For those who have watched Peaky Blinders since it began, it has to be tough to imagine any other actor besides Cillian Murphy playing the lead, Tommy Shelby. But it turns out that the A Quiet Place 2 star was not the only one in contention for the role. Jason Statham was too, until Peaky Blinders’ creator passed on casting the action star.
I met them both in LA to talk about the role and opted for Jason. One of the reasons was because physically in the room Jason is Jason. Cillian, when you meet him, isn’t Tommy, obviously, but I was stupid enough not to understand that. . . . He sent me a text saying, ‘Remember, I’m an actor,’ which is absolutely the thing, because he can transform himself. If you meet him in the street he is a totally different human being.
So it seems Steven Knight leaned towards Jason Statham because he fit the role physically. However, Cillian Murphy’s persuasive text reminding Knight of his acting abilities changed the game. Murphy’s argument seemingly being that, as an actor, he could effectively transform into Tommy Shelby, something he apparently couldn't do in the initial meeting for Peaky Blinders.
Steven Knight’s decision ended up working out, and Cillian Murphy has been playing Tommy on Peaky Blinders for five seasons. Season 5 dropped on Netflix back in October 2019, and it's been at the center of massive praise. Things have worked out for Jason Statham too, despite not getting cast in the drama, as the actor continues to star in big action movies.
Those action movies are likely the major reason for the physicality that made Jason Statham a prime candidate during early talks for Peaky Blinders. Unfortunately, in many cases, physicality can only do so much for an actor in a role. Of course, the actual range of an actor also has to factor in as well. Still, Statham is great at what he does, and he's a major draw at the box office.
Of course, not getting the role has meant not being a part of a series that has been critically acclaimed. Patton Oswalt is among those to dote on Peaky Blinders as one of TV’s great entries. An compliment like this would put it among the ranks of recent television series like Breaking Bad or Mad Men, which is quite an honor. This can be greatly attributed to Cillian Murphy's work in the lead role.
From playing the Scarecrow in Batman Begins to him starring in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Cillian Murphy has pretty much done it all. Fans are currently waiting to see what Murphy does next on Peaky Blinders and in A Quiet Place 2 (when it gets released). Still, it is strange to wonder what Jason Statham’s career would be like if he had gotten the part in Peaky Blinders.