Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy talks about stepping into this period piece, working with the cast and John Maybury and more

Cillian Murphy has been an actor on the rise for some time now. After bursting onto the scene with his breakthrough performance in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, the Irish actor has put together a string of impressive performances in such hits Cold Mountain, Batman Begins, Red Eye and a brief turn reprising his Scarecrow role in the blockbuster The Dark Knight. Murphy's latest film is the wonderful drama Edge of Love, which will be released in Los Angeles on March 13 and will bow in New York City on March 20 (look for my full review of the film shortly). I had the opportunity to speak with this talented actor over the phone about his new film, and here's what he had to say.

How did this role of William Killick first come to you and what was your first impression after reading the script?

Cillian Murphy: Well, it was through the traditional route. My agent sent me the script and I read it and was very taken with it. I thought it was quite unusual and I didn't know this part of (poet) Dylan Thomas' life at all, I didn't know that this incident actually took place, that happened in Wales. I was very intrigued, and I had never really played a character like this before. On top of that, I was very much a fan of (director) John Maybury's work, particularly his Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon. And then the cast that he was assembling, Keira (Knightley), Sienna (Miller) and Matthew (Rhys), so it all just seemed to make sense.

The film really seemed like it was paced in a literal sense, like a book. The stakes aren't raised all the time and it's really methodical pacing. Was that something that they were going for with this?

Cillian Murphy: I think that he definitely wanted to create a distinctive mood and atmosphere in the film. We all read stuff about that period in London. That period, after the war, was a very strange one. For my character, who has to go away and fight, and for people who were living in London constantly under the threat of death. He kind of wanted to put that into the film and then to very much juxtapose that with the atmosphere in Wales, where it's so Bohemian and sort of decadent, rural and all of that. That's a tribute to John and I think he very much wanted to shoot it like an art movie, because these people were artists and they saw the world through a certain way.

I read that one of the film's producers, Rebecca Gilbertson, was the granddaughter of both your and Keira's characters in real life. Did you both interact with her at all and get any stories from her grandparents' lives for your characters?

Cillian Murphy: Yeah. That was a huge resource to have. I didn't realize until I had met Rebecca that she was the granddaughter of William Killick and knew what he was like. We spent time together and she told me many things about him and showed me pictures of him and entries from his journal when he was in Greece. It was hugely helpful to have that information available, to have someone's impressions available, even though he was a very different man when he was an older man. You know, they went on to stay together, Vera and William, and they had five kids, but obviously, when you portray a character that actually lived, you have to employ an artistic license and we did that. You have to compress certain things and certain facts, but it was brilliant to have an insight into what he was like and how he interacted with people and what his personality is like. She's a brilliant woman, Rebecca.

You mentioned the cast before and you have quite an amazing one with Keria Knightley, Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys. It really seemed like you guys had a unique bond on the film, especially since you're all kind of at each other throughout the film. How was that like when you were on the set? Did you all form a bond together?

Cillian Murphy: Yeah. Well, we started shooting in Wales so we were on location in this very remote part of Wales. We were always kind of lumped in together and we just had to get on. They're brilliant people to be around and it wasn't a very big-budget movie so everyone just lumped in and we had fun. John Maybury creates a wonderful atmosphere on the set. He's very very collaborative and everybody's opinion and view is given weight. There's a great sense of fun and that leant itself to the story, particularly for those three, since they're living in this, as I said, Bohemian world. They were allowed to let loose with their characters, but for me, my character is a bit more outside of that world and he comes from a military background. I just sort of observe that.

Yeah. Your character probably goes through the biggest transformation in this film, from the guy trying to pick up on Keira with the handkerchief line, to this completely different character at the end. Was that part of what drew you to this role, this complete transformation?

Cillian Murphy: Yeah, it was and I had never played this type of character before. He's a very noble, very loyal, good man and he goes to war and what you're actually seeing is somebody who is suffereing from, what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder, which obviously didn't exist back then. So he's lived through this trauma in the war and being the type of Englishman that he is, where he isn't prone to expressing his emotions much, so he comes back with all this and then, on top of that, finds out that his wife hasn't been entirely loyal to him. So that compounds this when he comes back from war and all of that really contributes to his breakdown.

You've mentioned before that you were a fan of John Maybury's work, so what was it like working with him and collaborating with him on the set of this film?

Cillian Murphy: Brilliant. He is absolutely brilliant. He has a very unique way of working, in that he loves actors and trusts his actors hugely, but as a result of that, you get about one take or two takes if you're very lucky (Laughs). There's a great sense of spontaneity because you know you just have to go in and do it and you're not going to indulge and become over-actorly. It's very naturalistic. You just come in and do it and that is very flattering that he trusts his actors so much. It's also quite scary in that, you can't go, 'I'm going to need this many takes to get this right.' You know you have to be ready. I really really enjoyed that way of working and he's a true artist, I think. That's where he comes from, the art world, and I think the eye he has, visually, is second to none.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is where they cut between Keira giving birth and you on the front lines with the soldier getting his arm cut off. That was kind of your Saving Private Ryan moment, it seemed.

Cillian Murphy: (Laughs)

What was that whole actual military battle scene like for you?

Cillian Murphy: Oh, we tried to achieve chaos and this fog of war, that lunacy that descends on people when they're in battle. I mean, I can only imagine, you know, and then this thing of a lot of them being kids. You know, as is the case now, people go off to war and they're 18, 19-year-old young men but actually they're children and in this case, William is a captain but he has to hold down this kid and watch while his arm is hacked off and it's trying to show how insane that all is. While his wife is at home giving birth, he's out there trying to kill people for his country and that's, again, John's artistry in showing that.

Have you heard any rumblings about another 28 Days Later, or would you return to that franchise at all?

Cillian Murphy: (Laughs) What would it be? 28 Months? 28 Years? (Laughs) I have not heard anything, to answer your question, but, you know, I'd love to work with Danny (Boyle) again. I don't know if it would be something with that franchise, but never say never, I guess.

You have a number of projects in development right now with Perrier's Bounty, White Male Heart, Peacock and Hippie Hippie Shake. Is there anything that you can say about those films?

Cillian Murphy: I think three of them are in the can, so they should be coming out this year. I don't know exactly in which order, you have no control over that. Peacock, Hippie Hippie Shake and Perrier's Bounty are all in post-production, so whatever order they're released in, I can't tell you, but I feel like it will be this year.

{bold|So is there anything else that you're currently eyeing up right now or looking to take on right now?

Cillian Murphy: I'm reading scripts and trying to figure out what 2009 will bring.

I read that you always wanted to be in a Western. Have you found any decent Western scripts out there?

Cillian Murphy: It seems that people don't really want to make Westerns that much, or maybe it's just people really don't want to go see them. I don't know. What they do now is they make Western's but they transpose them to modern settings. I think you see that happening a lot where you get the structure of a Western, set in, I don't know, downtown L.A. or whatever the hell it might be. That's what they tend to do, but they don't make straight, conventional Western's anymore, it seems to me.

That's a shame.

Cillian Murphy: Yeah, I hope they'll start making them again.

So, finally, the film hits theaters on March 13 and it looks like one of the first real dramas of the year. What are your hopes for the film when it hits theaters?

Cillian Murphy: I think it's a very accessible story about love, really, in a turbulent world kind of like the world we're living in right now. It's got some brilliant performances in it and you don't need to be familiar in any way with Dylan Thomas to go and see this film. I hope people go to see it for the performances and for the story.

Excellent. Well, that's about all I have for you, Cillian. Thanks so much for your time, and the best of luck to you.

Cillian Murphy: OK man. Nice to talk to you. Bye Brian.

Go check out Cillian Murphy alongside Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys as the legendary Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, when Edge of Love hits theaters in Los Angels on March 13 and New York City on March 20. Also be sure to check the Reviews section in the next few days for my full review of the film.