Cillian Murphy: Murphy’s Law

Cillian Murphy: Murphy’s Law
by Richard Grant for Port Magazine
October 3, 2012

From feeling like a failed musician pretending to be an actor to being an actor increasing renown, Cillian Murphy has done it his way.

A lean, slight, tousled figure in a sailor-striped T-shirt and buckle-back trousers, Cillian Murphy walks into an upscale Japanese restaurant in downtown Manhattan. As he says hello, sits down, and looks around the room with his extraordinary ultramarine blue eyes, I form my first impressions: kind, gentle, sensitive, good-humoured, with no visible traces of the villains, psychopaths and other tortured souls he has played so convincingly on stage and screen. He also looks a little weary, and there is good reason for this.

I’ve had kind of a crazy week this week,” he says in a mellifluous Irish accent with a rich grainy timbre. “I was in the Ukraine for a film festival. I’ve been all over America promoting a film called Red Lights, which I’m in with Robert De Niro. Yesterday was The Dark Knight Rises premiere here in New York, and this afternoon we fly to London for the next premiere. It’s all part of the job, I suppose, but it’s certainly not the reason why you do it.

On handling interviews:
“I’m getting less hung about it, but when I started, the whole promotion aspect was an ordeal to be endured. I just don’t have a great facility for it. I try to be interesting and spontaneous but it’s so hard when you get asked the question fifty or a hundred times over. You hear your little anecdotes going stale. Yes, it was fantastic to work with Robert De Niro, but you can only say it so many times, you know? I’ve always thought, just judge me on the work. What else matters? I’m an actor and that’s what I do.”

On keeping a low profile:
I’ve always felt that the less the public knows about you, the more effective you can be when you go to portray someone else. For actors to reveal so much about themselves, and allow their personal selves to be owned by the media and the public, I find at odds with trying to lose yourself in a character. And that’s the thing I’m after. That’s what drives me. I’m 36 now, and I still have a real hunger for it.”

On experiencing theater for the first time:
“But my first theatre experience was an extraordinary one. It was dangerous and sexy and electric, and just astonishing. I’ll always love music, but here was another form of live performance, just as exciting.”

On performing in Misterman:
“It was incredibly exhausting and incredibly satisfying. Sometimes I was doing two performances a day. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired, or so happy. It was very pure. It was all about the work. The commerce aspect was tiny, compared to when you make a film, and there was none of the waiting around.”

On playing a character:
“It’s most satisfying on the stage. If it reaches the point of being transcendent, where you’re not actually conscious of being on stage performing, because you’re only aware of the character and his world and his needs, well, that’s what you’re always aiming for, that’s the moment that theatre people are always chasing. It’s the ultimate rush, if you will, for an actor, when the self disappears completely.

On being on TV soon:
“I’m also hoping to do some telly. The smart mid-budget movie, which has been my bread and butter, has been squeezed out quite a bit. People are very reluctant to take a chance on a smart $17 million movie. They’d much rather throw everything into a dumb $250 million movie. But you don’t find that in TV where the writing just gets better and better, and you’ve the opportunity to develop a character over many hours.”

On keeping it real:
Well, the insecurity is always there. It’s a necessary aspect of being an actor, or a writer for that matter. You have to have that insecurity. I used to feel like a failed musician pretending to be an actor, but that’s less of a worry now. I’ve found my form, I’ve found the right outlet for my impulse to create, and yes, I’m pretty happy. I don’t believe you have to be a tortured person in order to make great art. It needn’t always come from a place of pain, although there seems to be a romantic view of that.”

On seeing where he's going as an actor:
“I can’t remember which director said it, but he said it takes 30 years to make a good actor. Longevity matters. I’m 16 years in, just over the hump, and when I’m 50 I should know if I’ve mastered my trade, or failed gloriously.

On having faith in New York:
I left it [mobile phone] in a taxi yesterday. Within half an hour, someone had called my wife and made arrangements to return it. I’m going to pick it up now before I go to the airport. It gives you faith, man. My publicist has lost two wallets and a phone here, and gotten them all back, with none of the money missing. It’s not something people expect from New York, but there you have it.










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