Born in Douglas
and raised in Ballintemple
two suburbs of Cork
, Cillian Murphy is the eldest of four children. His father, Brendan, works for the Irish Department of Education
and his mother is a French
teacher. Not only are his parents educators, but his aunts and uncles are also teachers, as was his grandfather
Musicianship also runs in the family, and Murphy started playing music and writing songs at age ten.
Murphy attended the Catholic school Presentation Brothers College
, where he did well academically,
although he did get into trouble often, sometimes getting suspended, until deciding in his fourth year that misbehaving was not worth the hassle. Not keen on sport, a major part of life at PBC, Murphy found that creative pursuits were not fully nurtured at the school.Still, it was there that he got his first taste of performing, when he participated in a drama module presented by Pat Kiernan, the director of the Corcadorca Theatre Company
. Murphy later described the experience as a "huge high" and a "fully alive" feeling that he set out to chase.
His English teacher, the poet and novelist William Wall
, encouraged him to pursue acting,
but at this stage, to Murphy, performing meant dreams of becoming a rock star.
In his late teens and early twenties, Murphy worked toward a career as a rock musician, playing guitar in several bands alongside his brother Pádraig.
-obsessed pair named their most successful band The Sons of Mr. Greengenes, after a 1969 song
by another idol, Frank Zappa
. Murphy sang and played guitar in the band, which he has said "specialised in wacky lyrics and endless guitar solos."
The Sons of Mr. Greengenes were offered a five-album record deal by Acid Jazz Records
, but they did not sign the contract. Because Murphy's brother was still in secondary school, their parents disapproved. Additionally, the contract offered little money and would have ceded the rights to Murphy's compositions to the record label. Also in 1996, Murphy began studying law at University College Cork (UCC), but he failed his first year exams because, as he put it, he had "no ambitions to do it."Not only was he busy with his band, but he has admitted that he knew within days after starting at UCC that law was the wrong fit for his artistic personality. Furthermore, after seeing Corcadorca's stage production of A Clockwork Orange, directed by Kiernan, acting had begun to pique his interest.His first major role was in the UCC Drama Society's amateur production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, but, according to Murphy, his primary motivation then was to party and meet women, not to begin an acting career. Nonetheless, he began to transition away from working as a rock musician, about which he later remarked, "I think there's such a thing as a performance gene. If it's in your DNA it needs to come out. For me it originally came out through music, then segued into acting and came out through there. I always needed to get up and perform."