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(Credit: BBC)

Film

The unlikely actor who was meant to take Cillian Murphy's role in 'Peaky Blinders'

Steven Knight’s 2013 Netflix series, Peaky Blinders, changed the course of British crime dramas forevermore. Moody and dark, the show chronicles the escapades of the Black Country gang, infamous for their notoriety and tendency to stash dangerous razor blades in their peaked caps. 

It follows the character of the handsome and eloquent Thomas Shelby- played by the wonderful Cillian Murphy — who is ambitious, cunning and shrewd as he tries to reach the top. However, Murphy has revealed how he had to persuade the creator, Knight, to cast him in the role instead of the latter’s first choice who was actually the famous English actor Jason Statham, typecast for playing the Machiavellian anti-hero in riveting action-thrillers.

Statham is known for his roles in films like The Expendables, Furious 7, Snatch, The Transporter, Collateral, The Bank Job and more.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Murphy revealed how he auditioned for the role of the iconic Thomas Shelby and how tenacious he had been in convincing the creator to give him the opportunity to play Shelby on-screen. “There was a bit of convincing needed,” Murphy recalled. 

“Initially, there may have been some doubts about whether I had the requisite physicality, which I understand. I’m not the most physically imposing individual.”

In 2020, Knight had openly revealed how he was bent upon casting Statham in the role. “I met them both in LA to talk about the role and opted for Jason. One of the reasons was because physically in the room Jason is Jason,” he said. 

Talking about Murphy, he said that although Murphy was no Tommy, the actor’s text about his desire to “transform himself” intrigued him. Knight said, “If you meet him in the street he is a totally different human being.”

Murphy has, since then, been an irreplaceable part of the show, having garnered a cult-like following with his notorious stoic nature, crisp accent and notorious haircut. 

The actor who plays the calculative and scheming character is, however, not very fond of the staple haircut. “People ask for a Peaky cut. It’s crazy that people like it – it hasn’t grown on me,” he said. “It’s when you get the haircut that people start shouting at you.”

Peaky Blinders is currently filming its sixth and final season where Murphy will be making a return along with Paul Anderson, Finn Cole, Sophie Rundle and Aimee-Ffion Edwards among others. Following Helen McCrory’s tragic passing in April, it is unclear if Polly Gray will make an appearance. 

“By the Order of Peaky Blinders”, while we cannot help but wonder what Statham’s Shelby would look like, we would not want anyone to replace Cillian Murphy’s legendary portrayal of “Thomas-fuckin’-Shelby”!