More Than Just A Cold-Hearted Villain
New Zealand Herald
3 September 2005
By Michele Manelis
Cillian Murphy (pronounced kill-ian) is the latest Irish export to hit Hollywood. But by no means is he following in the footsteps or reputation of bad boy Colin Farrell on screen or off.
"I am very different to Colin Farrell. I admire him tremendously. We are both Irish and are both the same age," Murphy says, with a hint of irritation.
"But I don't look like Colin Farrell, I don't behave like Colin Farrell, and I do different movies than Colin Farrell."
Evidently, Murphy has heard this one or two times over the past three days of interviews to promote the movie.
"I get it. It's like word association. It's lazy journalism," he challenges.
Directed by revered horror writer/director Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream), Red Eye has Murphy as an international assassin opposite ingénue, Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, The Notebook, Mean Girls).
Murphy is the quintessential modern villain, an updated James Spader. And like Spader in his younger days, Murphy's good looks provide a boy-next-door sweetness, his trump card in snaring the latest victim.
Yet his translucent blue eyes enable his persona to morph into an authentic cold-hearted villain in the space of seconds.
At 29, Murphy is still a relative unknown, even taking into account his most recent performance as Dr Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow in the blockbuster Batman Begins.
But Murphy refuses to succumb to the idea of being put inside a box, let alone the stereotypical bad guy box.
"That's more lazy journalism," he laughs. He pauses. "Okay, here's the thing. I have made 10 feature films and played a bad guy in two. It just so happens that these ones are seen by a greater audience, but I've made movies which are entirely different and not what you would consider evil."
"It's coincidental that Red Eye happened straight after Batman. It certainly wasn't a thought-out decision-making process." Revealing a quirky sense of humour, he adds, "And if I'm perceived as the bad guy, I don't mind at all. It keeps people away."
Born in Douglas, Cork, Murphy learned his acting chops in local Irish theatres before moving to London to begin a film career. The oldest of four children, his father is a school inspector and his mother teaches French.
Murphy married longtime girlfriend Yvonne McGuinness last year and the couple live in London.
But sitting in The Regent Beverly Wilshire (where Pretty Woman was shot), he seems more than a little like a fish out of water.
"Obviously, you need to have a sense of humour about all of this," he says, gesturing to the ornately decorated hotel suite.
"I mean, travelling around in limos and put up in fancy hotels is absurd! This has no correlation to my life or my existence at all. I'm interested in it and I'll experience it, why not?"
"I'll try anything, but the way I deal with Hollywood and all its bullsh*t (sic) is [by] not living here. You see, this is all nonsense and I'm not a nonsense kind of guy."
His wife is an artist and feels similarly about her husband's profession. "She has no interest in it whatsoever. She thinks limousines are absurd—they're just a long car that uses a lot of petrol."
"She's very much her own woman. She's not in any way interested in meeting famous people or getting free dresses. She's a lady who knows her own mind and has been with me for 10 years," he says.
"My success happened very incrementally. It's not like all of a sudden I'm a famous actor. My career has been going for three or four years at this level."
"We're able to deal with it. And to be honest, I couldn't deal with the Hollywood bullsh*t (sic) without her. I wouldn't be here without her. I wouldn't be doing anything without her," he says, dramatically.
"I understand the game but I don't have to play it. You can smell it from a mile away when people are telling you what they think you want to hear."
"And the thing is, I don't care. I don't care if you hate this movie. I don't care if you think I'm sh*t (sic). I'm confident in what I do and I know I'm a good actor."
Incidentally, Red Eye is entertaining. However, its implausible plot points make it impossible to deem it a thriller.
As far as the marketing is concerned, the advertising is way off and the results are sure to disappoint Craven's horror following.
The trailer features a red-eyed Murphy peering through the window of a plane looking far more demonic or otherworldly than the business-like international assassin he portrays.
"A self-described homebody," Murphy offers, "I like being at home with my music, I play guitar which is my biggest passion, and I read my books."
"I did enough partying for four or five people when I was a young fella. Now I like the quiet life."
Meanwhile, Murphy will have to familiarise himself with the absurdities of Hollywood. He has several movies coming out including Breakfast on Pluto (directed by Neil Jordan). Sounds to me like Murphy might just be a budding movie star in the making? He laughs. "No, I am an actor, man. That's where I want to be."