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Cillian Murphy, Leading Man

He’s never been a leading man in a Christopher Nolan film, despite collaborating with him multiple times. But that all changed with Oppenheimer, which places the Irish actor front and centre as the physicist and “father of the atomic bomb” J Robert Oppenheimer. But it’s certainly not Murphy’s first moment as a leading man. He’s headlined many a movie and it always has audiences mesmerised. Let’s look at some of these shining moments.

Disco Pigs (2001)
This film started it all. Not only did Murphy play the role of Darren (aka Pig) in this Irish film, but he played it on stage, a role he landed after his first professional audition. Talk about a life-changing part! The story takes place in Cork, which also happens to be where Murphy was born and raised. Murphy is set to reunite with Enda Walsh, who wrote Disco Pigs, for the film Small Things Like These.

28 Days Later (2002)
Murphy was still relatively unknown, at least to Hollywood, when he starred in this zombie horror directed by Danny Boyle. But after that magnificent scene of Murphy stumbling through a desolate and deserted London (which no one could have imagined pre-COVID), it was practically guaranteed that no one would ever forget him. In 2007, Murphy reunited with Boyle for the movie Sunshine to play a physicist who … wait for it … works with a bomb. 👀 However, in Sunshine, unlike Oppenheimer, the physicist and story are fictional.

Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
Always one to seek interesting stories and characters, Murphy tackled the challenge of playing a transgender woman in this 1970s set Irish film directed by Neil Jordan. Murphy threw himself voice, body, and soul into this part, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. It’s an achievement he’s repeated for next year’s Golden Globes, in the Drama category, for Oppenheimer.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
Devoted to his native Ireland, Murphy often returns to Irish stories – and given the country’s rich history and culture, there are always so many incredible stories to tell. In this film directed by Ken Loach, Murphy plays one of two brothers who join the Irish Republic Army to fight for independence. The brothers are from Cork County which, as mentioned, is where Murphy is from too. But give him any character – be it Irish, English, or American – Murphy slays them all.

Peaky Blinders (2013 – 2022)
A wildly popular show with both critics and fans (known as Peakies), Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby is perhaps the character he is best known for. Playing Tommy for ten years, Murphy oozed cool, charisma, style, and smarts. But fret not Peakie fans. The show may be over, but there’s a movie planned for next year!

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