Leading Man Murphy’s Potential Book to Movie Roles

Following a Golden Globe win for Best Lead Actor in a Drama, here are 7 possible roles for sensational actor Cillian Murphy based on our favorite book characters!

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Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer

Following his awe-inspiring portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster, Oppenheimer — which is based on the book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer — and his subsequent Golden Globe for best actor for the titular role, the whole world has finally woken up to the brilliance of Cillian Murphy.

The Irish actor, best known prior to Oppenheimer for his portrayal of Thomas Shelby in the Netflix crime drama Peaky Blinders, is no novice to starring in Nolan’s productions. Oppenheimer marks Murphy’s sixth appearance in a Nolan film but his first time as the leading man. Obviously, Nolan has understood Murphy’s unmatched talent for the past two decades, long before Peaky Blinders made him known by Netflix binge-watchers everywhere. His popularity, however, multiplied markedly after the summer of Barbenheimer, when the internet caught on to his insane talent and his utter negligence of the internet itself — the man didn’t even know what a meme was

Now that the rest of the world has caught on to Cillian Murphy’s prowess as an actor, it is natural to wonder what roles he will take on next. We in the book world, especially, are wondering which of our favorite (or most loathed) characters he could possibly bring to life in his upcoming productions. Here are seven book characters we think Cillian Murphy would be perfect to play if their books made it to the big screen. 

Migrations by Charlotte McConaughy

Character: Niall Lynch

The novel, Migrations, follows Franny Lynch (nee Stone), an Irishwoman embarking on a journey to Greenland in a near-future where most animal life has been depleted, to follow the last arctic terns in the world on their final migration. Franny hitches a ride on a fishing boat and journeys across oceans, following the terns. As her journey progresses, her past unfolds, revealing  the devastation she has left in her wake. In the midst of the devastation is a love story told in flashbacks between Franny and the ornithologist, Niall Lynch, with whom Franny falls in love and eventually marries. 

Migrations by Charlotte McConaughy, book cover depicting a frozen glacier/ice shelf with a flock of birds flying away.

If Migrations were to be adapted into a movie, one can imagine the dreamlike state that would fall over the story and how it would translate on screen, as it does so naturally in the book. Murphy would fit in perfectly as Lynch, due not only to his native Irish accent (cue swooning) but also due to the heavier topics that are discussed in the book, such as natural disaster, love, and loss, which he has handled well in other roles such as Inception and In The Heart of The Sea

M, King’s Bodyguard by Niall Leonard

Character: William Melville

Based on a true event and written by the lesser-known husband of Fifty Shades author, E.L. James, M, King’s Bodyguard follows the brutal Irishman, William Melville, who has risen through the ranks of the police to become bodyguard to Queen Victoria and her family. The book follows Melville and his German counterpart, Gustav Steinhauer, closely after the elderly Queen’s death, as they race to uncover a plot to kill Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany at her funeral. 

M, King's Bodyguard, book cover depicting a man in long black coat and bowler hat in a foggy twilight evening street.

Though it is also easy to picture Murphy’s frequent costar, Tom Hardy, in the role of Melville, Murphy has proven his ability to be ruthless and physically brutal as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders, despite his quiet manner and slight build. Furthermore, his foothold in historical dramas because of both Peaky Blinders and Oppenheimer makes him the perfect person to embrace the character of Melville.

The Shining by Stephen King (Remake)

Character: Jack Torrence

Cillian Murphy has already proven himself to be a strong candidate for horror films, from his career beginning cult phenom 28 Days Later to John Krasinski’s critically lauded A Quiet Place, Part II. The Shining is a classic, not only as a book but as a movie as well, with Jack Nicholson having once played the iconic part of Jack Torrence. The story follows Torrence, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, as he checks himself and his family into a secluded winter resort, the Overlook Hotel. As the story progresses, Torrence discovers the history of the hotel and subsequently turns into a homicidal maniac, intent on killing his wife and child.

The Shining by Stephen King book cover depicting a hotel door with redrum scratched into the surface.

 It could be exciting to see Murphy don the cap of a madman again like he did long ago as The Scarecrow in the Batman trilogy and bring his own interpretation of this classic book character to life. 

Educated by Tara Westover

Character: Gene Westover

Though it is the only memoir to grace this list, it seems fair to imagine Murphy as the domineering, eccentric, and conservative-to-the-extreme character of Gene Westover in Educated, if a movie adaptation were to be made. Educated is the memoir written by Tara Westover, the youngest daughter of Gene Westover, who used a combination of survivalist methods, Mormon practices, and a mixture of homeschooling and forced child labor to raise his many children, including Tara. Despite her upbringing, Tara was so innately talented, intelligent, and hardworking that she fought her way out of her father’s house and into a life of intellectualism, making a name for herself as a historian and essayist at schools such as Harvard and Cambridge. 

Educated by Tara Westover, book cover depicting a drawing of the tip of a pencil and a mountain with a silhouette of a person.

Imagining Murphy in the role of patriarch Gene Westover, despite the Western American accent, isn’t such a stretch after viewing him in the role of Thomas Shelby, reigning supreme over his own fictional family in Peaky Blinders for six seasons. 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Remake) 

Character: Billy Pilgrim

Slaughterhouse-Five follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, a WWII draftee who, like the author who created him, becomes a POW after the Battle of Dresden. Unlike the author, Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” and experiences a series of time travel experiences. The book became an instant bestseller when it was released in the late sixties, as an anti-war classic, but was subjected to book bans throughout the U.S. due to its graphic use of language and content.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, book cover depicting a yellow skill and crossbones on a red background.

Though the book has already been adapted into a feature film, it’s been nearly fifty years since its last making, and it isn’t too difficult to imagine this material making its way into the hands of someone like Christopher Nolan, who loves a mind-bending story. Mixing elements of sci-fi and historical fiction, Slaughterhouse-Five is also easily on brand with Murphy’s work to date. The last guy to play Billy Pilgrim even looked a little bit like him! 

What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

Character: Dr. Thomas Smith

Though the romance genre feels entirely out of Murphy’s wheelhouse (despite that fifteen minute sex scene with Florence Pugh in Oppenheimer), it is difficult to imagine anyone better to play Dr. Thomas Smith in Amy Harmon’s What The Wind Knows. The novel follows Anne Gallagher, a modern New Yorker, who upon visiting her grandfather’s childhood home in Ireland is thrust back in time to 1921 and into the fight for Irish Independence. After being shot, Anne comes into the care of Thomas Smith, a kind man who is guardian to a little boy, Eoin, whom Anne falls instantly in love with. Her love story with Thomas, however, is made complicated by the Irish fight for independence and other circumstances outside of Anne’s control. This book is a breathtaking look at love, family, and a time in Ireland that many westerners know far too little about.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon, book cover depicting a woman staring off into the distance with whisps of opaque tendrels before her.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (Remake for HBO)

Character: Lord Voldemort

Though he isn’t the leading man, Lord Voldemort (a.k.a. Tom Riddle) is the primary antagonist of this series and one of the most evil villains of all time in any book or movie. Discussions of a Harry Potter television show have already begun with MAX taking over the production of the most popular fiction book series in history. For many, a new take on Harry Potter, one where all the best elements are not only mentioned but given time and space to be developed properly, is extremely welcome news. As well done as many of the films were, they just didn’t do justice to the books that were so intricately woven by J.K. Rowling, because there simply wasn’t enough time to fit in all of her genius storytelling.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone illustrated edition book cover featuring harry at Kings cross before the Hogwart's Express and Hedwig flying.

While one of the best parts of the original films was the casting, it is exciting to speculate about the many actors who could play the parts of classic characters such as Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Minerva McGonagall, and Lord Voldemort himself. One such actor who could do justice to both the flashbacks of older Tom Riddle and the primary Voldemort scenes is Cillian Murphy. Though it’s hard to imagine anyone aside from Ralph Fiennes playing Voldemort, Murphy has shown his ability to be the villain through his aforementioned role as The Scarecrow and as Jackson Rippner in the 2005 film Red Eye. He is one of a few actors who could do justice to the villain and one of even fewer who also fit the description of Tom Riddle exceedingly well. Plus, it wouldn’t take very much makeup to make Murphy pass for way younger than his age. What is his secret — vampirism?!

Do you have a favorite book character that you think Cillian Murphy could fulfill perfectly? Let us know by reaching out to Bookstr on Instagram, Facebook, or X!

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