Cillian Murphy, best known for his role as Tommy Shelby in the hit BBC television series Peaky Blinders, has had one of those careers that aspiring actors merely dream of. He’s also a self-confessed lover of cinema, and here, he opens up about his favourite film by the great Martin Scorsese.
Having spent the early part of his career dedicating himself to short and independent projects, Murphy rose to prominence in 2001 for his performance in Disco Pigs, a movie which established him as a one-to-watch. The success of the short helped Murphy to land roles in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and a raft of historical dramas including Cold Mountain and The Wind That Shakes The Barley.
After winning a Golden Globe nomination for Breakfast on Pluto, Murphy took on roles in some of the biggest productions in Hollywood including Inception and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. However, he never lost his appreciation for independent and art-house cinema. And it is arguably this reverence that has allowed the actor such foresight.
While talking about admiration for the great Al Pacino, Murphy named his favourite Martin Scorsese movie: 1973’s mean Streets. “Another very early formative film for me,” he began. “Extraordinary energy and performances from De Niro and Keitel, with Scorsese beginning to cast a spell over filmmaking in the 1970s.”
Scorsese’s breakthrough feature, Mean Streets tells the story of Charlie, a character who harbours ambitions to be the kingpin of New York’s Little Italy mafia. However, he also wants to be free of sin. Seeking penance, he desperately tries to save his friend Johnny Boy, a known troublemaker around town. But in doing so, he risks complicating his relationship with mafioso uncle Giovanni.
But Mean Streets is so much more than a New York gangster movie; it’s also a commentary on the weight of heritage. Charlie and Johnny offer two different examples of how this pressure can affect individuals. While Charlie feels trapped inside a prison of catholic guilt and filial obligation, Johnny has fully absorbed over-romanticised notions of the criminal life, leading to violent outbursts often aimed at the very architecture of his urban existence. It is a serpentine swirl of a film and very much worth a watch.
You can check out the trailer for Mean Streets below.