Ac­ci­den­tal su­per­star

It was al­ways rock’n’roll that flowed through Cil­lian Mur­phy’s blood, the act­ing just hap­pened. But it has its com­pen­sa­tions – es­pe­cially see­ing the Bat­mo­bile, he tells Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

THE BLUE-EYED, sharp-fea­tured Cil­lian Mur­phy re­ally is in­fu­ri­at­ingly good looking. Sit him next to, say, Zac Efron and the Amer­i­can would im­me­di­ately take on the ap­pear­ance of a syphilitic ba­boon. When he po­si­tions him­self op­po­site me, I feel my­self trans­form­ing into a lump of fetid flesh rammed rudely on a filthy stick. He’s smart as well. Though re­luc­tant to talk too closely about his pri­vate life, he will hap­pily launch into an ar­tic­u­late para­graph on the dy­nam­ics of block­buster cin­ema or the joys of his first sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence at the the­atre.

“I had a very life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence when I was about 18 or 19,” his un­nec­es­sar­ily smooth Corko­nian face says. “I saw this pro­duc­tion of A Clock­work Or­ange that Cor­cadorca were do­ing and I im­me­di­ately re­alised that the­atre can be af­fect­ing and mov­ing. I thought: this is some­thing quite ex­hil­a­rat­ing.”

Since that mo­ment of rev­e­la­tion, Mur­phy has grad­u­ally de­vel­oped into our sec­ond­biggest movie star (young Mr Far­rell prob­a­bly re­mains at the front). Fol­low­ing a mi­nor break­through in the film ver­sion of Enda Walsh’s play Disco Pigs, he se­cured roles in such hits as 28 Days Later, Bat­man Be­gins and Sun­shine. Now, if a pro­ducer wants a slightly enig­matic, faintly frag­ile lead­ing man, Mur­phy will find him­self top of the wish-list.

He can be seen this week in Ian Fitzgib­bon’s sweary com­edy Per­rier’s Bounty. Writ­ten by Mark O’Rowe, the man be­hind In­ter­mis­sion, an ear­lier Mur­phy hit, the pic­ture finds our hero rat­tling about the Dublin Moun­tains while a crime king­pin bays for his blood. Oddly, much of the film was shot in Lon­don.

“Yeah. About two-thirds of it was shot there for fi­nan­cial rea­sons which are be­yond me,” he says. “Any­way, the film does not play nat­u­ral­is­ti­cally. It is never men­tioned which city we are in. You do see the Luas, but it’s kept vague. Any­way, most of the bril­liant lo­ca­tions have been used too of­ten in films about Dublin.”

As it hap­pens, Mur­phy now lives in Lon­don. So the shoot­ing ar­range­ments suited him quite nicely. It comes as a bit of a shock to dis­cover that he has been lurk­ing in the city’s bo­hemian north-west­ern quar­ters for nearly a decade. Hav­ing barely aged over that pe­riod, he still seems comes across like an ab­surdly promis­ing young as­pi­rant.

If things had gone dif­fer­ently, he might have be­come a rock star. Born and raised in sub­ur­ban Cork, the son of teach­ers, Mur­phy was fix­ated on mu­sic long be­fore he saw that pro­duc­tion of A Clock­work Or­ange.

“I was just to­tally ob­sessed with mu­sic,” he says. I wanted to per­form. I’d be up on stage whack­ing away on a wheel­bar­row or what­ever. But, at that stage, it never occurred to me that act­ing could be the out­let for per­for­mance. The act­ing came as a nat­u­ral ac­ci­dent.”

So, when Cor­cadorca, the dis­tin­guished in­de­pen­dent com­pany, opened his eyes, he im­me­di­ately, I imag­ine, took on the as­pect of a newly con­verted zealot. “No. Not quite. It cer­tainly wasn’t a ‘eureka’ mo­ment. But I thought: well, this is kind of cool. And grad­u­ally act­ing be­came more im­por­tant than the mu­sic.”

Com­ing from a re­spectable back­ground you had time to reg­is­ter his rise, he was play­ing The Scare­crow in Bat­man Be­gins.

“That was how it was. I got a big part in the­atre, then I got a small part in a film, then a larger part in a film and so on. There was no great snow­balling. That is the way it should hap­pen. You get to learn as you go along. I had pe­ri­ods learn­ing my craft with, say, Garry Hynes at the Druid, in­ter­spersed with pe­ri­ods on the dole. To be hon­est, the idea of be­ing cat­a­pulted into im­me­di­ate recog­ni­tion would have been ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fy­ing to me.”

Now hap­pily domi­ciled with his wife Yvonne McGuin­ness, a dis­tin­guished artist, and their two sons, Mur­phy has never seemed all that comfortable cop­ing with the ram­pag­ing pub­lic­ity ma­chines that trun­dle in the wake of movie fame. He has never been snapped fall­ing drunk­enly out of the Bouncy Bouncy Club. He does not, so far as I am aware, fre­quent Hugh Hefner’s yacht.

Still, if you want to re­main in th­ese wa­ters, you will have to swim with the odd shark and bar­racuda. I won­der how he man­ages to main­tain his ap­par­ent nor­mal­ity.

“I work six months on and then have six months off,” he says. “That’s how it’s been for the past few years. And I am mostly work­ing in Amer­ica. You quickly re­alise that – even if a film is shite – if it makes money, then you will be lis­tened to. You will get a meet­ing. As long as you re­alise that it is about the money and not to do with you be­ing so charm­ing, then you’ll be all right.”

Shoot­ing Per­rier’s Bounty must have been a very dif­fer­ent busi­ness from film­ing those big pic­tures in the dream fac­tory. I imag­ine you get a bet­ter class of trailer on

irish­times.com/thet­icket/

Cil­lian Mur­phy, Dublin, March 2010. Be­low: in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Neil Jor­dan’s Break­fast on Pluto and Christo­pher Nolan’s Bat­man Be­gins

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