'Peaky Blinders': Meet Cillian Murphy, the blue-eyed Irish lad who brought us Thomas Shelby, among other diverse roles

He has been the scarecrow, a post-apocalyptic survivor, and a villain with a traumatic past, Cillian Murphy is truly an actor in every sense


                            'Peaky Blinders': Meet Cillian Murphy, the blue-eyed Irish lad who brought us Thomas Shelby, among other diverse roles

When it comes to portraying a villain with an extremely sensitive face, no one can be a better fit than Irish actor Cillian Murphy. Known to be Christopher Nolan's go-to-guy, this 42-year-old actor is in demand by every director when it comes to playing cold-hearted and oddly-proffered villains or anti-heroes.

Murphy plays the role of the cunning yet admirable gangster, Thomas Shelby, in BBC One's show, 'Peaky Blinders'. Coming from creator Steven Knight, the show, which follows the Shelby family as they lead the notorious Birmingham gang Peaky Blinders, is all set to return with its fifth season in late Spring.

Season 5 will look into Thomas' plight as a Member of the Parliament while he tries to defend his family against the Billy Boys street gang of Glasgow. Murphy's portrayal of a character as convoluted as Thomas Shelby has led him to win several awards including the 2019 National Television Awards for Best Performance in Drama.

Let's just say that when it comes to playing characters who are neither on the light side nor on the dark side of the spectrum, there cannot be a better choice than the Irish actor who began his career as a musician. However, Murphy was destined to act and the 1990s saw this broody-eyed, sharp-jawed actor come to the forefront on the silver screen.

Murphy plays the role of a broody-eyed gangster suffering from PTSD in 'Peaky Blinders'. (IMDb)
Murphy plays the role of a broody-eyed gangster suffering from PTSD in 'Peaky Blinders'. (IMDb)

Born in Douglas, Ireland and raised in Cork, Murphy got his first major role in the UCC Drama Society's amateur production of 'Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme', which also starred Irish-American comedian Des Bishop. Beginning as a rather libertine actor in his early days in the theater, Murphy got his breakthrough role in Danny Boyle's 2002 movie '28 Days Later'.

Then in his early '20s, Murphy immediately grabbed the attention of film buffs and professionals for his ability to grab a role in all its sensuality and sincerity. Soon, his lean physique got him the role of a lovelorn, hapless supermarket stocker, who plots a bank heist in John Crowley's 2003 movie, 'Intermission'. 

Murphy was just the perfect face to represent fear in a post-apocalyptic London. (IMDb)
Murphy was just the perfect face to represent fear in a post-apocalyptic London. (IMDb)

As he continued to win audiences all over Europe, Murphy was introduced to the American audience by director Christopher Nolan when he was cast for the role of Scarecrow in the 2005 movie, 'Batman Begins'. Quite interestingly, Murphy was initially called in for a screen test for the 'Dark Knight' himself, however, his physique wouldn't have been the right fit for the superhero and hence, he moved forward with one of his most iconic roles, the Scarecrow.

However, he was immediately up for playing the villain, and Nolan kept finding excuses to focus on Scarecrow's eyes. The director said: "He has the most extraordinary eyes, and I kept trying to invent excuses for him to take his glasses off in close-ups."

Nolan would pick on every opportunity to make Murphy remove his glasses so he could focus on his eyes. (IMDb)
Nolan would pick on every opportunity to make Murphy remove his glasses so he could focus on his eyes. (IMDb)

Let's just say Murphy's silent composure of a supervillain did not stop there, and his creepy yet fascinating gaze was once again put to use in Wes Craven's 2005 thriller, 'Red Eye'. Playing the role of Jackson Rippner, Murphy was a picture-perfect villain as he terrorized Rachel McAdam's character during the flight.

His devilish silent looks, which are always enhanced by those blue eyes, might have been the reason behind the actor winning several awards for his roles as villains. However, Murphy proved he is an actor of real acuity when he played the role of a transgender woman, in Neil Jordan's 2005 comedy-drama 'Breakfast on Pluto'.

The sinister looks and the keen eyed-murderous gaze had all gone, and instead, we saw Murphy in a whole new attire which was rather flirty and could easily pass for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. As Murphy converted his character from an androgynous teen to a bombshell blonde, one cannot deny the fact that the actor was probably the most beautiful woman on screen.

That is the thing about Cillian Murphy. Like a sponge, he can soak in anything that is served, and when needed he can leave himself completely dry of any contact. We have seen him in several roles, a post-apocalyptic survivor, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder, a villain, and of course, in all the white-colored roles Nolan thought him a perfect fit.


 
 
 
 
 
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We’re thrilled to win the award for Best Drama tonight at the #NTAs. Thank you everyone who voted – you truly are the best fans any show could want! #PeakyBlinders

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However, his performance as Thomas Shelby in 'Peaky Blinders' can be compared with his best. The character already demands quite a lot with his complicated lifestyle, and Murphy gives us the chance to feel a balanced amount of love and hate towards Thomas. Season 5 will see Thomas taking up his place as a Member of the Parliament while trying to safeguard his family from the impending attacks of the Billy Boys.

Over the course of the last four seasons, Thomas' character went through many downfalls, but every time he showed his strength by outdoing his enemy at the last moment. Hopefully, Thomas' charisma will continue to awe us in Season 5, and as for Murphy, he is set to voice a new animated film based on 'War Horse' author Michael Morpurgo's children's adventure, 'Kensuke's Kingdom'.