Academy Awards 2024: Cillian Murphy, Acting Chameleon And Now Oscar-Winner


Cillian Murphy pictured at the Oscars. (Image courtesy: Getty)Self-effacing Irish actor Cillian Murphy is having to get used to red carpet glitz and acceptance speeches. The 47-year-old Cork native won his first Oscar on Sunday – on his first nomination – for his leading role in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, capping a glittering awards season that saw him snare a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and other prizes.He bested a stacked field that included four American rivals – Paul Giamatti (The Holdovers), Jeffrey Wright (American Fiction), Bradley Cooper (Maestro) and Colman Domingo (Rustin).”We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb. And for better or for worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world”, Murphy said as he received an ovation from the audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.”So I would really like to dedicate this to the peacemakers, everywhere.” Murphy’s portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the US physicist who masterminded the atomic bomb, has been widely lauded, and is the culmination of years of fruitful collaboration with Nolan, which has included six films together.”I knew the character was so much in his head and that the performance was so much interior, how you could transmit thought process through the face, the eyes,” Murphy told the BBC.After all the accolades for Oppenheimer, the Irishman’s thin face, trademark sculpted cheekbones and piercing blue eyes are likely to become even more globally recognisable.The veteran performer’s film career has already included standout roles in acclaimed epics like Nolan’s Dunkirk and Ken Loach’s Irish historical drama The Wind That Shakes The Barley.But for many fans, he is Birmingham gangland boss Tommy Shelby, from the wildly popular television drama Peaky Blinders.Murphy has not shied away from conflicted roles, playing the villainous Scarecrow in Nolan’s Batman trilogy and a transgender woman in the 1970s-set Breakfast on Pluto.”I’ve always been interested in the melancholic, or the ambiguous, or the more transgressive – that, to me, is drama, getting into those knotty places. I find it really stimulating,” he told Esquire magazine for a 2022 profile.AnalogueDespite his burgeoning fame, Murphy is often described as humble – a profile helped by an aversion to technology and social media that translates into maintaining an internet and telephone-free home.”He’s the most analogue individual you could possibly encounter,” said Oppenheimer producer Emma Thomas, who is Nolan’s wife. Murphy is also known for trying to avoid excessive media attention.”If you behave like a celebrity, then people will treat you like a celebrity, and if you don’t, they won’t,” the actor told the Irish Times. “There’s not much to write about me in the tabloids.”Born to language teacher parents in Cork, Murphy played guitar as a teenager and formed an avant-garde rock band with school pals called “Son of Mr. Green Genes” after a Frank Zappa track.”Music was what I wanted to do, and for a while, it looked like it would work out,” Murphy told the BBC. However, bowing to parental pressure, the band members turned down a record company deal.With the door closed on one passion, another door opened in 1996 when, aged 20, he quit a law degree and set out on an acting career.”I’d probably have been wealthier if I had stayed with law, but pretty miserable doing it,” he confided in one interview.ChameleonMurphy had dipped his toe into acting at both school and university in Cork, where an English teacher and early mentor William Wall described him as a “chameleon of an actor”.In 1996, after pestering a local director, Murphy landed a lead part in the frenetic Disco Pigs, a play written by fellow Corkonian Enda Walsh.The stage show was a critical success, going on an 18-month world tour, and Murphy never looked back. His big cinema break came in 2002 when Scottish director Danny Boyle gave him the lead in post-apocalyptic London horror flick 28 Days Later.Then in 2005, Nolan cast Murphy in Batman Begins, the first chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader.Regular film appearances followed, but his work on “Peaky Blinders” from 2013 to 2022 – which is set largely in the period between the two world wars.Married to Irish artist Yvonne McGuinness for the past 20 years, the couple and their two sons moved back to Ireland in 2014 after more than a decade in London to reconnect with their homeland.His latest film Small Things Like These about the country’s mother and baby homes scandal – which he produced as well as stars in – opened last month at the Berlin film festival to stellar reviews.Cillian Murphy still finds time to host the occasional late night BBC radio show, serving up an eclectic mix of his favourite tunes alongside commentary in a soothing Cork accent.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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