Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy discusses his return to Ireland after many years in London, his working methods, and his role as an IRA man in Ben Wheatley’s ultra-violent new action movie Free Fire.
“I really don’t like guns,” declares actor Cillian Murphy. “I don’t get a kick out of them.”
The charmingly mild-mannered and intensely blue-eyed Corkonian might not be a gun freak, but the same most certainly cannot be said of Chris, the hardened IRA man he plays in High Rise director Ben Wheatley’s latest offering. Set in Boston in 1978, but shot entirely in an abandoned old Brighton newspaper building, the ultra-violent Free Fire has a very simple storyline. Two Irish freedom fighters (Murphy and Belfast actor Michael Smiley) meet with a not terribly bright criminal gang in a deserted warehouse to do an arms deal.
Egos clash, tempers flare and things escalate into pandemonium very, very quickly. With everyone present packing heat, and crates of machine guns and ammo lying around, the mother of all movie shootouts ensues. That’s about it, really. It’s a cartoonishly OTT action flick, its uncomplicated plot more than compensated for by the razor sharp Tarantinoesque dialogue and some great performances by a cast which includes Sam Riley, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Patrick Bergin and Jack Reynor. But we’ll get to the film in a moment.
Hot Press is meeting the star in a luxury suite in the Merrion Hotel midway through the Audi Dublin International Film Festival. Murphy didn’t have to travel very far to get here today. Having recently returned to Ireland with his artist wife, Yvonne McGuinness, and their two young sons after years of living in London, the family are now based in a grand Victorian terraced residence in Monkstown.
Are they enjoying being back on home turf?
“Tremendously so, yeah,” he nods, enthusiastically. “We were 14 years in London so we felt the time had come to come home. But I’ve made a few films and done a lot of theatre here, and our families are here, so we were always over and back. But it’s good to be home. The children are London kids – that’s the way they were headed. It’s nice, now, to see them become, totally by osmosis, little Irish boys. It’s really nice.”
Murphy recently turned 40, but looks easily a decade younger. He tells me that he’s feeling well rested having taken a few months break from work, but is soon to start shooting the fourth series of BBC period gangster drama Peaky Blinders. He has won widespread critical acclaim for his starring role as Thomas Shelby, the ruthless leader of the titular 1920s Birmingham criminal gang.
“Yeah, I’m about to go to start on the fourth series of Peaky Blinders next month,” he says. “So I’m sort of relishing the last of the freedom before I disappear into that. I did take a good bit off. I did a little film in Dublin before Christmas, and prior to that I had some time off. Because the year that we made this film, actually, I did three projects in a row, and it was a sort of an eight-month ordeal of working and being away. I love the work, but being away from home is hard.”
It’s not just the physical absence from his family; there’s also the emotional one.
“You’re away, but you also disappear into whatever character you’re portraying,” he explains. “So you’re absent as well in an emotional way, because you’re so involved in the piece. But the kids are at an age where it’s easier. They understand, they can rationalise it and they’re familiar with it. You do your best, like. I’ve had these chunks since before Christmas, so I’ve had from January until now to be at home, so you work it out.”
In terms of disappearing into character, does he switch off when the camera stops rolling? Or is he still in that mindset back in his hotel room? He shakes his head.
“No, I’ve never been that way, the method. I think that gets sort of over-used, or misused. For me, it’s whatever you need to do to get you to that place. Some people require different paths than others. I do find that it is quite immersive, depending on the role. It can be very, very immersive. And then naturally, it does take a bit of time to shake a character off. That’s why last year it was tricky, because you really shouldn’t back projects up one against the other. But, inevitably, timetabling can lead to that sometimes.”
In what order did they come?
“I did Free Fire, then I did this film called Anthropoid, then I shot the last series of Peaky Blinders, and it all went back-to-back. Funnily enough, this is the one that’s coming out last, even though we shot it first. That’s the quirks of distribution. But yeah, I don’t know how actors go on that sort of conveyor belt of work. I don’t ever want to repeat that again.”
What’s the most extreme thing he’s ever done to prepare for a role?
“It depends,” he says, shrugging. “It depends on how far away the character is from you physically, it depends on how far away the character is from you emotionally. You have to change how you look physically, you have to change your accent occasionally. You have a due diligence to immerse yourself in the environment that the character finds himself in.”
How did he prepare for the role of Chris in Free Fire?
“I just grew a moustache,” he deadpans, before bursting into laughter.
As it happened, Ben Wheatley wrote the role specifically for him.
“The sort of evolution of the project is that I met Ben four or five years ago after seeing Kill List in the cinema, and I immediately identified him as one of the most important young directors around,” he explains. “And I sort of chased him down and pestered him into going for a couple of pints with me. So we went for some pints, we chatted, and I said, ‘Look man, anything you have, I’d love to work with you because I think you’re really fantastic.’
“And he had this idea in his head about this film, so he wrote the part with me in mind. It’s a real gift when the director writes the part with you in mind, because you know he’s got your voice in his head. So basically, we decided Chris would be from Cork, where I’m from. Obviously it’s set in the ’70s. The thing that we did, all of us in this, is we shot off a fuckload of guns to kind of understand the power of them.”
Were they real guns?
“Yeah. Obviously not live rounds, it wasn’t a shooting range. I’ve done that in the past. I really don’t like guns, I don’t get a kick out of them. People go to America and they get a real kick out of going to a range or a shoot club. It frightens the shit out of me. But all of us needed to know how to handle guns for this film, so we did that. And Ben was very keen for us to realise that with ballistics and gun fights, the maddest things happen.”
“People don’t just die, do one of those deaths (mocks receiving a gunshot) and they’re out (slumps over), the craziest things happen. Like you see in this film. People coming back to life, and it takes a long time to bleed out. This film is shot in real time, and you see the extent of what it means to bleed out. So we talked a lot about that. Me and Michael Smiley, who plays my partner in it, he’s from Belfast. Would’ve been around, grown up during the Troubles and all that. So we talked a lot about sort of their relationship, and the dynamic between the two of those guys.”
Free Fire was executive produced by the legendary Martin Scorsese. Was he present during the shoot?
“No, I’ve not met him. Ben has been to his house and hung out with him. He didn’t come to set, but he saw the movie and he loved it. Ben brought it over to show to him. You can see why they admire each other. You can see where they’re both in the same world. Ben is hugely influenced like all contemporary filmmakers are, but you can see why Scorsese has had this mentorship with him, because I think he sees something in him of himself, perhaps.”
Does Cillian Murphy have any mentor-like relationships in his own life?
“You know, when I was younger starting off, people like Brendan Gleeson, Stephen Rea and Liam Neeson were very encouraging and really took time with me,” he reflects. “I’ve become good pals with Stephen and Brendan. I haven’t seen Liam in a while because he doesn’t live here anymore. So those guys, and I would go to them for advice. I would call them up and ask them questions, because I admire them. Even before I was an actor, or before I had any desire to be an actor, I would have admired those guys.
“I’ve been an actor since I was 20, but I mean even before,” he continues. “I originally wanted to be a musician, but I had an interest in cinema and I would always go to see Brendan in his films. I would always go and see Stephen Rea and all the Neil Jordan films, and obviously Liam as well. I think every generation has people that they look up to, and we’re lucky in this country that we’ve produced such fine actors through the generations.”
Free Fire is in cinemas now.
With the massive European success of their double platinum-selling debut, Everything This Way, Kerry’s WALKING ON CARS pretty much owned 2016. Currently back in Dingle writing the band’s second album, frontman Patrick ‘Pa’ Sheehy takes time out to tell OLAF TYARANSEN about their planned shows in Dublin, Cork and Belfast this summer, Fungie the dolphin, Danny Healy Rae, their creative process – and why quitting their day jobs was the best career move they ever made.Read More
Currently starring in TV3 soap Red Rock, veteran Dublin actor Patrick Bergin reflects on fame, success, money, and why some Irish politicians should be put naked in a roomful of wasps.Read More
After three decades making his living as a visual artist, Hot Press illustrator DAVID ROONEY has just released his debut album. He tells OLAF TYARANSEN how Glen Hansard and Declan O’Rourke helped inspire him to swap his paintbrush for a guitar.Read More
Veteran musician Eamonn Dowd on his new album Dig Into Nowhere, working with Nikki Sudden, and how rock n' roll saved him from a life of drudgery in rural Ireland.Read More
When Craig Walker and Phoebe Killdeer were put together in a Paris hotel room for a songwriting session by their music publisher in 2009, they wrote the No 1 hit ‘Fade Out Lines’ in just five minutes. Now they’re collaborating on a new Berlin-based THEM THERE project.Read More
When Craig Walker and Phoebe Killdeer were put together in a Paris hotel room for a songwriting session by their music publisher in 2009, they wrote the No 1 hit ‘Fade Out Lines’ in just five minutes. Now they’re collaborating on a new Berlin-based musical project called THEM THERE.Read More
Having drifted aimlessly through his twenties, Galway-born ALAN McMONAGLE didn’t start writing seriously until he turned 30. Now aged 43, all of his hard work has finally paid off with the success of his debut novel Ithaca.Read More
Booze! Drugs! Lesbian strippers! One of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Essex synth warriors DEPECHE MODE also used to be amongst the most hedonistic. But on the release of their 14th studio album, Spirit, founding member Andrew ‘Fletch’ Fletcher tells a truly gutted OLAF TYARANSEN that their decadent days are long behind them...Read More
Stunning debut from Hot Press illustratorRead More
Momentum Acting Studio are presenting a three-play suite about love, at the 14th International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival. Director LIZA MICHAEL talks about what attracted her to the work of Neil LaBute and Louis CK.Read More
Making good on his 2015 electoral promises, yesterday Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party government introduced legislation that will potentially see marijuana fully legalised in Canada by July 2018. Rapper Snoop Dogg had already tweeted his approval…Read More
Imelda May’s stunning new album, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood, is strongly informed by her 2015 break-up with ex-husband and band member, Darrel Higham. In a remarkably revealing interview, she discusses working through personal pain on the record, reinventing her look and sound, collaborating with legendary producer T Bone Burnett in LA, and how advice from her friend Bono helped shaped the material. “I put my whole heart and soul into this album,” she tells Olaf Tyaransen.Read More
It took numerous albums and over a decade of hard graft for cult Nottingham duo SLEAFORD MODS to finally start making a living from music. They’re now signed to Rough Trade, and Iggy Pop is a major fan, but acerbic vocalist Jason Williamson still isn’t happy…Read More
Long-time murder suspect, Ian Bailey, has spoken to Hot Press about his current legal travails, the planned Jim Sheridan documentary about his case and his debut poetry collection, The West Cork Way.Read More
Despite the car crash which claimed the life of the singer’s young niece, The Stunning’s Galway benefit show in aid of five female NUIG lecturers’ equality cases will still go ahead next week…Read More
His entry into the Presidential race came as a bombshell, throwing many political commentators, as well as the Fine Gael party, into a tailspin. It has also been the catalyst to a surge in support in the opinion polls for Sinn Féin. So who is Martin McGuinness? What is he like as a man? And can a self-confessed former IRA leader convince the Irish peope that he has what it takes to be the President?Read More
Having once memorably sung “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief”, BONO has never been shy when it comes to acknowledging his artistic influences. Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, Sam Shepard and Raymond Carver were amongst his literary reference points when it came to penning the lyrics for The Joshua Tree. By OLAF TYARANSENRead More
The Joshua Tree was the album that transformed U2 from being a big band into one of the most powerful and enduring forces in the history of rock music. On the 30th Anniversary of the release of the landmark album, OLAF TYARANSEN sets the scene, listens to some of the key players, and reflects on the extraordinary sonic magic that was conjured in a disused house in Rathfarnham, on the south side of Dublin, by a group of four Northsiders and their various musical accomplices…Read More
Best known as a singer with successful girl band The Saturdays, and also as a TV judge on The Voice, singer-songwriter Una Healy has waited a long time to release a solo album, but The Waiting Game is finally over… and out.Read More
The chisel-cheeked KARL GEARY first shot to fame when he appeared in Madonna’s Sex book in 1992, but he’s more than just a pretty face. Having just published his debut novel, the Dubliner talks about his love of writing, his accidental acting career, the legendary Sin-e, and having Allen Ginsberg, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed as neighbours in 1980s Manhattan.Read More
With Elbow’s seventh studio album, Little Fictions, about to drop, recently-hitched frontman GUY GARVEY talks about his (slightly) healthier lifestyle, the departure of drummer Richard Jupp, the twin disasters of Trump and Brexit, and why his actress wife makes him feel naughty.Read More
Thrilling debut from the electro DubRead More
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Karl Geary – brother of musician Mark Geary – high-tailed it from Dublin in the 1980s.Read More
From exciting Irish debuts to new releases by international heavy hitters such as Martin Amis, Paul Auster and Joyce Carol Oates, 2017 will be a big year for literary fiction. Olaf Tyaransen selects ten books they’ll all be talking about this year…Read More
“It feels like a return to fucking Dickensian values,” says the singer.Read More
A full 21 years after making one of the biggest British cinematic hits of the 1990s, the original cast and crew of Trainspotting have finally made a sequel. Author IRVINE WELSH talks about the stop/start process involved, the importance of the soundtrack, the possibility of a third installment, and why he thinks the election of Donald Trump will be great for artists. Interview: OLAF TYARANSENRead More
Susan O’Neill, the husky-voiced backing singer with Propeller Palms and King Kong Company, is going on her own in 2017.Read More
A bad sequel can drag an iconic original movie down. Thankfully, however, Danny Boyle has beaten that trap with his update of Irvine Welsh's landmark TrainspottingRead More
One of the most notorious drug dealers of the modern era, in almost every way, Howard Marks went against stereotype. He was a highly intelligent, erudite and charming man, who enjoyed life to the full – while running rings around law enforcement agencies for years.Read More
Olaf Tyaransen catches up with million-selling author Paul Howard, who currently has two new books out at the moment. One is the latest in his satirical Ross O-Carroll-Kelly; the other concerns an entirely different class of Irish legend...Read More
“From a citizen’s point of view it sucks, but from an artist’s point of view it’s fucking great!” says the Trainspotting author.Read More
Matt Bellamy & Co. are going to have to extend their mantelpiece again...Read More
The Dingle indie rockers were presented with the award by Jools Holland...Read More
As 2016 draws to a close, the Grim Reaper has struck again.Read More
Million-selling author Paul Howard has two new books this year. One is the latest in his satirical Ross O-Carroll-Kelly series; the other concerns an entirely different class of Irish legend...Read More
U2 have posted a very interesting Christmas teaser on their website, remarking on the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree and hinting about a new album – and all that goes with itRead More
Best known for her starring role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher is currently in intensive care in a hospital in Los Angeles.Read More
The Tulla Céili Band were one of the forerunners of the trad revival, who gigged all over Ireland as well as internationally with great success. Now they are the subject of a documentary by director, John O'DonnellRead More
The acclaimed Irish rockers Bell X1 met Olaf Tyaransen in October to talk about international success and new album Arms, the "most difficult that we've ever made."Read More
Pixie Geldof talked with Olaf Tyaransen back in November about her love for Ireland, her unlikely music influences, and the pros and cons of being from a famous family.Read More
The Followill family had some curveballs in store for interviewer Olaf Tyaransen during a highly charged interview back in October.Read More
Well, not in the manner intended anyway. The recent report from Forensic Science Ireland on the adulteration of the most widely used illicit drugs on this island makes for depressing, but mostly predictable reading.Read More
Former model Pixie Geldof is about to release her debut album, the Tony Hoffer-produced I’m Yours. She talks about her love of Ireland, her unlikely country music influences, meeting Courtney Love, recording in LA with Beck’s father, and the pros and cons of being from a famous family. Interview: Olaf Tyaransen Photos: Kathrin BaumbachRead More
Larry Love of Brixton-based outfit Alabama 3 on playing outlaw funerals, recording the audiobook of Howard Marks’ final memoir, Ronan Keating’s polyps, and their three new studio albums.Read More
Paul Butler of acclaimed Waterford outfit Propeller Palms on smalltown jealousies, musical ambitions, the logistics of managing an eight-piece band, and their long-awaited second album, Old Dog, New Tricks.Read More
Excellent comeback from pop icon.Read More
Acclaimed Irish rockers Bell XI discuss meeting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, attempting to replicate their huge Irish success internationally, and the challenges of creating their latest masterwork, Arms. “This record has been the most difficult that we’ve made,” they tell Olaf Tyaransen.Read More
Wild World is out now on Virgin. Bastille play the SSE Arena, Belfast on November 9 and 3Arena, Dublin (10).Read More
Hip-hop inspired album from nashville pioneersRead More
Meet the band defiantly pushing against the grain of indie and folk bands in Ireland…Read More
It’s been six years since Irish urban troubadour Jinx Lennon put out his last studio effort. He’s now set to simultaneously release two new albums – and is still sounding as angry and acerbic as ever.Read More
The award-winning radio musical, based on John Millington Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, has now been adapted for theatre – and premieres in Galway tonight.Read More
Impressive debut from model-turned-singerRead More
One of Galway's great characters, Mark Kennedy, died last week. But there was far more to the man – and his history – than even those who knew, and loved, him might have been aware. He gave a rare interview to Hot Press’ Olaf Tyaransen in the recent past – at least in part with an eye to posterity.Read More
Pop maverick presses 'reboot' with sometimes compelling results.Read More
An actor, writer and journalist, Mark Kennedy was a larger than life figure, who made Galway a better and more interesting place. By Olaf TyaransenRead More
In advance of the release of Kings Of Leon seventh studio album, Walls, Matthew and Nathan Followill discuss living in Nashville, record company pressures, working with producer Markus Dravs, the US presidential race, Caleb’s meltdown in Dallas, and fighting over a girl in a Dublin bar.Read More
Divine Comedy frontman Neil Hannon on the band’s superb comeback album, Foreverland, living a life of domestic bliss in the Kildare countryside, and his encounter with the late David Bowie.Read More
Owner of three hugely popular Galway restaurants – including the Michelin-starred Aniar – JP McMahon has become one of the country’s most controversial chefs. He discusses Twitter spats, falling out with his head chef and best friend Enda McEvoy, the stresses of maintaining a successful business – and why so many chefs fall prey to sex, drink and drugs.Read More
Acclaimed American novelist Jay McInerney on early literary success, the influence of James Joyce, being a member of the eighties brat-pack, hanging with Mick Jagger in Manhattan, and his latest novel Bright Precious Days.Read More
‘Operation Thor’ was the name given to a major Garda operation in Carlow and Kilkenny last Thursday. But with a staggering 210 police officers involved, and just €34,000 worth of drugs seized in the sting, was it even a remotely good use of time, resources and public money? Report: Olaf Tyaransen (pictured right with RTE's Dan Hegarty)Read More
Internationally renowned American tattooist Scott Campbell on his early years in Louisiana, tattooing Heath Ledger and Courtney Love, and his work on Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition.Read More
James Vincent McMorrow's new album is one of the most anticipated Irish releases f the year, but the singer admits fraught emotions are never far from the surface. He discusses anxiety, stage fright, the dark side of social media and giving up the drink.Read More
Wallis Bird’s last album – 2014’s Architect – largely celebrated the talented Wexford singer’s relocation from Brixton to Berlin. Things have obviously worked out for her in Germany. As the title of this fifth album suggests, she’s very much at home there.Read More
Ahead of their Electric Picnic performance, co-vocalist and guitarist Tom Fleming of the Wild Beasts tells Olaf Tyaransen about their fifth album, Boy King, modern masculinity, and why their testosterone-fuelled new songs are actually a lot more sensitive than they appear.Read More
The Voyeur’s Motel By Gay TaleseRead More
Irish rocker's unashamedly retro debutRead More
IRISH STAR DELIVERS HER BEST ALBUM YETRead More
Connor Habib is a gay porn star with a difference – an ex-creative writing teacher who enjoys discussing Irish literature and cultural theory. Oh, and he loves his job.Read More
Ahead of Suede’s Galway Arts Festival headliner, Brett Anderson, reflects on fatherhood, ageing, mortality, his first-ever meeting with David Bowie, and why he’ll never write his autobiography.Read More
Having made a complete cult of himself for the past decade, Kurt Vile is starting to enjoy the same mainstream success as his former employers, The War On Drugs.Read More
With his third album, The Wild Swan, just released on Gingerbread Man Records, Ulsterman Foy Vance talks about his friendship with Ed Sheeran, recording in Nashville, having Elton John as his executive producer, and the possibility of getting Noam Chomsky to appear in a music video.Read More
Conor O’Brien tells Olaf Tyaransen about his surprise at winning a second Ivor Novello award, the challenges of playing festival shows, and trying to figure out where his next album will take him.Read More
With the release of Garbage’s sixth studio album, Strange Little Birds, Scottish singer Shirley Manson talks about love, romance, break-ups, the pressures of life on the road, and the trials and tribulations of running your own record label.Read More
Tony Parsons latest thriller, The Hanging Club, features a group of vigilante executioners, dishing out a very modern style of justice. The former NME gunslinger turned controversial Sun columnist talks about ISIS, David Bowie – and why he’s in favour of the return of capital punishment.Read More
QUALITY SUBURBAN SOUNDS FROM SEATTLE ROCKERSRead More
In advance of his new show, The Aluminum Negro, acclaimed American stand-up REGINALD D. HUNTER waxes lyrical about Gerry Adams’ controversial tweet, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and why he considers Ireland to be a safe environment for his comedy. Interview: OLAF TYARANSENRead More
Indie superstar Alex Turner explains to Olaf Tyaransen why he felt compelled to return to TLSP, his mega-successful side project with Miles Kane.Read More
Olaf Tyransen gives his verdict on the second day of festivities at Forbidden Fruit 2016Read More
Mike McCormack is easily one of Ireland’s most accomplished contemporary writers but, with just two short story collections and three novels in his 20-year career, he’s far from being the most prolific – or the richest!Read More
Olaf Tyaransen offers his review of Mick McCormack's Solar Bones.Read More
From New York to Jakarta, Disclosure have conquered all before them. Sam Smith, Lorde and The Weeknd are all on the agenda as Olaf Tyaransen talks to one half of the brotherly duo, Guy Lawrence.Read More
With their 20th anniversary looming, Stereophonics are in the form of their lives. Ahead of a much anticipated Dublin show, frontman Kelly Jones talks music, life and the shadow of terrorismRead More
Before saying goodbye to your correspondent, Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland discusses Irish roots, Indian escapes and his pampered London lifestyle (not).Read More
Indie darlings September Girls are back with a new collection of shimmering instant classics. They talk to us about balancing art with commerce and how their new album was inspired by the dark side of social media.Read More
With the release of their tenth and final album, You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To, celebrated Portland alt-country outfit Richmond Fontaine are finally calling it a day. Frontman Willy Vlautin talks about their 23-year career, his new band The Delines and his forthcoming novel.Read More
All Saints were one of the biggest bands of the late ‘90s – until they split up in 2001 following a row about who would wear what at a photo shoot. Now they are back – older, wiser and just as sexy as ever – with a hot new album.Read More
Olaf Tyaransen pays tribute to his old smoking buddie, Howard Marks, who succumbed last week to bowel cancer.Read More