The Untold Truth Of Cillian Murphy

A cool blue stare and high-cut cheekbones — it's a stunning combination tailor-made for fame. But Cillian Murphy, who alongside these standout features also boasts acting genius, prefers downplaying the celebrity he has earned over two decades of being in film. "I find it terrifying, because I'm not a personality, you know?" he disclosed to The Guardian. What he does enjoy is "getting up and being someone else" — a skill he has mastered, exhibited most significantly through his decade-long portrayal of a war veteran through six seasons of the BBC series, "Peaky Blinders."

But there is more to the 45-year-old Ireland native — whose name most everyone gets wrong (it's pronounced Kill-ee-an) — under his steely stance as Thomas "Tommy" Shelby that fans so eulogize. He is a recluse, a father and husband, an ex-law student, and above all, a regular man. Normalcy, away from flashing cameras and red carpets, is something he actively aspires towards. "Ideally I'd like to do one job a year and spend the rest as a civilian," he admitted in an interview

There's no telling — his reservedness could well be just a facade. "I tell people I have an extraordinarily boring life. It's actually incredibly exciting," he once teased. The intrigue around who Cillian Murphy really is an unsolvable mystery. Here, we try to piece together the man, the myth, the legend (from what we suspect are only bits of the surface Hollywood's famous introvert has let on with caution).

Thomas Shelby is the toughest character he's had to play

There are chances that even those people who may not know actor Cillian Murphy by name would know the name he goes by famously on screen: Thomas Shelby. His "Peaky Blinders" character has become somewhat of a cult figure since the period crime drama premiered on BBC in 2013. For all the fanfare Thomas "Tommy" Shelby has generated, Murphy — who boasts of over 50 credits as an actor, per IMDb — claims the suited gangster wasn't the easiest character to play. 

"I'm not a tough guy at all so it was by far the toughest character I have ever portrayed," he told the BBC. "We did a lot of fighting, stunts, and so I've been to the gym more than I ever been in my whole life!" Getting a grip over horses — which feature quite heavily on the 20th-century-set British show — was another task that required practice. 

In an interview with Vulture, the 45-year-old let on that he nicked Shelby's cigarette smoking deportment from Elliott Gould in "The Long Goodbye," given that "even though he's got this façade of cool, you clearly see that the cigarette is indicating some deeper level of stress." As for Shelby's definitive undercut, Murphy says he has "gotten more tolerant of the haircut over the years." 

He likes to think he's quite boring

"The more boring you are in real life, the less people are interested in you." This is a wisecrack Cillian Murphy threw out to the world during an appearance on "The Late Late Show" in 2016, a video of which has since become a viral internet favorite. Indeed, the "Peaky Blinders" actor is himself quite boring — or so he likes to think, as told to Men's Health. "My life is very simple. I read a lot of books. I watch a lot of movies. Listen to a lot of music. Walk the dog. Cook. Be with my family," he says. 

Emily Blunt, Murphy's co-star from "A Quiet Place Part II," testified to these sensibilities of his. "He's so polite and shy," she said on "The Jonathan Ross Show," recalling the time they socialized outside of shoot. "We dragged him out. He quite likes to go home, just take a bath, and go to bed. He is self-professedly very boring." The tight-lipped actor, who famously prefers keeping away from the limelight, claims to have an explanation for his bearing. 

"I see myself as an actor. ... And my job is to portray other people. The less that people know about me the better I can portray other people. That seems glaringly obvious and logical to me," he told The Irish Times, which described him as a "cautious interviewee." 

He was initially studying law

The world may never have witnessed the genius of Cillian Murphy on screen if the actor had seen his law career through. The Ireland native was initially studying to become a lawyer at University College Cork, before acting knocked at his door. "I was 20. I was foolishly pursuing a law degree, " he told The Irish Times. But law was more a dream that belonged to his parents (both of whom are former teachers) than him. Per Murphy's own description to Vice, he had a "pretty average, middle-class upbringing," and his parents were "probably anxious that I did well at school and went to college." 

He later wondered, "Why the f*** I was studying law, I don't know." His interest in acting piqued after he watched a stage production of Stanley Kubrick's magnum opus "A Clockwork Orange" during college. 

In 1996, when Murphy was 20, his life changed. According to Esquire, he failed his law exams in the first year. When he decided to drop out of law and cut a route into cinema, it wasn't surprising that his teacher parents — who wanted him to stay on the scholarly path — were "shocked." As Murphy told Evening Standard, "I'm sure they worried about stability — no one's ever been in the arts in our family." Over the years, his parents seem to have warmed to his profession and, as he told, they're now "very cool with what I do."

Auditions stress him out

Cillian Murphy is a natural on screen — the conviction with which he played Thomas Shelby on "Peaky Blinders" has immortalized the crime drama character in pop culture. But even the ace actor is moved to feeling pangs of stress when it comes to displaying his skill during auditions. "I'm not good at auditions," he confessed to GQ. "I think if you really want to be outstanding at acting, you have to go through a big process of getting in touch with the character you're playing, recognising what's going on, and getting involved with what you're going to create." Auditions, he feels, don't quite offer the liberty of time. "They stress me out," he said. 

Sure enough, getting into the skin and head of hardened soldier Thomas Shelby, inarguably his most famous role, is an entire process — it involves "cancelling reality for a little while," Murphy said (via Esquire). 

So how did he prove his vast expertise as a gangster during the "Peaky" auditions? Simple. He followed his up tryout with a text to the show's screenwriter Steven Knight. "Remember, I'm an actor," it read, as told by Knight, who testified, "And boy, what an actor." 

He has spoken out in support of women's rights

Cillian Murphy may not be a fan the spotlight, but the Irish actor sure knows how to show up for issues of social importance. In 2016, he marched alongside a 25,000-strong crowd to push for greater abortion rights in Ireland (per Irish Mirror). A year later, when sexual abuse allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein imploded in Hollywood, Murphy — whose show "Peaky Blinders" was associated with Weinstein's company in a production capacity, per Deadline — didn't hold back in denouncing the offender immediately. 

Speaking to Evening Standard, Murphy said, "I can't begin to condemn what he did enough. It wouldn't be tolerated in any industry, why should it be tolerated in entertainment? I admire those women who have come out." He further added that it was "innately correct" that women and men should be treated equally. As per The Hollywood Reporter, following the allegations, Netflix scrapped credits to Weinstein's production company on Season 4 of the crime drama series to be broadcast in the U.S.

Luc Besson, Murphy's director on the film "Anna," was also accused of sexual misconduct in 2018. Murphy reacted to the news saying one had to be "fully supportive of women and anyone who is in that situation," as quoted by The Guardian. What's more, the man also thinks the next James Bond should be a woman! 

He comes from a family of educators

Cillian Murphy is somewhat of a family deviant for having gone down the radical route of acting when so many of his kin are educators. "Both my parents are teachers and my grandfather was a headmaster and all my aunts and uncles are teachers, so I come from a long line of pedagogues," the Irishman told His mother, a former French teacher, and his father, a civil servant with the Irish Department of Education (per Luxury London), were apparently keen on him picking a more academically inclined career, like law. "No one before in my family has ever professionally made a living in the arts," Murphy said to The Guardian in an interview. 

So alongside briefly pursuing a law degree, Murphy answered to his artistic bent by playing music. According to Luxury London, the Cork man was part of rock bands with his younger brother Páidi before he began his romance with the theatre. He landed his first major role in Enda Walsh's play "Disco Pigs" while in his late teens, as per GQ – and after that, there was just no looking back! 

The closest Murphy ever came to becoming a teacher was playing one in the 2012 coming-of-age film, "Broken." As told to, his parents loved watching him play a teacher. "I really admire our teachers," Murphy gushed. 

He prefers not taking photos with fans

Cillian Murphy is a star who shies away from attention — to the extent that he doesn't pose for pictures when fans meet him. In a GQ interview with the "Dunkirk" actor, he noted how he categorically declines fan photos, and would instead prefer a handshake with his admirers. He also told the The Guardian that he is "happy to chat" with fans, but, he doesn't like "people surreptitiously taking photographs ... It's so f***ing weird. I've been sat on the tube and people have started filming me." As a second thought, he added, "Or maybe I'm just old." 

To top it all, Murphy reportedly avoids social media like the plague, per GQ. He is not on any of the platforms where, for celebs today, one's follower count equals clout. In 2017, when asked about his social media presence in an interview, he quipped, "Just too old for that now." 

For many, the famous introvert's seeming listless quality contributes to making him more attractive. Annabelle Wallis, Murphy's "Peaky Blinders" co-star, thinks his private manner keeps up his "mystique" among fans. She told The Guardian, "It's a dying trait in our culture, so when you have an actor who's continually mysterious and evading the limelight, it creates a thirst for that person." 

He has collaborated with Christopher Nolan on six films

"I'll always turn up for Chris, whatever the size of the part," Cillian Murphy told The Guardian, in reference to the tight relationship he shares with veteran director Christopher Nolan. "I think he's flying the flag." The two have collaborated on a total of five films together already, with Murphy's upcoming 2023 release "Oppenheimer" also a Nolan directorial. The Irish native is set to step into the shoes of J. Robert Oppenheimer, an American physicist notorious for his work in atomic research (via Britannica), and is both thrilled and shocked to take the lead in a Nolan film for the first time. He gushed to Esquire, "You're working with one of the greatest living directors, so you're in safe hands."

Murphy and Nolan's successful partnership began in 2005 with "Batman Begins," the first of three films in the superhero franchise "The Dark Night Trilogy" — all three films featured Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane, who doubles as the villainous Scarecrow. "Inception" and "Dunkirk" followed in 2010 and 2017, respectively (per IMDb). 

Nolan has heaped praise on Murphy as lavishly as Murphy has on him. The Oscar-nominated director called Murphy "one of the great actors of his generation both on stage and on film," and said working with him was an "increasingly rewarding experience" (via GQ). 

He met his wife during his rock band days

Music was the precursor to Cillian Murphy's career in acting — and it was also instrumental (pun wholly intended) in him crossing paths with his future wife. The skilled actor stepped into the arts through stints in rock bands as a teenager — performing first with Sarahdaze and then Sons of Mr Green Genes (per Esquire). It was in 1996 that the blue-eyed Cork native met Yvonne McGuinness, an Irish visual artist, at a gig he was playing with his band (as per The Sydney Morning Herald). It was a formative year for Murphy, who reportedly skipped an opportunity to seal a deal with a record label (that could have officially kicked off his music career) and segued into formal acting.

The couple had a long courtship before tying the knot in Provence, France in 2004, The Guardian reported. Though he has remained, for the most part, tight-lipped in public about his artist wife, Murphy did once let his guard down to sympathize with McGuinness, acknowledging in an interview that it was "a difficult thing living with an actor." 

As for music, which had such an effect on him — "Of all the arts, music is still the one that affects me on the deepest level," he told Port – it is something Murphy still holds close. The Guardian reported the actor is making music again of late, but quotes Murphy saying, "Never, ever for public consumption."

He feels moving to Ireland was the best decision he made

Cillian Murphy is an actor. But he's also notoriously introverted. So, unlike many of his film contemporaries, the 45-year-old has chosen to settle far, far away from the glitzy world of cinema in a quiet corner of his home country, Ireland. After spending over a decade in London, Murphy made the move to Dublin with his family in 2015 (via Mr Porter). "I don't miss London. ... It's just better for your head to have fewer people around," the private star told the outlet. 

Murphy and his wife Yvonne McGuinness, a visual artist, share two sons – Malachy and Aran. That his boys were developing "very posh English accents" in London prompted the family to shift base to Ireland, Murphy joked on the Armchair Expert podcast. He added, "It's kind of an Irish story to move away, do your thing and come home — that seems to be a common narrative for Irish people." The property in the suburb of Monkstown, where the actor and his family live, is reportedly worth €1.7 million (per 

Living in Ireland also works out well for Murphy's reserved sensibilities that shun the spotlight. "I think Irish people are generally really decent. If they know what sort of person you are, they respect that. We moved back about five or six years ago and it's been the best thing we did," he told The Irish Times

He's had an on again, off again relationship with vegetarianism

Cillian Murphy knows what it takes to be a 19th century soldier-cum-street gangster who gets people swooning! The Irish actor, who stars in the crime drama "Peaky Blinders" flaunting a chiseled physique, revealed a major dietary change he had to make in order to fit better into the role of Thomas Shelby for the screen. "I was vegetarian for about 15 years," he told Mr Porter. His decision to be meat-free was, as he claims, wasn't guided by morality but fear — "about getting mad cow disease." 

The show, however, called for him to shed his worries. He said, "For the first series of 'Peaky Blinders,' they were anxious that I shouldn't look like a skinny Irish fella, and my trainer recommended meat." His first bite of meat, as a newly-converted non-vegetarian, was venison steak, he recalled. But as the show came to a close in 2022 after thundering success across six seasons, Murphy told The Guardian he has "relapsed back to vegetarianism." 

Talk about an artist's commitment to his craft!

He likes to maintain a healthy work-life balance

Given his vast body of work, one would think Cillian Murphy keeps busy for most of the year. But the Cork native knows how to indulge in downtime between takes. Per GQ, his year is split in half — six months are devoted to being a regular family man, the other six are spent being someone else on screen. "That work-life-balance thing is hard," he told the outlet, crediting the understanding of his "amazing wife," artist Yvonne McGuinness. "But it is a struggle." 

When the pandemic brought on lockdowns in 2021, even halting Murphy's work on "Peaky Blinders," he revealed in an interview with Men's Health, "I actually was really into it; I love not working." Spending precious time with his family during this period, Murphy said, "We cook, we watch movies, we listen to music." The 45-year-old appears to be incredibly close to his sons Malachy and Aran — per a 2017 interview with Evening Standard, he even wore a friendship bracelet his boys gifted him. But they don't really lean into what he does, it seems. "They're suitably underwhelmed by my work. I'm trying to keep them in that state because it's such a silly industry," Murphy lets on.  

He was considered for the role of Batman

The partnership between Cillian Murphy and director Christopher Nolan has always translated into success — kicking off on a terrific note in 2005 with the superhero film "Batman Begins," which raked in $371 million worldwide (per Forbes). Murphy assumed the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane, an alias for his supervillain identity of the Scarecrow, and reprised it for the next two films, "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises," that completed Nolan's trilogy. But apparently, it was not the role of Batman's adversary but Batman himself that Murphy was initially considered for!

According to GQ, Nolan was eager that Murphy try out for the role of Batman (which ultimately went to Christian Bale). Murphy tested in the superhero's Batsuit, which he recalled "was far too roomy for me." Along this tidbit attaining the status of pop culture legend over the years, fans have enjoyed watching Murphy as Batman — if only for a few brief seconds — in his screen test as shown through viral footage

As surreal as the prospect of Murphy as Batman may seem now, the actor himself wasn't too keen on becoming Nolan's superhero. "I don't think I'm the right physical specimen for Batman," he told Mr Porter. However, he conceded to GQ, "But it was fun. It's a great thing to tell your kids."