Magazine Monday: Cillian Murphy

We featured Cillian Murphy back on the cover of BLAG Vol.2 Nø 5. He's come a long way since then, but he'd still worked with some of the best Directors in the business.

Here's an extract from Sally A. Edwards' interview with him about working with Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan:

Actors love diversity. A lot could learn a thing or two from Cillian Murphy. No wonder this straight talking ex-law student from Cork wound up working with much lauded directors including Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan, Neil Jordan and Ken Loach, and was nominated for a Golden Globe by the cusp of his 30th.

It’s all about getting stuck in and working hard. So let’s start at the beginning, "I went and did a law degree when I was about 18, but I only did a year and a half. I failed the first year, I got the repeats and flunked out in second year," starts a very down-to-earth and modest Cillian. "I was playing in bands and then I got a part in ‘Disco Pigs’, the play and then that took off," and it did, receiving commendations for Best Fringe Show at the 1996 Dublin Theatre Festival and the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival 1997. The play went on to exclusively tour Ireland, the UK, Toronto and Australia.

This and more stage performances formed Cillian’s training, "I did theatre exclusively for about five years. Just small parts, then I got lucky to do some really good parts with some really good directors like Garry Hynes, and I did the Druid Theatre Company in Galway. Then I got a little part in a short film, then in a feature film. Then I eventually got a lead part. So it was very much your classic by increments experience."

I wanted to speak to you about a selection of the directors you’ve worked with. I’ve pulled out a handful to get a sense of what it was like to actually work with them because we only really ever hear, ‘Oh, Neil Jordan’s great. Danny Boyle’s great.’ and you never get a real picture. Can you explain your experiences with them? Let’s go with Danny Boyle for ‘28 Days Later’ first who you have just worked with again for the forthcoming ‘Sunshine’. "Well, that was a big deal for me to get that part. It was a very important movie. I really, really wanted that part. When the script came along I’d done a couple of Irish films that nobody had seen – they were worth while, but nobody had seen them, particularly ‘Disco Pigs’, the film version I did of the play. So this was kind of a step up and I was a fan of Danny’s films. You know those films like ‘Shallow Grave’ and Trainspotting’ were the ones I’d grown up with.

"So I worked my arse off for the audition and he called me back about five times, then he eventually gave me the part. I learnt a huge amount working with Danny. The thing about him is his energy. It’s unbelievable, he’s like a dynamo of energy and he just never stops. I think with the way he uses the camera, he’s an incredible director and I learnt a lot about film acting from him. You know, acting in the moment and the preparation and like when the camera turns over, you can’t sort of rollover. You have to be ready to go, like bang and action, and whatever that takes to get you to that place. A lot of his films are really fucking high octane. So you have to go away, you can’t just be standing around and having a cigarette before it’s action you know? He’s brilliant at that, brilliant at creating a tension amongst [everyone on set]; brilliant about highlighting the dynamics of a scene and attention of a group. So it was a big step up for me and when the film actually came out it was a big step up aswell because it made a lot of money and people began to... I always say this: the yardstick I measure it by was people began to pronounce my name properly and in America they took meetings. So it was a very important film for me. It was the watershed film without a doubt."

The next one is Christopher Nolan for ‘Batman Begins’ – where Cillian plays Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow.
"The whole thing about Chris was I met him in LA – and again I as a massive fan. All of these guys I’d been a fan of their films before I’d met them. That’s what sets them apart. Last year was such an amazing year for me because of all the directors I worked with."

"I met Chris in LA, and for some ludicrous reason he wanted to test screen me for Batman. So we sat in his hotel in LA and had a couple of beers and talked about his idea for Batman and everything. Then I did a screen test for him," he laughs. "I was always only thinking I’d just do the screen test just for the experience of working with him – albeit briefly, because I never considered myself Batman material. I felt that Christian Bale was the ideal choice. I just wanted to have that experience and maybe read for him for another film in the future, but he liked the screen test and we met again. The thing about him is he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of film and is unbelievably savvy of the business. He’s an extraordinarily intelligent man aswell and absurdly young – I don’t know what age he is. So he offered me this other part which is The Scarecrow and I worked with him. It was like working on a little indie movie even though it was a budget of $150million. He works with the same cameraman and the same crew. His wife is the producer so everyone is on second-hand terms. Similarly with Danny, a lot of the people he’s worked with, they’ve all worked together so there’s this familiarity and shorthand which is brilliant when you get involved with it. Chris Nolan doesn’t look at a monitor, which is incredible for a film of that size, he just looks at the actors. He has just very concise little notes for the big scenes, he’d be like, ‘Turn it up a little bit.’ ‘Turn it down a little bit.’ You know he just has confidence in you. So it was a real pleasure."

Neil Jordan for ‘Breakfast On Pluto’ in which Cillian plays, Patrick "Kitten" Brady a charming, yet tough foster child who grows-up and leaves his small town life in Ireland to become a transvestite cabaret singer in 1960s – 1970s London. A film he is particularly proud of which also earned him that Golden Globe nomination.

"That was a very special one that film, because I’d read the book when I was a kid. Again it goes back to being a fan of all these guys. He’s like such an icon of Ireland you know, and Jim Sheridan. Growing up in Ireland if you have any interest in the arts, there’s not a huge outlet for it. So you just end up watching all the Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan movies, and Neil also writes novels. It was probably one of the most fulfiling, creative experiences I’ve ever hadworking with him because it was such a massive role. I was playing a transvestite and I was in every scene, and it required such a transformation and such a leap of faith. We were together right from the very start of the creation of the character right to the end. So I trusted him implicitly I hope he did the same with me. I put my heart and soul into that character. Neil’s a true visionary. He’s one of the best directors in the world, one of those world directors. Again I learnt a lot from him about just trusting your instincts."

Photography by: Sarah J. Edwards. Please do not post any imagery or copy without permission from the publishers BLAG, thank you.