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If the cap fits: Cillian Murphy is back as the bad guy who wants to do good in Peaky Blinders

© PA Photo/BBC/Caryn Mandabach Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders

Almost a decade has passed since Cillian Murphy first pulled on the cap of Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders.

But the Irish actor says he is far from bored with the role and reveals a film could come next.

“I was 36 when I started playing Tommy and I’m 45 now,” he said. “By the time this finishes being broadcast I’ll be 46 so it’s effectively a decade.

“It’s a gift to be able to play a character for that long and to grow old with a character. I don’t know if it’s consciously or subconsciously but I imagine you probably bring some of that maturity or ageing – certainly wrinkles – to the part.

“Normally we shoot and then there’s at least a year or a year and a half (and in this instance, longer) between the series, so every time it feels like starting again.

“The nature of acting is normally you do it and move on to the next thing. But with Peaky it’s different, you have to keep coming back and rebooting. On the other hand, every time we do come back the scripts have advanced and Steve Knight (Peaky Blinders creator and writer) is cognisant of the fact the actors have got older, so he writes to that as well.

“If I find it’s easy then I’m a little bored by it. Whereas if you can write something and I think, ‘Oh, how am I gonna do that? then that’s what interests me. And Steve does that a lot. What Steve has really mined with Tommy over the years is this tension that exists in him between all the bad things he does and this desire, ultimately, to be a good person.

“It’s easy to walk down the street looking cool with a fag in your mouth. It’s not easy to have a very truthful, honest, emotional breakdown about Tommy’s children or Tommy’s relationships. That is the stuff where I think, ‘How am I going to do that?’ Steve makes him very fallible and that’s what I like about him.”

Murphy has also learned a lot about the interwar years, the period where the Birmingham-based crime drama is set.

“The premise of the show is these men came back from the First World War just broken and shell shocked – we now call it PTSD. It’s about how these men tried to fit back into society, how difficult it was for them, and for society.

This is likely to be the last Peaky Blinders series, but such is its popularity a film is on the cards.

Murphy added: “I think Steve has always had an endgame in mind. Covid screwed that up a bit. But now he’s got lots of plans to make a film. So I don’t think this is the end of the story. I think it’s probably just the end of the story in this form. But Steve is always bringing up ideas, and they’re always good. So I’ll just wait and see what he has to say.”

Get the Shelby look

Murphy wearing glasses designed by Glasgow company IOLLA

Glasgow eyewear company IOLLA have launched a design similar to Tommy Shelby’s glasses having created the originals for 2019’s fifth season.

Approached in 2018 by Alison McCosh, Costume Designer for Peaky Blinders, IOLLA founder and frame designer Stefan Hunter worked closely with the BBC production, producing various prototypes and even attending a pre-filming fitting with Cillian Murphy to ensure the frames were the perfect fit for the iconic character.

Whilst the exact glasses are not available to buy, following huge customer demand IOLLA designed a similar, retro style frame, meaning that fans of the show can replicate Tommy’s look for themselves in time for the final season with the classic ‘MacDonald’ frames.

The IOLLA glasses

Stefan Hunter, Founder of IOLLA said: “The culmination of a huge amount of hard work and collaboration, it’s been a joy to see such an iconic character wear a pair of IOLLA frames.

“When we were approached in the summer of 2018, we couldn’t have imagined the journey we would go on with the production and it’s really incredible to have our homegrown business be part of Peaky Blinders history. We can’t wait to tune into the new series to see how things will end for the famous Tommy Shelby!”


Peaky Blinders, BBC1, tonight, 9pm