Murphy ended up playing Batman’s nemesis Scarecrow, which was a relief to him personally, he says.
“I did the test and it was obvious to me that Christian Bale was the best choice (for Batman) and he just seemed perfect for it. But Nolan saw something in the test and then he talked to me about Scarecrow,” says Murphy.
Having starred in several of Nolan’s films now, there’s a trust that has developed between the Irish actor and the English director.
“I think that’s probably the main reason people do re-collaborate. You do have a level of shorthand. You can get rid of all the preliminaries and go straight to the work,” says Murphy.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Chris a couple of times and there’s a level of trust there now. You know that person’s methodology and you can go straight to business, and that’s what nice about working with him.”
On a Nolan film it doesn’t feel like you’re involved in a huge movie, Murphy says. Obviously there’s the scale of the sets, which are awe inspiring, but on the floor working scenes Nolan is right there beside the actors watching the camera and allowing room for the scene to grow organically.
“However many gazillions of dollars Inception cost he still allows room for us to improvise. He’s lived with this story for 10 years and he knows how every single piece of the jigsaw fits together,” says Murphy.
“So you feel confident deferring to his knowledge of it. All your job is is to find the humanity in it and make the scene as truthful as possible.”
Speaking of working alongside DiCaprio, Murphy is genuinely enthusiastic.
“Chris casts so brilliantly. Everyone in the movie, you can’t imagine anyone else playing their role. He really has a great eye for it,” offers Murphy.
Nolan has cast Pete Postlethwaite as Murphy’s tycoon father, and the two bring an unexpected emotional depth to the film.
“When you see Pete play the father in In the Name of the Father it’s one of the most heartbreaking portrayals of a father ever seen on he screen. It was a huge privilege to work with him,” Murphy adds.
Multi-million dollar budgets, rubbing shoulders with A-listers -- it’s all a million miles from Cork, but Murphy’s accent is unchanged, as is his outlook. Growing up Irish schools didn’t have much room for his creativity, and that hunger has kept his work fresh and his feet on the ground.
“One could say that because in Ireland there wasn’t an outlet for creativity that you had to go and make it yourself. But then if you were given all that opportunity would it become less of a struggle and therefore less important?” he asks.
“I don’t know, it’s a hard one to answer. For my kids I want to give them every opportunity to have creative expression in their education, but does that take away the need to do it? I don’t know.”
The Irish project that everyone’s talking about is Brendan Gleeson’s adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds. If it happens it will involve every major young Irish male star, including Farrell, Rhys Meyers and Murphy himself.
“I spoke to Brendan during the year and he’s in the process of raising money,” says Murphy. “I think there’s a huge amount of good will toward the film and all of the actors are very much attached and engaged in it.
“It’s a tough time for independent films like this but I feel that it will get made. Brendan is so passionate about it and the script is in such great shape that I feel like it’s gonna happen.”
Meanwhile, Murphy has achieved a rare distinction he’s embarrassed to hear me bring up. An Post, the Irish Postal Service, has put him on a postage stamp, the ultimate form of acclaim.
Was he pleased? “It was nice. I think my granny was pleased with it. It was a thrill for her,” he says. Murphy likes to keep his own opinions to himself.
Inception opens nationwide on Wednesday, July 14.