Let’s get this one out of the way first. If I had a nickel for every time I heard or read the word “creepy” (or worse, “BUT he’s so creepy!”) associated with Cillian Murphy, well, I’d have a hell of a lot of nickels.
If you’ve only seen him in Red Eye or Batman Begins, then I must agree. Unlike some actors, though, when Cillian Murphy is creepy, there is not a shred of humanity to be found. For example, the look of dispassionate disgust on his face in Batman Begins when confronting Carmine Falcone in the psych ward is positively chilling, with or without the weaponized hallucinogens and burlap mask. He’s even scarier than Ra’s Al Ghul because you can’t tell that there’s a human being behind those icy blue eyes.
7. He can play tender.
Of course, Cillian Murphy’s blue eyes can be shockingly vulnerable as well. The eternally optimistic Patrick “Kitten” Braden in Breakfast On Pluto is a sweet and tender hooligan who wants nothing more than to be loved and to belong. All pouty lips and batting eyelashes, she seduces everyone she meets with very little effort, and eventually puts her faith (and life) in the hands (and arms) of those who don’t have her best interests at heart.
When Kitten finally learns the truth of her parents’ past and comes to terms with it, the depth of emotion in Cillian Murphy’s eyes says more than words ever could (and in fact, for once the character is stunned into silence).
6. He can play creepy AND tender.
28 Days Later was the first film in which I saw Cillian Murphy and it still remains one of my all-time favorite movies. He plays Jim, a bike courier who wakes up from a coma to find that the world he remembered has been lost to a rage virus. His devastation at discovering his dead parents causes fellow survivor Selena to hesitate to trust him.
Further crushed by the loss of a substitute father figure, and threatened by madmen, he takes violent initiatives to save Selena, causing her to hesitate again when she thinks he might be too far-gone. But in a heartbeat, he proves her wrong and the transformation is spectacular, effective, and affecting.
A subtler and ultimately more disturbing balance of creepy and tender is found in Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of the obsessive, lovelorn Pig in Disco Pigs. To reveal too much would ruin the grotesquerie of the film; you must see it to believe it, and even then you’ll be left dumbfounded.
5. He can play funny.
Despite the dark humor found in both Red Eye and Breakfast On Pluto, you might think Cillian Murphy is too over-the-top to be truly funny. But then, if you think that, you probably haven’t seen Intermission, Watching The Detectives, or the as-yet-unreleased Perrier’s Bounty. In all three films he plays hapless and somewhat helpless characters, each charming, but full of foibles and frailties.
He doesn’t ham it up and he doesn’t play the clichéd, ultimately damaged jackass you end up forgiving because of his rakish good looks. In fact, he somehow manages to tone down his lovely features to appear as a regular human being. His comic timing, and unexpected flair for physical comedy, are both impeccable.
4. Although he is at heart, an actor, he has movie star looks.
Film is a visual medium, so like it or not, an actor’s success will often depend on his good looks, or lack thereof. And yes, Cillian Murphy has good looks and sex appeal to spare. He could easily play a string of shallow pretty boys and heartbreakers, but he doesn’t, seeming to want to create a career based on talent, not TMZ headlines.
3. He has not “gone Hollywood.”
In fact, Cillian Murphy and his family live in London, one of the few personal details about him that is public knowledge. You don’t see his name in celebrity tabloids; there’s no gossip about him “lunching with George Clooney” or “shopping with Diddy.” By all accounts he detests paparazzi, doesn’t like people photographing his wife or children, and keeps his private life private.
2. He is not a pretentious movie star.
Ultimately, this fiercely guarded privacy makes Cillian Murphy that much more compelling as an actor. There are no salacious scandals to distract us from the character he is portraying. He does not rely on a pompous or actor-y kind of acting, in which discussions of his “craft” overshadow his actual craft.
As Damien in The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Cillian Murphy is the ultimate everyman, surrounded by known actors as well as unknown ones. His character must make terrible choices that eventually lead to awful consequences and unbearable sacrifices. When watching the film, however, you don’t think, “Wow, that’s good acting.” You are too wrapped up in the gut wrenching drama of it all to remember that it’s only a movie.
1. He doesn’t disappear into the character, he IS the character.
Although some of his peers (Christian Bale, Edward Norton) might utilize Method techniques to inhabit their roles, Cillian Murphy just becomes someone else. Although this quality is found in every one of his films, from the heavy to the lighthearted, perhaps the most magical example can be found in Breakfast on Pluto: he plays a transgendered male (Patrick) who looks like and lives as a woman (Kitten). Not only that, he makes Kitten come alive. You believe that not only is Cillian Murphy Kitten, you believe that Kitten is real.
It’s often difficult to find new ways of conveying the effect that art has on the psyche. There are plenty of shopworn phrases that don’t quite reach the heights that you feel inside. Interestingly, it’s the real human-ness of Cillian Murphy as an actor that makes his star shine so brightly.
love him.can't wait for Inception, Perrier's Bounty and Peacock.