Robert Downey Jr. Says He Pitched Himself as Batman Villain Scarecrow to Christopher Nolan: Didn't 'Go Anywhere'

Robert Downey Jr.'s 'Oppenheimer' costar Cillian Murphy played the villain Scarecrow across Christopher Nolan's three Batman movies

<p>Lia Toby/Getty; Warner Bros/DC Comics/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Roberty Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins

Lia Toby/Getty; Warner Bros/DC Comics/Kobal/Shutterstock

Roberty Downey Jr. and Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins

Before Robert Downey Jr. became the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he once jockeyed for Cillian Murphy's role in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies.

At a recent Q&A at Los Angeles' American Cinematheque theater, Downey Jr., 58, confirmed that he once met with his Oppenheimer director Nolan, 53, about playing the villain Scarecrow in 2005's Batman Begins.

"I'm pretty sure I heard about [this role] and I was like, 'I'm Scarecrow,' " the actor said, per a video from the event shared on X by film critic Griffin Schiller. "And then I remember meeting [Nolan] for tea and I was like, 'He doesn't seem like he's really in on this interview,' "

"And he was polite and all that," Downey Jr. added of meeting with Nolan years before Oppenheimer. "But you can tell when someone is kind of like, 'It's not going to go anywhere.'"

Murphy, 47, won the Scarecrow role opposite Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne / Batman after Murphy initially auditioned to play Batman himself ahead of Batman Begins. Murphy shared during a July 2023 appearance on the WTF with Marc Maron that both he and Nolan quickly felt he "was wrong for" the Batman role.

Related: Jake Gyllenhaal Came Close to Playing Batman in Christopher Nolan's Trilogy, Screenwriter Reveals

<p>Alamy</p> Christian Bale and Cillian Murphy in 2005's Batman Begins


Christian Bale and Cillian Murphy in 2005's Batman Begins

"But I did the test, and then he saw something in that and cast me as Scarecrow [in Batman Begins] and we continued on making movies," he shared at the time.

Murphy appeared as Scarecrow — a psychologist in Gotham City who uses various gases to induce fear within his victims — in all three of Nolan's Batman movies. Their collaboration kicked off further work between the two; Murphy also played a pivotal role in in 2011's Inception prior to finally taking a leading role for Nolan in Oppenheimer.

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"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," Murphy told the Associated Press about working with Nolan back in May. "But deep down, secretly, I was desperate to play a lead for him."

Related: Robert Downey Jr. Says Margot Robbie 'Is Not Getting Enough Credit' for Her Barbie Performance

<p>Moviestore/Shutterstock</p> Katie Holmes and Cillian Murphy in 2005's Batman Begins


Katie Holmes and Cillian Murphy in 2005's Batman Begins

Downey Jr.'s journey toward working with Nolan also came full circle more than a decade after he did not land a role in Batman Begins. Downey Jr. first played Tony Stark in 2008's Iron Man and led the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the next decade before appearing in Oppenheimer. The movie is just his second feature film role since 2019's Avengers: Endgame.

Downey Jr., Nolan and Murphy are each nominated for Academy Awards at the upcoming 96th Oscars ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on Sunday, March 10.

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