By Order of the Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy Is Returning as Tommy Shelby

cillian murphy wearing a hat and heavy coat during a scene from peaky blinders
Cillian MurphyMatt Squire - Netflix
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Latest News: Cillian Murphy Returns for Peaky Blinders Movie

Fresh off his Oscar win for Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy is returning to a familiar role for a future project. According to Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, the 47-year-old actor, who starred as gangster Tommy Shelby in the TV drama, is “definitely” back for an upcoming movie adaptation of the BBC and Netflix series. “He definitely is returning for it. We’re shooting it in September just down the road in Digbeth,” Knight recently told BirminghamWorld.

Murphy played Shelby in 36 episodes of the series from 2013 through 2022, earning a BAFTA TV Award nomination for lead actor in 2023. The drama also featured an ensemble cast including Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody, Annabelle Wallis, and Anya Taylor-Joy.

Following the success of Peaky Blinders, Murphy was cast as the lead in the Christopher Nolan–directed Oppenheimer, the 2023 biopic about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Murphy won the trophy for Best Actor at the most recent Academy Awards on March 10. His most recent movie is the independent drama Small Things Like These, which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2024.

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Who Is Cillian Murphy?

Cillian Murphy is best known for portraying gangster Thomas “Tommy” Shelby on the hit BBC and Netflix series Peaky Blinders, as well as parts in the movies 28 Days Later, Batman Begins, and Oppenheimer. The Irish actor began his career as a theater performer then transitioned into movies and television. A frequent collaborator with Christopher Nolan, Murphy played the title role in the director’s 2023 biopic Oppenheimer about how American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer helped develop the first nuclear weapons. Murphy received wide acclaim for the performance, winning a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2024.

Quick Facts

FULL NAME: Cillian Murphy
BORN: May 25, 1976
BIRTHPLACE: Douglas, Cork, Ireland
SPOUSE: Yvonne McGuinness (2004-present)
CHILDREN: Malachy and Aran

Early Life and Education

Cillian Murphy was born on May 25, 1976, in Douglas, near Cork, Ireland. The oldest of four siblings—including brother Paidi and sisters Sile and Orla—Murphy was raised Catholic in a family of academics. His father, Brendan Murphy, was a school inspector, then a civil servant at the Irish Department of Education. His mother, whose name has not been shared publicly, was a French teacher, and his aunts, uncles, and grandfather were also teachers.

Murphy attended Presentation Brothers College, a private Catholic secondary school in Cork, where he succeeded academically and discovered he was drawn to the arts. “I was always fascinated by the idea of artists: authors, playwrights, musicians. Those things seemed alien and otherworldly at the time,” Murphy said to The Guardian. “At a rugby[-playing] academic school, you felt a little bit foolish thinking you could ever enter into that artistic world.”

Murphy, who plays guitar and originally aspired to be a musician, started a jazz-rock band with his friends called Sons of Mr. Green Genes. They were eventually offered a record contract but declined, and Murphy decided to pursue acting.

Inspired by a performance of A Clockwork Orange he attended at a nightclub, Murphy became serious about drama while studying law at University College Cork in 1996. A law career wasn’t in the cards—Murphy failed his law exams—but the transition to the stage would be pivotal for Murphy’s future.

Theater Career and Early Film Roles

In the summer of 1996, 20-year-old Murphy auditioned for and earned one of the lead roles in Disco Pigs, a work by then-unknown playwright Enda Walsh. The play was booked at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork for a few weeks but became a big hit and sparked an 18-month world tour through Europe, Australia, and North America.

When Murphy received the script, it was the first time he had read a play outside school productions. “That’s how theater illiterate I was,” Murphy told The Irish Times. Still, he excelled in his role as Pig, and the play was adapted into a 2001 film also starring Murphy.

Murphy began to receive minor film roles following the success of Disco Pigs, including in 1998’s Sweety Barrett, which starred his friend Brendan Gleeson, and 1999’s The Trench, which featured rising talent Daniel Craig.

Although his film career took off over the following years, Murphy has continued acting on stage in his most recent role in 2019. He appeared in plays such as The Shape of Things, The Seagull, and Love Song and again collaborated with Walsh for Misterman, Ballyturk, and Grief Is the Thing With Feathers.

Movie Breakout with 28 Days Later

cillian murphy walking along an empty bridge in a film scene
Cillian Murphy’s character Jim walks through an empty London during a scene in the 2002 horror film 28 Days Later.Getty Images

Murphy began to receive widespread recognition with his starring role in the 2002 horror film 28 Days Later, directed by Danny Boyle. In the movie, Murphy plays a bike courier named Jim, who awakens from a coma four weeks after a viral outbreak has decimated Great Britain. The film is considered a horror benchmark for utilizing the concept of “fast zombies,” which can run after prey with increased strength and sparked a renewed interest in zombie media.

In a 2022 interview, Murphy detailed his audition process and said he initially struggled with the character’s London accent. But with the support of Boyle—who discovered Murphy when watching the film adaptation of Disco Pigs—he eventually “kind of unlocked something” with his performance.

Murphy said the film was “massive” for his career, opening doors to other projects and leading to his relationship with Christopher Nolan. The following year, in 2003, he had a lead role in Intermission and supporting parts in Girl with a Pearl Earring—which starred a 19-year-old Scarlett Johansson—and the war epic Cold Mountain.

Critics also praised Murphy for his performance as antagonist Jackson Rippner in the 2005 thriller Red Eye. The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis wrote that the actor made “enough of a picture-perfect villain here that his agent should be worried about typecasting.”

Christopher Nolan Movies: Batman Trilogy, Oppenheimer, and More

With the 2023 release of Oppenheimer, Murphy has now appeared in six of Christopher Nolan’s films. The first was Batman Begins—the beginning of the acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy—in 2005.

christopher nolan and cillian murphy standing shoulder to shoulder for a photo
Director Christopher Nolan worked with Cillian Murphy on five other films before casting him as the lead in Oppenheimer.Getty Images

Murphy had been a fan of Nolan’s earlier films, including Following and Memento, and told GQ he was one of about 10 actors who auditioned for the role of Bruce Wayne and his iconic alter ego. Nolan said in a later interview that although it was apparent Murphy wasn’t a good fit as the caped crusader, “I felt like, this is somebody I want to work with, somebody who has an interesting take on things creatively.” So, the director let a batsuit-clad Murphy do a screen test for the character anyway and made sure executives from Warner Bros. were there to watch. Nolan saw potential in the relatively unknown Murphy and instead offered him the part of Dr. Jonathan Crane and his nefarious alter ego, Scarecrow. Murphy also appeared as the character in the trilogy’s following two films: The Dark Knight in 2008 and The Dark Knight Rises in 2012.

Elsewhere, Murphy played Robert Fischer in Nolan’s 2010 sci-fi film Inception and a World War II soldier in his 2017 thriller Dunkirk.

As for casting Murphy in the lead role of Oppenheimer, Nolan called it “honestly one of my favorite moments in the movie business.” Murphy underwent five months of preparation before the shoot, losing weight to better fit the scientist’s silhouette and practicing his facial expressions. For Murphy, it was a dream part. “I’d always show up for Chris, even if it was walking in the background of his next movie with a surfboard,” Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter. “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?”

Along with Barbie, released on the same day, the film became a box-office hit and grossed $957 million worldwide. Murphy’s performance was widely praised, and he won a series of awards for his portrayal in 2024, including the Golden Globe for Best Male Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama and equivalent honors at the BAFTA Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Murphy ended the 2024 awards season by taking home the Academy Award for Best Actor, his first Oscar.

Murphy’s Other Movies

In addition to Nolan’s big-budget blockbusters, Murphy has frequently appeared in lesser-known films, showcasing his versatility as an actor. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the 2005 film Breakfast on Pluto, in which he played a transgender woman searching for her mother in 1970s London after being abandoned at birth. A year later, he played a soldier in the Irish Republican Army in the 2006 war film The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The film received the Palme d’Or, the highest award at the annual Cannes Film Festival.

In 2007, Murphy teamed again with director Danny Boyle for the sci-fi movie Sunshine, in which astronauts are sent on a mission to reignite the sun in 2057. Other movies featuring Murphy include Peacock (2010), Aloft (2014), Transcendence (2014), The Party (2017), and Anna (2019).

Before Oppenheimer, Murphy’s highest-profile film in recent years had been A Quiet Place Part II, the 2020 sequel to the horror hit starring Emily Blunt and John Krasinski. Murphy’s most recent movie is the independent drama Small Things Like These, which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2024.

Lead Role in Peaky Blinders

cillian murphy in character for peaky blinders wears a hat, long wool coat, and a suit with a tie, he looks down and has his hands clasped together
Cillian Murphy played Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders for six seasons.Robert Viglasky - Netflix

Murphy, who is only just over 5 feet, 7 inches tall, garnered widespread acclaim for his performance as the sometimes larger-than-life gang leader Tommy Shelby in the BBC and Netflix series Peaky Blinders. The drama, which tells the story of a fictionalized crime gang in Birmingham, England, following World War I, ran for six seasons from 2013 through 2022 and featured an ensemble cast including Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody, and Anya Taylor-Joy.

Show creator Steven Knight described Murphy as the antithesis of the often violent and morally questionable Shelby. He initially eyed action star Jason Statham for the role but was reassured of Murphy’s fit for the part by a text message Murphy sent him after auditioning: “Remember, I’m an actor.”

Murphy has described Shelby as a “gift of a character” but exhausting to play. He told The Guardian in 2016 that the show required 16-hour days, with the actors working through pages of dialogue. While filming in Liverpool, England, Murphy lived what he called a “canceled life. You go home to your tiny apartment at the end of the day, and you feed yourself for sustenance, and you learn your lines for the next day, and you try to get as much sleep as you possibly can.”

His dedication paid off. Murphy won for best drama performance at the National Television Awards and was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for leading actor following the show’s final season.

In a December 2023 interview with actor Margot Robbie for Variety, Murphy revealed he was open to playing the character again in a movie spinoff. “It’s kind of sometimes hard to move into the film format, and I do like the ambiguity of the ending [of the TV series],” he said. “But I’m always open to a great script. Who wouldn’t be?”

Apparently, Knight found one, as he told the Birmingham World in March 2024 that Murphy “definitely is returning” for a big-screen adaptation. The Peaky Blinders movie is expected to begin production in September.

Wife and Children

As his theater career took off in the summer of 1996, Murphy met Yvonne McGuinness, a classically trained visual artist from Kilkenny, Ireland. Murphy had been recently cast in the stage production of Disco Pigs, and their relationship blossomed as McGuinness accompanied him for much of the show’s tour. The couple has been married since 2004 and has two sons: Malachy, born in 2005, and Aran, born in 2007.

Murphy isn’t on social media and rarely discusses his family in interviews, as he and McGuinness prefer to live out of the spotlight. However, they did attend the Golden Globe Awards with son Aran in January 2024.

The actor credited McGuinness for keeping him grounded as his fame grew in the early and mid-2000s, telling People: “It’s very important to have somebody like that. My life hasn’t changed in any way, really. I still have the same friends, and we go to the same places.”

In 2015, the family moved from London to Dublin so Malachy and Aran could be closer to their grandparents. McGuinness stayed with their sons in Dublin when Murphy left to film Peaky Blinders in Liverpool.


  • The fame thing was never a goal. I just want to improve. If I can leave one film behind that’s something that affects everybody, that’s absolutely fine.

  • I think there’s such a thing as a performance gene. If it’s in your DNA, it needs to come out. For me, it originally came out through music, then segued into acting and came out through there. I always needed to get up and perform.

  • I’ve never equated success with employment. To me, success is the quality of the work, and I’m patient enough to wait for the next reasonably good script to arrive, because they’re so rare.

  • It’s only an advantage as an actor looking younger than you are. If you can maintain it.

  • For me, always trusting your instincts is really, really important. Making decisions based on the work and never your career or never making decisions based on strategy. And always following the artists and not the industry.

  • I’m s­— at being anything else other than an actor. I’m s— at being a personality. I’m s— at red carpets. I’m s— at being on talk shows. I’m s— at, like, all the other stuff that comes with it.

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