As The Scarecrow in Batman Begins, Cillian Murphy was an evil presence on the screen. In Red Eye, he doesn't need a mask to be frightening. As the head operative in a plot to kill the head of Homeland Security, Cillian needs the help of Rachel McAdams to carry out his plan. Convincing her he will have her father murdered, she reluctantly helps him, to a point. Movieweb sat down with the Irish-born actor to talk about the film; you'll find his audition with director, Wes Craven couldn't have come at a worse time:
Are you worried because of Batman and now Red Eye audiences will only think you can play a bad guy?
Cillian Murphy: No because I’ve done 12 feature films and have played a bad guy in two of them; I have many other films coming out in the meantime that I’ve shot either before or after or in between Batman Begins and Red Eye and I think audiences are a lot more intelligent than what we give them credit for and understand that an actor is playing a role and that doesn’t mean he can’t play different types of roles. So I think it’s myopic to think that a person can only play and embody characters that don’t you know sit within our own model structure.
What did you do in between these films?
Cillian Murphy: I shot a movie called Breakfast on Pluto with Neal Jordan; he’s a true visionary. I know people use that word a lot now a day, but the man is. I put my heart and soul into that role; I think one of those only comes around once in every career, that type of role. I play a character called Kitten Brady; everyone knows he’s a transvestite, but it’s not the whole story. It’s set back in the 70’s, based on a book by Pat McCain who wrote the Butcher Boy which is another movie Neal directed so it’s kind of very visual. There’s an amazing cast with it - Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea so I’m really excited about that film; it comes out here in November and then NY in Jan.
What about this role? Was it because of Wes Craven?
Cillian Murphy: It’s a combination; it was a compelling script, I read it very quickly, I thought the premise was so strong and I thought how the hell are they going to write themselves out of this. It was Wes’ participation in the film, he speaks that language in terms of action and suspense; he knows how to manipulate an audience wonderfully. You come out of a Wes Craven film altered. It was an actor’s piece, you know. We sat on a plane for the majority of the thing and it rested on the shoulders of the actors and performers in it. And then Rachel, who’s fantastic, was a joy to work with someone of that talent everyday.
Did you fly over to the states to audition?
Cillian Murphy: Here’s the story, it’s a good story and I did fly over. I was at the registry office where I was getting married at. The wedding happened months down the line. I wasn’t leaving my bride at the alter or anything. The registry office part happened the day after I came back from America. So it was just like signing books. The wedding happened in August. I flew over to meet him. And we met in that revolving restaurant at LAX. It was like a 40 minute lunch and then I got back on a plane and went home.
You did that because of your wedding?
Cillian Murphy: Because I had to do the registry. I had to sign the papers.
Did you talk to Wes with an American accent over lunch because Wes said he was worried when he talked to you over the phone because of your heavy Irish accent?
Cillian Murphy: I don’t think it’s that thick, maybe when I’m at home. We’re actors, you know, it’s what we get paid to do. I’m pretty adamant to do an American accent because you get it immediately.
Rachel said you were nervous when she had to head butt back. Why?
Cillian Murphy: That’s the thing, I found that scene in the toilet awful man because there’s this sweet girl. But the thing with those you just have to rehearse and rehearse and just trust each other; she was amazing, just so cool.
Was Wes Craven’s style different than what you are used to?
Cillian Murphy: Not significantly, it’s a different genre. He knows, he just knows. You know those moves he does with the camera, he knows. So it wasn’t significantly different.
What was your approach to this character? Do you think he is a sociopath?
Cillian Murphy: Sociopath is a word now that has sort of become shorthand for psychopath and there’s a distinct difference, it’s interesting if you look it up. Sociopath if you look at the medical definition, the profile of a sociopath is that they are supremely intelligent people that are also pathological liars, they have no moral structure and there is one more, they have no compassion or empathy for other people. So that was an interesting thing, I didn’t want to throw that word around too much because people don’t understand what it means, but I looked at it objectively. The whole professional thing was what I went back to, that was his job, that is his object. He is requesting she makes a phone call and she declines that request. Then he has to find another way of achieving goal and that’s the way you have to look at it.
Are you going to do another Batman? Have they approached you?
Cillian Murphy: I’d love to if they do another one. I guess it has to hit certain figures.
Were you signed on the first one to do two more?
Cillian Murphy: They have options on us, yeah. But, I mean all that stuff is industry stuff I don’t really think about.
How has 28 Days Later changed your life?
Cillian Murphy: Well I suppose slightly more people now can pronounce my name. Yeah, it’s all about recognition isn’t it? And I have a funny cognizant of the fact that Hollywood is about commerce and art and it’s an uncomfortable mixture of the two, but people aren’t going to put you in a movie unless people know who you are. And if your movie made $80 million, people will go ‘Hey, we’ll put him in a movie.’ It isn’t necessarily immediately about the performance. So that was great and what that meant is you get to read scripts and meet people that you wouldn’t have done in the past.
Is there going to be a sequel to 28 Days and if so will you be in it?
Cillian Murphy: Well I think they are talking about it, but just the producers are involved and that for me is a full stop; I would hate to go back…
You seem to be quite comfortable with the American film industry.
Cillian Murphy: Look, the thing about it is it’s very simple. You do roles and if some fall within the American film studio then that’s fine. It’s about a role; that’s why you do it. I think it’s foolish for an actor to learn something and only pursue independent films and say they are only an independent actor. If it’s a good film it doesn’t matter where it comes from. And I don’t care if people perceive me as always selling out because I’m doing a studio picture. For me, the whole thing is you should be diverse in your choices; that’s the beauty of being an actor, you should be able to do that.
What do you think this movie is going to do to people about flying?
Cillian Murphy: The boring people are the worst. I think it’s obvious, I think people have always had phobias about flying for years even before 9/11 and everything like that. It just taps into that and it taps into who you are going to sit next to on the plane.
Oh, and his name is pronounced 'kill-ian' - how appropriate for this film! Red Eye opens August 19th, it's rated PG-13.