The Irish actor talks of the serendipity that landed him a role in John Krasinski's thriller sequel.
28 May 2021 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 28 May 2021 - 5:05 PM

Like many of us, Cillian Murphy was impressed by John Krasinski's moving and terrifying horror thriller, A Quiet Place, about a family trying to stay one step ahead of alien creatures that detect their prey through sound. Unlike us, Murphy was so moved by the experience that he wrote an effusive email to its writer-director, to sing his praises. He stopped short of hitting 'send' though, for fear of coming across as odd. He needn't have bothered, since Krasinski and his wife/co-star Emily Blunt, zeroed in on the Irish actor and his penchant for edgy characters, during a binge of his hit series, Peaky Blinders. Krasinski closed the loop on their mutual admiration society, by offering Murphy a part in the sequel, A Quiet Place II.

The new film follows similar beats as the first, but expands the worldview somewhat, as we meet other survivors, and witness the impact of the invasion upon the broader 'community'. Murphy plays a withdrawn loner, Emmett, who encounters the Abbott family in the immediate aftermath of the dramatic events of the first film.   

This film maintains the scares of the original but offers an element of world building. What’s your take on the way we see how others are coping - or not - with the crisis. How would you characterise how Emmett is faring?

Well, I think that he is a man who is dealing with grief and loss, and he has decided that the way you can survive in that world, you know, with that trauma is to retreat and to isolate. And I think he's just, just existing day to day. I think he feels that community is over, you know, that there is no more community. That's his way of life until he meets the Abbott's.

The film was made well before COVID of course, but does Emmett’s isolation and retreat, does that hit a little differently now? You know what I mean? In light of all the world's been through and he's still going through.

I think it does, you know, I think it does, like, I'd be very reluctant to say this is film offers any commentary on the Coronavirus pandemic or offers any solution or message, but however, I think it does reflect back at us. It does provoke, maybe some questions, or some emotions and, that can only be a good thing. But ultimately if there is any message in the film at all, it's one of it's one of hope and I think that's, that's we need more of that right now.  

"I hate looking at myself on screen."

How did the focus on non-verbal communication - and absolute silence - change your performance?

Well, you know, most projects that you do are text heavy, generally. They're very, very text heavy. That's the medium. This is so different. So it allows you the freedom to act, you know, with your whole physicality which is really liberating for a performer, because it's not about always about close-up, dialogue text. It's a lot about just what the character is thinking and feeling and trying to communicate to us non-verbally. It’s lovely.

It’s definitely not a movie in which you can eat a big loud of chips and slurp your drink…

No, it’s not!

Tell me about your screen time with Millicent Simmonds, as it’s the pair of you together for long stretches. Emmett’s inability to sign is a key plot point, but did you personally pick up any signing skills as a result of working with Millie?

Yeah, we would kind of mess around and she would teach me signs here and there. But you know, she had an interpreter with her the whole time, obviously, so we were chatting the whole time. And we became really close, you know, because the majority of the story is me with Millie and she's phenomenal. I mean, talk about managing to convey emotions with just a glance or a look. She is just remarkable how she manages to do that. It's about being present, you know, just being present in the moment that's, that's what every actor strives to be and she just has that in spades.

She's so good. And you were a big fan of the first film, I understand? How did you watch that?

Yeah, I saw it in the movies, in the cinema with my sons and I was such a big fan that I wrote an email to John Kaczynski and I, then I never sent it because I just chickened out in the end. But then a year later he wrote me an email asking me to be in the sequel. So it was it was nice sort of serendipitous circle.

We’re a long way short of a ‘trend’ but it’s a year in which films with deaf characters on screen are prominent – you had ‘Sound Of Metal’ garnering multiple Oscar nominations, and in these films, Regan's (Millie's character) so-called disability is her strongest asset. What do you make of this positive moment of visibility of characters living with deafness?

Well, it can only be only a good thing, you know, I think it’s only a good thing that I would completely endorse and get behind it, you know, cause there's such a broad church of performers out there, you know, from and they should all be included, in awards and in movies and in parts. So we should, we should promote that, as much as we can.

With John Krasinski being an actor and the writer/director, did it help you in your performance, working with someone who knows the craft as well?

Absolutely. Yeah. He understands what makes an actor tick. He understands and adapts his process. He understands what an actor is striving to achieve in a scene and he gives these very emotionally concise notes. He just comes in, like, just talks very gently to you about something without it being a lecture or he just, he just knows. You know, anybody can pretend to be a director; any actor can learn the mechanics of directing and, you know, learn how to say ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’, but you need to actually be an innate storyteller, a natural storyteller, to direct a film. And he is a natural storyteller. He’s just got it in his bones. It's phenomenal how good he is, you know, it's really phenomenal.

Might you ever follow suit? Do you have storytelling in your bones?

Not right now. I don't intend to. You know, I've been very lucky to work with some incredible directors all my career. And I don't particularly think that I have anything to bring to the room right now after working with these masters over the years. I'm quite content just to try and keep improving as an actor and keep working with great directors. That would be my ambition.

And of course, you’re an executive producer of 'Peaky Blinders', which I know is wrapping up soon; is that something you'd like to continue doing, producing that the behind the scenes kind of developing and producing?

Sure. I mean, I it's, it's been very educational doing it on Peaky Blinders. I think you know, when you're an actor, you do your work and you hand it over to the director and the producer and they use those raw materials to assemble something. And your job is done. But when you're a producer, you know, you have a seat at the table, you have a little more input. And I think that's why a lot of actors do this. Also, it’s been valuable because it takes the curse off looking at yourself.

I hate looking at myself on screen. I find it intensely traumatic, but when you have to look at it completely objectively in terms of a story or an episodic series, then you're able to watch yourself purely as the character. And that's in a very good learning curve for me. So yeah. I will be able to be keep doing it, I think.

And what have you been watching? I understand you’re in production, but we've all sort of been watching a whole lot more, while we've been in our homes over the past year. Was that also the case for you?

Well, I've been working since January, so not too much. I don't have room in my brain for it! I listen to a lot of music. That's my release, it's what keeps me relaxed. Yeah.

This film has had a bit of a stop-start time before coming to audiences. But what do you hope people take out of it now that now that is out?

I mean, I actually think John’s done the remarkable thing of making a sequel that is better than the first which is so rare and so tricky to do. And I think that it also delivers on everything you'd expect from a blockbuster, you know? All the thrills and spills and sort of white knuckling that we expect from that sort of film, but it's very emotional. That's what got me about the first one. I was deeply emotional and, and this one is also has that. And like I said, I think this has a message of hope and that's what we need right now. We need it. I think we need shows that have some element of hope, that are abstract and not simplistic, but offer some, some message of hope. And I think this one does.

Is there talk of more in the series? And would you return?

No one’s spoken to me, but I would, a hundred percent. Yeah. I know you said in a very elegant way, you know, it starts small and the world expands, and that's how he's done it. So I do think it would be ripe for more. If you keep building on that world, I think it would be something that people would want to see, for sure.

A Quiet Place II is currently in cinemas.

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