12 January 2006
By Richard Bevan
Cillian Murphy plays the irrepressible Kitten in Neil Jordan's latest film, Breakfast on Pluto, the tale of a crossdressing boy's search for love, happiness, and his missing mother. He's played a wide range of characters over the past five years—Danny Boyle's chilling apocalyptic tale 28 Days Later..., the acclaimed Girl With the Pearl Earring (sic), Oscar nominated Cold Mountain and the mega-blockbuster Batman Begins all of which have demonstrated that he's more than willing to take on challenging roles.
Cillian has recently completed filming with British director Ken Loach and now, with the release of Breakfast, Jordan's most striking and emotionally effecting movie since The Crying Game, this quietly spoken Irish actor looks set to become a truly international star.
RainbowNetwork caught up with him in his suite at the Soho Hotel to find out more.
Patrick / Kitten, your character in Breakfast on Pluto is a pretty boy dealing with a hostile world. Did you relate in any way with the character?
No, not particularly. That's why I found the character such a challenge. It was so exciting because I didn't have any frame of reference whatsoever. It was completely fresh.
Do you think Breakfast on Pluto is an important film in terms of what it's trying to say?
I don't think this is an issue movie at all. It's very simple; Patrick just wants to look pretty and wants to be loved. Perhaps if anything it's a film about the triumph of innocence. I think it addresses certain issues, such as prejudices and political violence [by the IRA] kind of obliquely. It's much more about a character going on a journey and the journey becoming his destination.
Kitten is certainly a very non-political character. He's almost oblivious to what's really going on around him.
I disagree with the word oblivious. He actually knows what's going on around him very clearly, but he feigns ignorance of it. I think anyone who lived in that environment would be unable to completely hide from it. Patrick swings like a pendulum between the seriousness of the issues and this dayglo disco fantasy world he's created.
Kitten has an effective shield against the harsh realities of life. I know a few people like that myself!
Absolutely, Kitten represents one of those beautiful misfits that you meet in life that don't quite fit in anywhere. They love too easily, trust too easily, and get hurt too easily. And ultimately she triumphs, which is brilliant because a lot of them end up sad and damaged people and she's not.
Breakfast on Pluto is set in the 70s. Do you think Kitten would have an easier time of it now, especially in Ireland?
No doubt. Ireland is a completely different country to what it was thirty years ago. There are now a whole new set of prejudices I guess, but it's a much more progressive country than it was. It's interesting that in the period of time the film is set in there was a veil of repression that was just lifting, because Ireland was a bit behind in the 60s. When they got the shock of Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and even television, it must have been a real surprise to them.
Ironically, Ireland has now finally implemented some more liberal laws for gay people.
Which is brilliant and a good thing.
Are you fan of the 70s? Did you enjoy the funky clothes in the movie?
Yes I did. They're very flattering you know, to both men and women. I love the music from the 70s but not the music that Kitten liked. I'm more into the serious stuff, not all the cheesy stuff that she loves. I guess she just likes songs with simple themes, like wanting to be loved and wanting to be happy and be pretty. So she's really into the Sugar Baby and Nancy Sinatra tracks.
Not angst ridden ditties then?
No, she had pain in her life so she didn't want it in her songs.
Kitten is inspired by Hollywood films and screen divas. Were you yourself inspired to become an actor because of the movies?
Absolutely. I never had any training and so I was an avid cinemagoer and would hire out films with my brother and try to educate ourselves about cinema.
So, you were a film buff?
I guess I was, although I don't have an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies.
Are there any particular actors who inspired you when you were younger?
There's a movie called Scarecrow that was made in 1973 with Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. Pacino's performance profoundly effected (sic) me in the way that a film can bring about such an emotional response. You should really see this film. There's a scene at the end where he has a breakdown in a fountain and it's just unbelievable. I didn't even start acting until another four years after I saw it, but the performances and themes have stayed with me.
It's nice to know then that as a kid you weren't just inspired by the likes of Bedknobs and Broomsticks!
Well, that might inspire too, but for me it was Scarecrow, which is like one of those last classics they made in the 70s. I was really inspired by Pacino, not the old movie stars like Mitzi Gaynor who Kitten finds so fascinating!
What was it like working with the legendary director Neil Jordan?
In Ireland Neil is a massive cultural icon. Even in world cinema terms he's directed some of famous films, like Crying Game, Interview With the Vampire, Michael Collins, and he's a novelist and writes his own screenplays. So any actor would dream of working with him. He's brilliant, but a very different director to say Ken Loach, who I've worked with last year. With Ken you had no idea what was happening to your character until you were given the script on the day. He doesn't work in a conventional way at all. Although there's a lot of improvisation there's also dialogue and a real freedom within that structure to express your character.
You've worked in Hollywood on some big budget films like Batman Returns (sic). What's that like compared to playing roles on smaller budget films?
Obviously it's a different experience and you can have more fun playing a comical villain, but it's also the vastness of the sets that adds to the experience. There's a greater freedom in a way. But the whole reason why I'm an actor is because I want to play different roles. I want to play a comical villain and I want to play a butcher in 16th Century Delft, or a scientist in space because that's what imagination is about. My only ambition as far as my career goes is diversity.