo for “Rustin,” Bradley Cooper for “Maestro,” Paul Giamatti for “The Holdovers,” and Jeffrey Wright for “American Fiction.”

“Oppenheimer” won seven awards Sunday, including best picture, best director for Nolan and a supporting actor Oscar for Robert Downey Jr.

Murphy called Nolan the perfect director and an extraordinary writer and producer.

“We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb,” Murphy said. “For better or worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world, so I really like to dedicate this to the peacemakers. everywhere.”

Ben Kingsley, a presenter, applauded Murphy's courage and trust in Nolan for agreeing to take on the role before reading the script.

“Your performance is masterful,” said Kingsley. He acknowledged that Murphy’s portrayal of Oppenheimer had “layers of humanity whilst his character created something inhumane.”

Kingsley added: “It’s riveting to watch.”

Last year, Murphy told The Associated Press that when Nolan approached him to star as Oppenheimer, he called it was a “great day.”

“He’s so understated and self-deprecating and, in his very English manner, just said, ‘Listen, I’ve written this script, it’s about Oppenheimer. I’d like you to be my Oppenheimer,’” he said.

For Murphy, he knows there are some movies he’s right for and some that he is not.

“I have always said publicly and privately, to Chris, that if I’m available and you want me to be in a movie, I’m there. I don’t really care about the size of the part,” he said last year. “But deep down, secretly, I was desperate to play a lead for him.”

Murphy came into the Academy Awards a strong contender after picking up trophies at the Golden Globes, SAG Awards and BAFTA Film Awards.


For more coverage of the 2024 Oscars, visit

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