10 Years Later, ‘Peaky Blinders’ Still Holds One Of Cillian Murphy’s Most Indelible Performances

Before his life-changing call from director Christopher Nolan, his sensational performance as the father of the atomic bomb in Oppenheimer, and the well-deserved Oscars buzz following the film’s release, Cillian Murphy spent nearly a decade portraying working-class Brummie gangster Tommy Shelby in Steven Knight’s British crime drama, Peaky Blinders.

Inspired by the real-life gang of the same name, the six-season series followed the Shelby family’s business dealings, relationships, unsavory acts, and pursuits of power in Birmingham, England, 1919. Thanks to compelling writing, word of mouth, a Netflix streaming slot, and standout performances from a stacked cast — especially Murphy’s — what started as a small show on BBC Two in 2013 grew into a global phenomenon.

Oppenheimer’s immense scale and widespread acclaim may have solidified Murphy as a household name, but in the years leading up to the monumental project, Peaky Blinders allowed him to meticulously refine his craft, wholly inhabit a character, and take his acting prowess to the next level. A decade after the riveting series premiered, Tommy Shelby remains one of the actor’s most indelible roles — a truth even more impressive when you learn that Murphy wasn’t Knight’s first choice for the Peaky protagonist.

TE INTERESA>>  Familia de Fernando del Solar habría ENGAÑADO a hijos de Ingrid Coronado, ¿qué les dijo?

That’s right. The 47-year-old Irish actor nearly lost the role of Tommy Shelby to Jason Statham, but a text sent to Knight post-audition, which read, “Remember, I’m an actor,” changed everything. Ahead of Peaky Blinders’ final season, Knight told Esquire he “never forgot” Murphy’s show of confidence. Despite the clear departure from his appearance and past roles, the actor was sure he could embody the physically imposing, virile gang leader. And he was right. “It’s a cliché, but no one else could have been Tommy Shelby,” Knight admitted later in the interview. “It would be absurd. It was as if Cillian was always waiting.”

Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders Season 4
Photo: Netflix

Since Murphy first rode through the gritty Birmingham streets on horseback sporting a fresh undercut and a razor-trimmed cap pulled over his eyes, the role felt as bespoke as one of Tommy’s signature three-piece suits. On the surface, Murphy nailed the Birmingham accent, convincingly knocked back lowball glasses of whiskey, confidently handled a gun, and seductively smoked thousands of cigarettes on set. But his abilities to access and expose the deeper complexities, contradictions, and PTSD of the broken World War I veteran were particularly profound. 

As the leader of the tight-knit Shelby clan, Tommy was a commanding, ambitious, fiercely intelligent force; an enigma who routinely committed despicable acts, but possessed enough potential for good that he repeatedly gained empathy from viewers — with help from Murphy’s charisma and authentically pained portrayal. Haunted by flashbacks of France and fueled by booze for a majority of the series, the Peaky Blinders leader perpetually grappled with a restless mind and stained soul, while guarding a heart capable of immense love. He was, all at once, completely unafraid of his own death and terrified of losing others. And since business was always personal, his family became his greatest strength and most sizable weakness.

Tommy and Grace on 'Peaky Blinders'
Photo: Netflix

A fraternal feeling and the sheer weight of familial responsibility shone strongest in scenes with Paul Anderson’s Arthur, while Tommy’s intimate relationship with Helen McCrory’s Aunt Polly — which deepened and shifted on the daily — peeled back his layers and offered glimpses of vulnerabilities. Tommy’s shell was undeniably softest with Grace (Annabelle Wallis), the woman who made a tea drinker, father, and eventual fortress out of him. Through small talk and genuinely sexy sex scenes, heart-to-hearts and heartbreak, and the brutal gut-punch of unexpected mourning, Murphy tapped into the full range of human emotions to convey and process the love and loss of Tommy’s wife. He never fully recovered from her death, but devastating breakdowns after the loss of Polly and his daughter Ruby proved he was still able to feel.

TE INTERESA>>  Sex Education's Intimacy Coordinator On Criticisms Of Industry Role

Murphy effortlessly exuded swagger, showed subtle humor in moments like the famous “no fucking fighting” scene, and slipped into pure panic at the drop of a hat. He loudly expressed grief in palpable scenes, such as Tommy’s brush with death in the Season 2 finale — when he almost had (and lost) “fucking everything” — or the bone-chilling final seconds of Season 5, when he hopelessly held a gun to his head, emitting a guttural scream born from insufferable trauma and fury. But despite the grand outbursts, so much of Tommy’s emotions were expressed without words; through Murphy’s facial expressions, jaw clenches, silent spirals, and intense gazes from his deep-set ice-blue portals.

Tommy Shelby holding a gun to his head and screaming on 'Peaky Blinders'
Photo: Netflix

Whether Tommy was strutting through smoky streets in solitude, leading grand shootouts with adversaries like Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody), digesting Alfie Solomons’ (Tom Hardy) verbal acrobatics, recovering from ruthless beatings, chomping on a leaf with his toddler, or battling his inner demons, Murphy’s performance was mesmerizing. Over the course of Peaky Blinders’ run, the actor brilliantly resided in the middle-ground between hero and villain, light and dark, and savior and sinner. And without fail, he flawlessly found his way back under the multi-faceted character’s skin after substantial filming gaps and major projects like Dunkirk and A Quiet Place Part II. In the 36 hours we got to spend with him on-screen, Murphy delivered a career-great performance, crafting an incredibly lived-in character, while masterfully evolving alongside him.

TE INTERESA>>  ¿Está el mundo preparado para el futuro totalmente digital que Microsoft quería hace 10 años?

A decade after Peaky Blinders first premiered, it remains a razor-sharp series that boasts Knight’s brilliant storytelling; captivating characters; stunning set design, wardrobes, and haircuts; a killer soundtrack led by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand”; and a cast that was firing on all cylinders. The series’ legacy is as strong as the Shelby family in their prime, and when the credits roll on the dark final season — one made considerably more challenging by COVID-19 and the real-life death and mourning of McCrory — you’re reminded again that no one else could have been Tommy Shelby; that Cillian Murphy, as promised in his post-audition text, is one hell of an actor.

Peaky Blinders is now streaming on Netflix.


Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada.

Botón volver arriba