Peaky Blinders' Thomas Shelby is one of the best characters to grace our screens in recent years. The Brummie gangster is the perfect anti-hero; one you can't help rooting for even though you know he's a bit of a bastard, which is mostly down to the amazing job Cillian Murphy does of bringing the character to life.

Credit: BBC/Peaky Blinders

Whatever you think of his accent, and that is a real sticking point for some, it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the lead role. Who else could pull off that terrifying stare?

However, it was nearly very different for the Irish-born actor, because Murphy initially wasn't interested in acting and wanted 'to be a rock star' - didn't we all, mate?

But, unlike most of us who dreamed of being rock stars, Murphy and his band - Sons of Mr Green Genes - were even offered a five-album record deal, which he turned down.

It's one thing he claims he never regretted. "We were offered a record deal by a record company in London," he told the Herald in 2009.

"But it wasn't the right time and I'm very glad in retrospect that we didn't sign because you kind of sign away your life to a label and the whole of your music."

Instead, Murphy went on to study law at University College Cork, but he didn't make it past his first year after failing his exams and dropping out. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little bit sad that Murphy didn't go on to become a barrister. Can you imagine that Shelby-stare in court?

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Anyway, going to university wasn't a complete waste of his time, because during his time there he saw a stage production of A Clockwork Orange and started thinking about giving acting a go. He got involved with the uni's drama society and played roles in Little Shop of Horrors and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. Deciding this was the path for him, he began to move away from music and further into acting.

After more time treading the boards, he would eventually get into films, and had his 'big break' in 2002 when he played Jim in 28 Days Later (an absolutely superb film, by the way - if you haven't seen it, that's your homework for this weekend).

This was followed by a role in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as Dr Jonathon Crane/Scarecrow. Speaking about choosing Murphy for the role, Nolan told Spin: "He has the most extraordinary eyes, and I kept trying to invent excuses for him to take his glasses off in close-ups."

He also played the totally creepy Jackson Rippner in Red Eye, released in 2005 - the film was a big hit with critics and picked up $100m (£75m) worldwide, leading Murphy to star in Inception, In Time and Red Lights. More recently, he was in acclaimed war epic Dunkirk.

Of course, the role we all know him for came in 2013, when he was cast in Peaky Blinders.

And despite scooping a number of awards for his acting - including the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best Actor and an Irish Film & Television Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role - Murphy is incredibly modest.

In a recent interview with the Guardian, he said: "A director, I forget who, told me that it takes 30 years to make an actor and I believe that.

"You have to learn your craft, learn your trade - and also you have to live a life and experience things. I have been doing this for 20 years now so, hopefully, in another 10 years I will be an actor."

Featured Image Credit: PA

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