1 June 2006
By Paul Greenwood
He may have found the ideal blend between the mainstream and more challenging fare.
When mainstream cinema audiences got their first look at Cillian Murphy it was, and there's really no other way to put this, more or less knob first. Waking up naked and alone in a deserted hospital, he wanders out onto the empty streets of London in the startling opening scenes of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later... and while the role may not have turned him into a superstar overnight, it certainly brought him to the attention of a public that could be forgiven for thinking this marked one of his first screen appearances. But he had in fact already made several films in his native Ireland and abroad where he specialised in mentally unstable characters in little seen indies like Disco Pigs and On the Edge, a character trait that he's no stranger to even to this day.
If the well received zombie flick represented his first foray into the British multiplex then the next step was surely Hollywood. Minor roles in the likes of Cold Mountain and Girl With a Pearl Earring got his foot in the door and, after some time off, he returned last year to play a pair of high profile bad guys. In Wes Craven's Red Eye he convinced both as a charming leading man and a steely assassin. This came hot on the heels of the film that had brought him his widest exposure yet—his turn as Dr. Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow, in Batman Begins; a performance of menace and flair that contributed greatly to an already outstanding movie.
It seemed he'd made the transition to Hollywood for good and the fear may have been that his piercing features would pigeonhole him into the sort of snake-eyed villainous roles that had marginalised European actors for years. But if his 2006 slate is any indicator, it looks as though he may have found the ideal blend between the mainstream and more challenging fare. This month he’s in Ken Loach's Irish war drama, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and later this year he'll reunite with Danny Boyle for the sci-fi thriller, Sunshine—two entries from opposite ends of the film spectrum that should give us a far clearer idea of just how good he is.