Nolan, the director of the Oscar-nominated film Oppenheimer, and Murphy, who stars in the title role, have worked together on six films. Each time, Nolan has made sure the scripts for the unreleased films are delivered to Murphy by hand.
His latest war drama, which is nominated for 13 Academy Awards, is about the life of theoretical physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, who developed the first nuclear bomb for the top-secret Manhattan Project.
“It’s been his mum who’s delivered the script to me before. Or his brother; he’ll go away and come back in three hours.” Murphy told British GQ in a cover story for its March issue.
“Part of it has to do with keeping the story secret before it goes out. But part of it has to do with tradition. They’ve always done it this way, so why stop now? It does add a ritual to it, which I really appreciate. It suits me.”
Murphy explained that Nolan in fact went against type for Oppenheimer, and instead flew to meet the actor in Dublin, Ireland, and delivered the script himself.
“He’d already called me and said he wanted me to play the part. And I had said yes, because I always say yes to him,” said Murphy.
Nolan left Murphy alone in a Dublin hotel room to read over the script.
“And [Nolan] doesn’t have a phone or anything. But he knew instinctively when to come back,” the actor recalled.
Oppenheimer marks Murphy’s sixth collaboration with the Interstellar director after the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and Dunkirk.
Murphy told the publication that being on a Nolan set feels like being in a “private, intimate laboratory”.
“Even though [Nolan] works at a tremendous pace, there’s always room for curiosity and finding things out, and that’s what making art should be about, you know? There’s no phones – but also no announcement: everybody just knows.”
Murphy added that Nolan does not allow chairs on his sets.
“And there’s no chairs. Because he doesn’t sit down. Sometimes a film set can be like a picnic. Everyone’s got their chairs and their snacks and everyone’s texting and showing each other f*****, you know, emojis or whatever”.
The March issue of British GQ is available via digital download and on newsstands on 27 February.