Pe op le
With all eyes on his baby blues, CILLIAN MURPHY could
have been a Hollywood heartthrob. But playing the fame
game and living the life of a world-famous celeb is one role
PLAYINhe’s always been happy to turn down, writes Shilpa Ganatra
9899 IRISH TATLER MAN
ad he been inclined, Cillian Murphy could
arguably have been the new George Clooney.
Think about it: dapper looks, a mesmerising
effect on women (and men), a favourite of
Hollywood directors and a magnetic charm
Hthat comes with intelligence rather than conceit.
The problem is, it’s impossible to envisage
the Corkman doing Nespresso ads. And it’s unlikely he’d
be inclined to parade around his wife (as intelligent and
beautiful as she might be), nor be interviewed about his
award for People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (as true as
that might be).
No, siree. It’s been well documented that the 39-year-
old actor – who, in his teens, was the frontman in a Frank
Zappa-inspired band with a five-album deal – has stepped
out of the spotlight of stardom, leaving the stage or screen
as his only places to shine. Far from upping sticks to LA with
his wife Yvonne McGuinness and sons Carrick (10) and
Aaron (8), the furthest he’s moved from his native Cork is
to the distinctly un-starry neighbourhood of Kilburn in
He’s joining a brigade of actors who, in today’s
over-saturated market, shy away from the publicity hamster
wheel. Which is all the better for him – at times I feel like
I’m privy to a human rights violation when I interview
jetlagged actors who’ve flown over from LA for 13 hours
and a chat show, before jetting back again for a premiere.
Murphy has agreed to meet Irish Tatler Man today in a At the risk of his ire, I have to ask: surely the chat show
busy Claridge’s in London, while continuing publicity for Ron circuit helps a film? And thus staying away might hurt it?
Howard’s recent maritime epic In The Heart of the Sea. The “I think people realise if a film is a good film, they’ll
39-year-old star, who co-stars alongside Chris Hemsworth, go and see it,” he says, in an unexpectedly neutral tone.
lost 20lbs in just six weeks to play a naval officer of the “It doesn’t matter how many chat shows you’re on.”
Essex, a 19th century whaling ship which was attacked by It’s this down-to-earth, devoid-of-bullshit approach that
an aggressive bull whale, leaving the crew stranded. has placed Murphy in a seemingly rare category for an actor
Not a man known for taking jobs to pay the bills, throwing with his talent and looks: celebrated without being a celebrity,
his weight behind a project suggests it’s going to be good. in-demand with no reputation for being demanding.
And when Murphy’s on the publicity trail, you know it’s Given Murphy’s reticence to play the fame game, one
high-quality – though Shakespeare himself would have to might pigeonhole him as a difficult star – and all that it
coax him onto a mainstream weekend chat show. entails. But there’s no sign of it; instead, the Douglas native
“I don’t feel the need to do them,” Murphy, the son of is chatty, open and relaxed, which makes it a little easier to
two teachers, admits. “That’s the thing that people don’t look past his disarming good looks and the famously
realise: you do the amount of publicity you feel comfortable eulogised topaz-blue eyes (there are tumblrs solely devoted
with, and some people are good at that stuff. There’s a to Murphy’s career-defining peepers). It also helps that he’s
misconception that there’s a need to promote your work, sporting the guise of Tommy Shelby’s haircut: grade 1 on
the sides, long on top.
His roundabout way of achieving fame saw him take on
the role of the ambitious Birmingham gangster in the BBC’s
interwar saga Peaky Blinders back in 2012. And it’s made him
a household name in abodes where his previous work –
Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Batman franchise, or
Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning The Wind Murphy is also a man of theatre, having clear it’s a role that, from the offset, clearly
That Shakes The Barley – couldn’t reach. recently wrapped up, to rave reviews, Ballyturk captured Murphy’s imagination. He spent hours
at the National Theatre, which was written listening to archive recordings of Brummies
That’s not to suggest that Murphy wasn’t and directed by his long-time friend and to get the accent right, as well as thoroughly
already a favourite with directors, actors and collaborator Enda Walsh; and has been playing, immersing himself in the period.
culture vultures alike. Indeed, since he got with overwhelming precision, Birmingham’s
his big break in 2002, when Danny Boyle cast troubled gangster Shelby in two hit seasons of When I ask whether he flits between TV, film
him as the wire-thin lead in post-apocalyptic Peaky Blinders. and, indeed, stage as a means of progressing
zombie horror 28 Days Later, the former law his career in all three fields, he quickly puts the
student has never been afraid to take risks and, We meet when the much-anticipated third matter straight.
consequently, the sheer range of his films is series – which has an ambitious £1million per
staggering. episode budget – is filming. It’s due to air later “I don’t do anything to progress my career,
this year, with all reports suggesting that the I just do whatever’s interesting,” says Murphy.
With Nolan (Inception, Batman Begins) and first episode will feature Tommy’s wedding to “Interesting work, or interesting directors. Any
Boyle (28 Days Later, Sunshine), he makes what either Grace, who’s pregnant with his child, or actor who takes a project to further their career
he has previously described as “mainstream May, who can expand his empire. is doing it for the wrong reasons. It’s always
movies that tick all the blockbuster boxes, about telling good stories, serving the scripts
but are smart, make you think and that don’t Of course, Murphy’s lips stay tightly shut and working with good directors.”
condescend the audience”. on plot giveaways. It’s safe to assume, though,
that the series — which is created by Dirty With a celebrated depth to these varied
Alongside such Hollywood fodder, he has Pretty Things writer Steven Knight and set in a performances, does he follow different acting
found the time to shoot critically acclaimed lawless, murky 1920s Birmingham, will provide methods according to the role?
indie movies, often in Ireland. He has played a perfect showcase for a stellar cast. It’s also
an amiable psychopath in Wes Craven’s Red Murphy shrugs, clearly not wanting to unlock
Eye, a doctor who joins the IRA in The Wind the secret of his success.
That Shakes The Barley, a troubled teen in his
debut movie Disco Pigs, and transgender hero “I just do my best, turn on my lines, hit
Kitten in Neil Jordan’s unconventional comedy- the mark,” he says. “Acting is weird, it’s like
drama Breakfast On Pluto (2005). alchemy. If you talk about it, it disappears.
Intellectualising it is like what they say about
The roles that he’s played since he dropped music writing – it’s the same as dancing
out of his law degree to become an actor have about architecture. I can’t do talk about it; it’s
also hardly been quiet supporting turns. Boyle something I just have to experience.
says the actor is still underrated, while Loach
described his instinct as “dead right” and “What we do is really strange, and you just
“quite rare”. have to be available to be a canvas.”
While we wait for Peaky Blinders to return,
we should be able to see Murphy in a
couple of more films this year. Brit crime-
drama Free Fire is particularly keenly
anticipated, not least because it has strong
Irish representation in the cast, with Jack
Reynor (Transformers, What Richard Did)
and Michael Smiley (Spaced) alongside
international heavyweights like Brie Larson
(Trainwreck, Room) and Armie Hammer
(The Social Network, The Man from
Then there’s Anthropoid, about two
Czech soldiers sent home to assassinate
the head of the SS in 1942. Also starring
compatriots Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey)
and his co-star in In the Heart of the Sea,
Sam Keeley, it’ll be one to file under ‘critically
acclaimed’ and is due to be premiered in
Cannes in May.
I ask if there are any other projects in the
“I don’t know. I’ve no idea,” he confesses.
“It’s the nature of our business: it’s not a
destination, it’s a journey. I’ve made a couple of
films, I did the TV show. Who knows where I’ll
be next year?”
And what about aspirations for the
“No, I just like to mix it up, and make
sure there’s a variety of things that keeps me
interested,” Murphy says. “Then hopefully the
audience will be interested.”
A noble ambition, indeed. ITM
100101 IRISH TATLER MAN
Facing page, clockwise Any actor who
from top left: takes a project to
further their career
Murphy in Broken (2012); is doing it for the
Peaky Blinders; Breakfast wrong reasons
on Pluto (2005); opposite
Leonardo DiCaprio in
Inception (2010); In the
Heart of the Sea (2015);
as The Scarecrow in The
Dark Knight Rises (2012);
in his breakthrough role
in 28 Days Later (2002)