As Raymond Leon, the Time Cop who pursues runaway fugitives Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in the sci-fi thriller In Time (opening nationwide today) Irish screen hunk Cillian Murphy is back in action on the big screen playing a terrifying avenging angel.
In the film Murphy is a steely-eyed detective whose motivations are as complex as his character. He didn’t create the system that allows people to stay young forever (as long as they can pay for it) he doesn’t like it, and he’ll be damned if he lets anyone flaunt it either. But what attracted him to the role?
'For me a great character is always a contradiction, you know?' he tells Irish Central. 'I think most of us are full of contradictions. Leon is from the same place that Will (Timberlake) is from, but he upholds a system that he knows is fundamentally flawed. But this is the only way he can make a living even though he knows its wrong.
In Time has that classic movie setup where the hero and the villain are cut from the same cloth.
'One of them could have taken the others path very easily,' says Murphy. 'It's the kind of classic set up you see down through the years in cinema history. I'm thinking about films like The Fugitive, where two guys are the same but find themselves on the opposite side of the divide.
There's also a timeliness to the film's theme that Murphy acknowledges but doesn't hammer.
'This film mainstream fare and Andrew Nichol's a very clever writer and director. If there are resonances there I wouldn't prescribe to people, they should take them as they will. I think it has the same formula as the Robin Hood story. I think these stories have been around since immemorial really. They're always going feel relevant.'
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As for the films retro-modern look, Murphy is a fan.
'It always has to be a recognizable world but it always has to be recognizably different. Some things won't change in that people will always drive around in cars whether they fly or not, but in this film we've gone back to classic car designs from the 1960's and just revamped them. They're a little odd but they're recognizable. I felt very confident of Nichol's ability to create that world. If you're 25 forever you can afford to be stuck between the past and the future, you know?' he says with a laugh.
Next up on Murphy's dance slate is a month long run in Irish playwright Enda Walsh's Misterman at St. Ann's Warehouse in New York through December. To say it's eagerly anticipated here is an understatement.
'Enda gave me my first ever job as an actor when he cast me in his play Disco Pigs and that's like 15 years ago,' says Murphy. 'I owe a lot to Enda and he's remained a really close friend of mine. I really wanted to do some more theatre and he had this play. It was the most satisfying experience making this work and we put it on in Galway in July. It was just me and Enda and a stage manager in a room putting on a show we liked. And people seemed to respond to it. It'll be very interesting to take to New York and see how the audience respond to it there, you know?
For any actor a one man show is like the Everest of stage acting, Murphy adds. If anyone gives you the opportunity to do that you're going to jump at it, you know?
Meantime Murphy's over in Ireland this week with his wife and children enjoying a well deserved break. 'I'm in Kerry in Ireland. The kids are on half term and we like to get away when we have a chance, you know? I live in London so it's nice to get away to the west when we can.'