Cillian Murphy on the difficulty of filming Peaky Blinders without Helen McCrory

The forthcoming sixth series of the hit period crime drama will be the last.

Cillian Murphy has said it felt “very strange” to be on the set of Peaky Blinders without his co-star Helen McCrory following her death last year.

Murphy, who had starred alongside the actress in the hit BBC One series since it began in 2013, described her as the “beating heart” of the show.

McCrory’s husband, Damian Lewis, announced in April that she had died at home at the age of 52 following a “heroic battle” with cancer.

Peaky Blinders World Premiere – Birmingham
Helen McCrory starred as Shelby family matriarch Polly Gray in Peaky Blinders (Jacob King/PA)

Filming of the sixth and final series of the period crime drama began in January 2021, after it initially had to be postponed due to Covid-19.

McCrory was absent from the beginning of filming due to her cancer diagnosis.

Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby in the show, told Esquire UK: “We were just reeling throughout the whole thing. She was a dear, dear pal and she was the beating heart of that show, so it felt very strange being on set without her.

“The difficult thing to comprehend is that, if it wasn’t for Covid, there would be a whole other version of this show with Helen in it.

“But she was so private and so f****** brave and courageous. She was inspirational. People throw that word around, but she genuinely was.

“Her values, the way she dealt with her kids and Damian. She cares about everybody. She’s really funny and really cool, and she had this real warmth. She really cared.

“It’s just… I still can’t believe she’s not here. It doesn’t make sense. I’ve never lost anyone like that – who was young and a friend. It was very confusing.

“But she was magnificent. She was an absolutely magnificent person.”

McCrory played Shelby family matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC series for five seasons and was also known for appearing in the Harry Potter movies and the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall.

The forthcoming sixth and final series of Peaky Blinders is reportedly set to be released in February.

Murphy said he is unsure if his character, Tommy Shelby, has been redeemed in the final run but thinks that is what the show’s screenwriter, Steven Knight, was aiming for.

The 45-year-old added that he has loved his time on the show, saying: “It’s only this year that it felt hard.

“I’m still shocked by how it went from this small little show on BBC Two to this worldwide phenomenon.”

Cillian Murphy poses for Esquire UK (Tom Craig/Esquire UK/PA)

The Irish actor will also reunite with acclaimed director Christopher Nolan for his new highly awaited film Oppenheimer, having previously worked with him on the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Dunkirk.

Murphy will star as J Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb”.

Speaking about the role, he said: “It’s the first time he’s cast me in a lead, which I’m still a bit in shock about, but I’m thrilled.

“It’s a huge part and a lot of work. But, in my estimation, you’re working with one of the greatest living directors, so you’re in safe hands.”

– The spring 2022 issue of Esquire UK is on sale from Thursday.

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