Irish actor and heartthrob Cillian Murphy is the likely winner at this year’s Academy Award for his role as J. Robert Oppenheimer in the blockbuster movie Oppenheimer. And while he’s known for his impressive acting chops, his horseback riding skills, not so much.
Co-star Emily Blunt went on the record describing how on the set of the Oscar-bait period piece from director Christopher Nolan she and Murphy filmed a scene where they ride across the desert. “So then [Nolan] goes, ‘I’ve got the camera car. Do you want to do a gallop across the plains?’ And I heard Cillian go, ‘Um. Ooh. Uh,’” she told Late Show host Stephen Colbert. “And then I was really game for it so Cillian had no option, and I just left him in the dust. He was a little bit nervous, yeah,” Blunt added.
According to the actress, Murphy was given a “steady Eddie” horse, whereas she was given a more “energetic” creature to ride. Blunt had been riding extensively on the set of her previous production, The English, and wasn’t nervous in the saddle – in fact, she loved it.
Fans of Murphy have seen him astride horses before, notably in the dark drama Peaky Blinders, where his character Thomas Shelby is a passionate horse lover. Actually, the first time we see Murphy onscreen is when he rides a stunning black horse bareback in the pilot. The Shelby character is obsessed with racehorses and is often seen riding or spending time with horses. But in real life, Murphy is not a skilled rider and had to learn to ride bareback for the role.
He admitted in an interview with the Radio Times that, like many actors, he had exaggerated his abilities for the role but that he found the bareback riding “interesting.” When pressed by the interviewer, he described it as “interestingly warm. Which was nice: we were filming in winter in Liverpool and the wind can really blow there.”
There are probably many horsewoman around the world who gladly volunteer their time to further Murphy’s riding talents.