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Cillian Murphy’s Oscar-Worthy Filmography: From Oppenheimer to Dunkirk

Last Updated March 12, 2024 11:31 AM
Teuta Franjkovic
Last Updated March 12, 2024 11:31 AM

Key Takeaways

  • Cillian Murphy has been honored with his first Oscar.
  • Murphy’s career highlights include roles in “Batman Begins,” “Dunkirk,” and “28 Days Later.”
  • Despite award snubs, Murphy’s filmography and talent speak for themselves, with upcoming projects like “28 Years Later” generating excitement.

Cillian Murphy, famed for his roles in “28 Days Later” and as a gang leader in “Peaky Blinders,” has been honored with his first Oscar , affirming his status as a Hollywood heavyweight. He earned this accolade for his portrayal of the father of the atomic bomb in “Oppenheimer.”

Known for his gravitas and remarkable skill, Cillian Murphy surprised the audience with a burst of joyful laughter as the first response upon taking the stage to accept his Best Actor Oscar, showcasing a lighter side to his serious reputation.

Oscars Soar with Triumphant ‘Oppenheimer,’ But Gender Disparity Lingers

The 96th Academy Awards  saw its viewership soar to the highest level in four years, with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ leading the charge as the evening’s big winner. The film took home seven awards, notably winning Best Picture and Best Actor for Cillian Murphy. In a competitive field, Emma Stone captured the Best Actress award for her role in ‘Poor Things,’ edging out Lily Gladstone’s acclaimed performance in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ Meanwhile, ‘Barbie’ managed to secure a single victory, taking home Best Original Song, a tally that left several fans and critics underwhelmed.

While these achievements underscore a significant moment in cinema, they also highlight the ongoing gender disparities within the industry, especially evident in the overlook of “Barbie ” by the Oscars.

This discrepancy serves as a stark reminder of Hollywood’s male-dominated landscape. 

Murphy has consistently been recognized as a quintessential actor’s actor, renowned for his diverse roles that range from anti-heroes and formidable villains to complex characters grappling with identity. It’s his meticulous approach and the nuanced detail he brings to each performance that truly set him apart.

With a career that has been refined over more than two decades, Murphy’s exceptional talent has not only captivated audiences but has also caught the attention of industry giants, including Christopher Nolan. Having collaborated with Murphy on numerous projects, Nolan regards him as a favored talent, further cementing Murphy’s status within the realm of cinematic excellence.

From Gotham’s Villain to Dunkirk’s Soldier

Before receiving his Oscar nomination for the captivating biopic, Cillian Murphy’s array of roles has undeniably paved the way for his current acclaim. Notably, his transformation into the villain in “Batman Begins” and his portrayal of the ‘shivering soldier’ in the war epic “Dunkirk “.

In “Batman Begins,” the first of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Murphy initially auditioned for the lead role but ultimately made a profound impact as Dr. Jonathan Crane, also known as Scarecrow.

His portrayal of the transition from a composed psychologist at Arkham Asylum to a deranged villain, characterized by his intense, crazed gaze, was pivotal in establishing Murphy’s stature in Hollywood. This role, among others, has not only transformed audience perceptions but has also left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape, showcasing Murphy’s versatility and captivating presence on screen.

Transformative Range: From “28 Days Later” to Complex Characters

Cillian Murphy’s remarkable versatility as an actor was first showcased in the 2002 film “28 Days Later,” which initially captured Christopher Nolan’s attention. In stark contrast to his later roles, including the iconic Thomas Shelby, this film highlighted Murphy’s ability to delve deeply into the psyche of a more vulnerable character.

His evolution from a bewildered survivor of a zombie apocalypse into a determined, cold-blooded individual underscores his skill in portraying complex, layered characters. This performance, along with others in “Disco Pigs,” his Golden Globe-nominated role in “Breakfast on Pluto,” and the dual identity in “Peacock,” exemplifies his capacity to embody multifaceted personas.

Despite the tendency of award shows to overlook his contributions, Murphy’s filmography remains a testament to his exceptional talent and the depth of his cinematic contributions.

Peaky Blinders and BAFTA Recognition 

Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of the formidable Thomas Shelby in “Peaky Blinders” stands as a testament to his acting prowess across the show’s six-season run.

His nuanced performance as the brooding gang leader was recognized with a major BAFTA nomination for his work in the final season.

Currently, the announcement of “28 Years Later,” reuniting Murphy with Alex Garland and Danny Boyle, sparks anticipation for what promises to be an exciting sequel to the cult classic that initially showcased his extraordinary talent.

A Legacy Beyond the Oscars

Regardless of the outcome at the Oscars, Cillian Murphy is already set for his next major project, with a formidable filmography that speaks volumes against any skeptics within the Academy.

Murphy has become the third Irish actor to clinch the Best Actor Oscar, joining the ranks of Daniel Day-Lewis, the London-born actor with Irish citizenship, and Barry Fitzgerald, who won the award in 1945. In his acceptance speech, Murphy expressed his gratitude towards Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas, alongside his team and family. He concluded his remarks by emphasizing his deep pride in his Irish heritage, stating he was a “very, very proud Irishman.”

He concluded:

“We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb and for better or worse we’re now living in Oppenheimer’s world now. So I’d like to dedicate this to the peacemakers everywhere.”

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