Cillian Murphy on Peaky Blinders, riding a horse bareback and his top telly

The Irish actor plays a Brummie mobster – and likes curry and chips!

In Peaky Blinders your character Thomas Shelby rides a horse. Where did you learn to do that?

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Every actor says that they can ride confidently! I’d done it a bit but I also had to ride bareback, which made it even more interesting.

Interestingly uncomfortable?

Interestingly warm! Which was nice: we were filming in winter in Liverpool and the wind can really blow there. We couldn’t film in Birmingham, where the story is set, because 1919 Birmingham was mostly destroyed during the Second World War.

Did you have to master any other skills for the series?

I had to attempt a Birmingham accent, which was a challenge. Steven Knight, the writer, is from there so I spent time with him. We went to the original Garrison Tavern with his pals and chatted over a few pints of Guinness, and I recorded them on my phone.

Is this the first time you’ve played a gangster?

Yes, I suppose it is. It’s impossible not to be inspired by the giants of the genre – The Godfather and what Scorsese did in GoodFellas. But Peaky Blinders has its own unique, British spin on the gangster genre.

We usually see you in Hollywood blockbusters like The Dark Knight. How does making a BBC drama compare?

The main difference is the pace. We shot six hours of TV in four months, but you’d normally shoot 90 minutes or two hours for a film. As they say in the business, it’s the waiting around that they pay you for; the acting is for free.

You rarely play the good guy…

Right now in television it’s the era of the antihero – as was the case in the 70s. I find those characters far more intriguing than an archetypal hero; I’m much more interested in the outsider or the normal person in extraordinary circumstances.

Are you tough in real life?

No! I’m an enthusiastic coward.

We rarely see Shelby smile… What does it for you?

The Simpsons never fails for me. I watch it with my kids [Malachy, 7, and Carrick, 6].

Any other family favourites?

We’ve been watching a lot of 80s movies, like Back to the Future, Gremlins and Ghostbusters. My two boys love them as much I do.

What else did you enjoy as a child?

I used to like CHiPs, this show about two Californian highway patrolmen who drove motorbikes and wore dark glasses. I even had an aerial on my Raleigh Boxer bike and a piece of wood on the wheel to make it sound like a motorbike.

Guilty pleasure?

MasterChef. I do a good curry and a good roast.

Has anyone left you starstruck?

It’s normally musicians that make me blush. I got to meet Stevie Wonder at a gig in LA – that was huge for me. In my teens and early 20s I played guitar in bands and that’s what I wanted to do: not act.

What would you bring back?

Being a music fan I loved The Old Grey Whistle Test. If they put that or Jools Holland on 24/7, I’d be happy.


QUICKFIRE Q&A 

EastEnders or Corrie? I’ve never watched either 

Rugby or football? Rugby

6 Music or Radio 2? 6 Music

Vera or Southcliffe? Southcliffe was an amazing piece of television


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Peaky Blinders is on Thursday BBC2 at 9.00pm. The Sound of Cinema with Cillian Murphy is on 6 Music on Sunday at 12 noon