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When Irish eyes are beguiling

Cillian Murphy's latest role continues his independent streak.

March 11, 2007|Rachel Abramowitz | Times Staff Writer

His first love was music, and until he was 20 he played in a Frank Zappa-esque band that was good enough to be offered a record deal, which his parents nixed. He discovered theater randomly during a desultory year spent studying pre-law in Cork. He was transformed, however, when he saw a production of "A Clockwork Orange" in a nightclub.

"I never thought theater could be like that. I thought it was only proscenium arches and classic plays, and this was unbelievably affecting." He found the director of the play and begged to audition for his theater company, landing the lead role in the play -- and later the movie -- "Disco Pigs," about an obsessive teenage folie a deux. He had -- and still has -- no formal training. "I was unbelievably cocky and had nothing to lose, and it suited the part, I suppose."

"Trainspotting" director Boyle cast the then unknown as the lead in "28 Days Later" and has hired him again to play a physicist who saves the world in the upcoming sci-fi film "Sunshine."

"He's really come on a lot" since they first worked together, Boyle says. "He's made some really good choices and worked with really interesting people. It's improved his confidence and his knowledge of his own ability."

Murphy seems eager to keep expanding his roles. His fantasy project? "A western," he says with a shy laugh. He used to watch John Wayne westerns on TV with his dad. "There's nothing cooler than a cowboy in jeans and a 10-gallon hat," he says. "To someone in Ireland, it looked pretty cool."

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