Cillian Murphy on moving his family back to Ireland: ‘We wanted the kids to be Irish’

Cillian Murphy covered a recent issue of Rolling Stone UK, mostly for some early promotion for Oppenheimer (where he plays the lead role), but he’s also promoting the Irish film industry. He’s a producer now and he was interviewed on the Irish set of Small Things Like These, a film about the Magdalene Laundries (you can read the Wiki page here). Cillian and his family lived in London for years, but as his kids started growing up (with English accents), he and his wife moved back to Ireland, where they live a mostly private and quiet life. In this piece, Murphy talks about Catholicism, Ireland, Christopher Nolan and everything else. It’s a great piece, honestly. Some highlights:

The story of the Magdalene Laundries. “Everyone in Ireland that you talk to, of a certain generation, more or less has a story. It’s just in Irish people. What happened with the church, I think we’re still kind of processing it. And art can be a balm for that, it can help with that.”

On Christopher Nolan: “I was a Chris Nolan fan. That’s how I was when I met him for the first time, because I’d watched Following, I’d watched Memento, I’d watched Insomnia. And I met him for Batman Begins, and I met him on the basis of being a fan. So, it feels absurd that I’ve been in six of his films.” At the height of his Peaky fame, Murphy took time to appear in Dunkirk in a cameo as a ‘shivering soldier’ with combat shock, a rather unshowy and minor role. As Murphy points out, “I’d always show up for Chris, even if it was walking in the background of his next movie holding a surfboard. Though… not sure what kind of Chris Nolan movie that would be. But I always hoped I could play a lead in a Chris Nolan movie. What actor wouldn’t want to do that?”

On the process of acting: “Joanne Woodward said acting is like sex: you should do it and not talk about it. And that’s why on set, with a good director, you rarely talk about the actual work. You talk around it, what you’re going to do next. I can do an immense amount of preparation, but then a lot of the action happens to you in real time. So, there is no value, really, in intellectualising anything.”

On Catholicism, religion in general: “My family wasn’t particularly religious, but I was taught by a religious order. The Irish school system was almost exclusively controlled by the Catholic Church, and still is to a large degree. And I went to church and got, you know, communion, confirmation and all of that. I have no problem with people having faith. But I don’t like it being imposed. When it’s imposed, it causes harm. That’s where I have an issue. So, I don’t want to go around bashing the good things about institutionalised religion, because there are some. But when it gets twisted and f–ked-up, like it did in our country, and imposed on a nation, that’s an issue.”

On brilliant scientists: “In Sunshine [Danny Boyle’s 2007 sci-fi movie], I played a physicist. I spent some time with [the physicist] Brian Cox, and he was a brilliant teacher. I’m never going to have the intellectual capability — not many of us do — but I loved listening. I enjoyed being around these insanely intelligent men and women and going for dinner to talk about normal sh-t… With that intellect — which I think can actually be a burden — you’re not seeing stuff in the normal plane that we do. Everything is multifaceted and about to collapse. It’d be a terrible way to buy milk or cut the grass, I’d say.”

Moving back to Ireland: “We had 14 years in London. But I feel like as you hit your late 30s and have kids, living in a major metropolis is less exciting. And then also, you know, we’re both Irish. We wanted the kids to be Irish. I think it’s the best decision we made. They’re really good boys. We have a laugh. We don’t do ‘Dad’s Movie Night’, but they like some of my films. They say all my films are really intense.”

On fame: “Fame evaporates with regularity. I’m around here all the time and no one gives a f–king sh-t. Nobody cares. I go to the shop. It dissipates. But if… one of the guys from Succession walked in here, I’d be all intimidated and shaky. When you’re confronted with someone you’ve invested a lot in, or you think is amazing, the encounter is strange…”

He doesn’t play the fame game: “I don’t really partake. I don’t go out. I’m just at home mostly, or with my friends, unless I have a film to promote. I don’t like being photographed by people. I find that offensive. If I was a woman, and it was a man photographing me…”

He’s fragile: “I’m totally fragile and insecure, like most actors. It’s putting your head over the emotional parapet. It’s f-ckin’ hard. It’s a vulnerable place to be.”

[From Rolling Stone UK]

This was honestly the most in-depth interview I’ve ever read with Murphy and he comes across so well. There are so many actors who talk out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to art vs commerce, fame vs privacy, but I genuinely believe that Murphy is just these quiet, slightly offbeat guy who does his work and doesn’t want to be bothered. I was reminded of Daniel Day Lewis halfway through this piece, only I think Cillian has a much healthier work-life balance and he can walk away from his work with more ease than DDL ever could. I also appreciate that he’s sh-t talking Catholicism, and specifically what monstrous things the Catholic Church did in Ireland.

Cover & IG courtesy of Rolling Stone UK.

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