Cillian Murphy has heard it all. You can count on him to deftly deflect any comparisons drawn between Oppenheimer and Tommy Shelby with humor (“They both smoked a lot of cigarettes,” he told me with perfectly deadpan delivery) or by shifting perspectives entirely, as he once did in an interview with BBC Radio. When asked which character has had more experience staring straight through the camera with one of his patented thousand-mile stares, Murphy chuckled and used the opportunity to defer to director Christopher Nolan:
“I don’t know. It’s funny, I don’t draw any line between those characters, but someone asked me and Chris that question, and Chris said, ‘No, but he’s a leader, you know, he’s a leader of men, like Oppenheimer was.’ But it’s very dangerous as the performer to ever see any overlap or similarities between characters.”
One can fully understand where the actor is coming from, as their livelihood depends entirely on interpreting each and every role they accept through a unique lens. If Murphy allowed himself to start equating two individuals as vastly different as J. Robert Oppenheimer and Tommy Shelby, it’s fair to say his performance would’ve inevitably suffered as a result. But it is interesting to hear that, first and foremost, Nolan is apparently a fan of “Peaky Blinders” and, secondly, that he doesn’t mind analyzing them both as leaders — albeit with very different methods.
As “Oppenheimer” continues to take the world by storm, there will hopefully be another strong parallel between Tommy Shelby and Oppenheimer to come. Last we heard, “Peaky Blinders” is planned to end with one final adventure on the big screen. We continue to wait for more updates … but maybe don’t ask Murphy about it.