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Cillian Murphy Biography:

In typical Irish fashion—roundabout rather than direct—Cillian Murphy decided to become an actor. After cutting his teeth creatively as an amateur musician and later dropping out of law school, Murphy segued into acting by pestering a local theater director into giving him an audition. With no clear plan and gaping holes in his acting repertoire, Murphy began earning parts in local plays. But it was his turn in the stark two character drama, “Disco Pigs,” that propelled him into a bona fide actor. Originally set to run for three weeks in a 40-seat theater, “Disco Pigs” became a surprise hit, taking Murphy and co-star Eileen Walsh from Cork to Dublin, Edinburgh and London’s famed West End. For Murphy, it was the start of a life and career hitherto unfathomed.

Born in Cork, Ireland, to schoolteacher parents, Murphy’s first passion was music. He formed a band with his younger brother called the Sons of Mr. Green Genes—an ode to Frank Zappa—which Murphy described in the New York Times as being “very much like 20-year-olds showing off how proficient they were with their instruments.” Much to the relief of his parents, he dropped his musical ambitions to study law at University College Cork. His interest in law waned rather quickly, however—a year and a half to be exact—and Murphy drifted elsewhere, namely the Corcadorca Theater Company, a local theater where he began harassing the director who cast him in “Disco Pigs.” The play opened to rave reviews and remained a European staple throughout the years. It was then turned into a film in 2001 by Kirsten Sheridan, daughter of famed Irish director Jim Sheridan. Murphy reprised his role onscreen, but reviews were not as glowing for the film as for the play.

Eighteen months of touring with “Disco Pigs” led to an Irish rendition of “Much Ado About Nothing,” the first—and possibly last—Shakespeare in the young thespian’s career. Given the part of the “love interest”—possibly Benedick, but his memory has been foggy on the matter—Murphy felt he was saddled with the most boring character in the play. He then made his film debut in “The Trench” (1999), a dramatization about the lead-up to the Battle of the Somme during World War I in which Murphy’s character was blown to bits in the first thirty minutes. Murphy next appeared in “Sunburn” (1999), playing a slacker vacationing on Long Island whose reckless behavior forces him to reevaluate his life and the troubles that await him back in Ireland. After a supporting role in the Irish-produced “Catch the Sun” (2000), Murphy played the abused son of a Depression-era father (Colm Meaney) hell-bent on ruining the life of a local Irish businessman (Adrian Dunbar).

Murphy got his big break in “28 Days Later” (2002), Danny Boyle’s sci-fi horror feature about a virus released by monkeys that drives people into a homicidal rage and nearly wipes out the British population. Playing a bicycle courier who awakens in hospital after the virus has spread, he joins a couple survivors and seeks a group of soldiers with answers to the infection. “28 Days Later” went on to become the surprise hit of the summer and the most talked about movie of 2002. Meanwhile, Murphy was offered bigger and better roles thanks to the exposure from “28 Days Later.” He was a peasant boy who romances a young girl (Scarlett Johansson) who‘s the subject of Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting in “The Girl With the Pearl Earring” (2003). After playing a deserting soldier in “Cold Mountain” (2003), he appeared in “Intermission” (2004) as a sorry sod whose trial breakup with his girlfriend (Kelly MacDonald) leads him to eagerly participate in a robbery that leads to disaster.

Meanwhile, his theater career continued unabated with a turn as the emotionally fragile Konstantin in Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” staged at King’s Theatre in Edinburgh. Murphy was propelled into the limelight after appearing as Dr. Jonathan Crane (a.k.a. Scarecrow) in Christopher Nolan’s excellent “Batman Begins” (2005), a return to form—and then some—for the series after the debacle of Joel Schumacher. Murphy--who was considered to play Batman/Bruce Wayne—turned in an appropriately creepy and magnetic turn as the fearsome Scarecrow, adding a bit of much-needed zaniness to the serious proceedings. He quickly followed up with the engaging Wes Craven-directed thriller "Red Eye" (2005), playing the not-so-subtly named Jackson Ripner, a mysterious man who menaces a resourceful hotel employee (Rachel McAdams) during a red-eye flight, forcing her to switch the room of a political figure marked for assassination in exchange for her father's life. The actor proved both a charismatic leading man and a fearsome villain, never allowing his performance to descend into camp.

He then returned to Ireland to star in Neil Jordan’s “Breakfast on Pluto” (2005), playing transvestite Patrick “Kitten” Braden, an aspiring model turned prostitute and IRA bomber. Murphy called the role “to die for” because of the strange story and lack of genre restrictions. Murphy then returned to his native Ireland during summer 2005 to film “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” a period drama set during the Irish Civil War in 1919 in which he played one of two brothers who join the guerillas to fight the British Black and Tan squads trying to prevent their country from gaining independence.


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