Robert Downey Jr. Says He ‘Never Witnessed a Greater Sacrifice by a Lead Actor’ Than Cillian Murphy Made for ‘Oppenheimer’

Costar Florence Pugh echoed the sentiment, calling the actor “hugely impressive”

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Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is shattering box office expectations, but it wasn’t an easy road to get there for star Cillian Murphy, who plays the title role of the brilliant and tortured scientist in the film. 

Costar Robert Downey Jr., who plays Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) chairman Lewis Strauss in the film, sang Murphy’s praises in an interview published by People on Sunday. 

“I have never witnessed a greater sacrifice by a lead actor in my career,” Downey said. “He knew it was going to be a behemoth ask when Chris called him. But I think he also had the humility that is required to survive playing a role like this.”

The former MCU frontman went on to explain some of that sacrifice, which came in the form of dedication to the character, on and off set.

“We’d be like, ‘Hey, we got a three-day weekend. Maybe we’ll go antiquing in Santa Fe. What are you going to do?’ ‘Oh, I have to learn 30,000 words of Dutch. Have a nice time,’” Downey remembered. 

The sentiment sounds familiar from previous comments made by costars Emily Blunt and Matt Damon, who spoke to “Extra” about Murphy’s commitment to the character — in the form of the strict diet he had to keep to lose weight for the role. 

“We invited Cillian to dinner every night and he never went,” Damon said. “He couldn’t… he was losing so much weight for the part that he just, didn’t eat dinner,” Damon said. 

When asked what food Murphy would consume Blunt said, “One almond most nights. Or like, a little slice of apple.”

Florence Pugh, who plays Oppenheimer’s mistress Jean Tatlock, echoed Downey’s comments about Murphy to People. 

“Working with him was hugely impressive,” she said. “Every single day he shows up knowing every single possible way, intonation, inflection of how to bring this character to life. That was hugely impressive to me. There’s a reason why he is one of the greats.”