At the age of 41, Cillian Murphy is cinema’s hot ticket right now. With a bewitching aura calibrated by an icy gaze, his mind-bogglingly diverse palette of roles has made him an unmissable actor but one who rarely aspires to leading roles. In spite of starring in Christopher Nolan’s latest super-production, in movie theatres since July 19th, terrorised by the beaches of Dunkirk and the fury of navel battles, cinema wasn’t his original plan. Dreaming of becoming a pro-musician, Cillian Murphy was a rock aficionado with his brother. He ended up doing a theatre course and his performances in Neil LaBute’s The Shape Of Things and the drama Disco Pigs brought his talents to light.
First experience in horror movies
Director Danny Boyle loved his candid, almost virginal appearance, and cast Murphy for his horror film 28 Days Later. He plays Jim, a courier who wakes up from a coma to discover a completely deserted London. Warmly praised by the critics, the film deliberately used little known actors and was at the “crossroads of a war film, a 1960's zombie film and English science fiction” explained the scriptwriter Alex Garland. The same year Cillian Murphy joined John Crowley alongside his friend Colin Farrell in Intermission which was awarded four IFTA’s - the Irish equivalent of the Oscars. Cillian Murphy employed his delicate features to embody a transgender character in Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Pat McCabe’s novel Breakfast on Pluto. A year later in 2006 legendary Ken Loach cast him for The Wind that Shakes the Barley which was awarded the Palme d’or at Cannes. His Irish origins, that he shares with his wife Yvonne McGuinness, helped him to metamorphose into a doctor who abandons his profession to join his brother on the battlefield in the Irish War of Independence.
28 days later, Danny Boyle.
Christopher Nolan’s fetish actor
Under the careful direction of Christopher Nolan, his career moved sharply up a gear. Having been originally approached to play the role of Gotham City’s Black Knight, Nolen preferred the mysterious psyche of “machinist” Christian Bale. He ended up beating Christopher Eccleston – his stooge in 28 Days Later – to wear the mask of Scarecrow, the mad scientist and Batman’s nemesis. Murphy took part in the first two episodes in the new film franchiseBatman Begins and Batman The Dark Knight but also the dream-based thriller Inception. Along with Englishman Tom Hardy he became one of Nolan’s fetish actors.
Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan
From the big screen to the mean streets of Birmingham
Since 2013 Cillian Murphy has embodied Thomas Shelby, one of the enigmatic heroes from the 1st World War, charismatic and traumatised by his claustrophobic tunnelling experience. Head of a gangster clan in the 1920's the “Peaky Blinders” are a corrupt bunch of race course scammers with razor blades sewn into their peaked caps ensuring their security. Steven Knight’s critically acclaimed period drama develops a fascinating and nebulous character with an impenetrable heart. Cillian Murphy finds his alter ego Thomas Selby for the fourth season of Peaky Blinders set for release on BBC 2 in autumn 2017.
Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight