Drama Plays a Blinder
PEAKY BLINDERS (BBC Two, Thursday, 9pm) THE title is inspired by a real-life Midlands gang who sewed razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps so they could use them as weapons against rivals or enemies.
Set immediately after World War I in 1919, it's a gripping and stylish project that could end up being a modern classic - it was certainly impressive enough to persuade Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sam Neill to sign up for it.
Cillian says: "I haven't done television in many, many years and there's kind of a golden age with television now and for actors to get to explore characters over the course of six hours is a real treat, especially when you have writing of that calibre."
He plays Thomas Shelby, the second oldest in the feared and respected Shelby family. "It's the classic crime family stuff of a younger brother usurping or wanting to take power from the older brother. But whatever the shift in power or that push and pull is, the family is unbelievably tight," says Cillian.
"As an actor, you just go after good material, and regardless of whether it's film or television, or whatever it may be, and this was instantly it."
He insists: "I'm not a tough guy at all so it was by far the toughest character I have ever portrayed, and him being so physical and the amount of respect and fear that this family has in this town means that we all had to look tough.
7TV treats the "You've got to commit to the material and commit to the character and his choices. We did a lot of fighting and stunts, so I've been to the gym more than I've ever been in my whole life!
"Also learning to handle horses, I've never really done that before, so I had to go and spend weeks learning how to ride and how to look reasonably competent on a horse."
Sam Neill had to learn to speak with a Northern Irish accent to play Chief Inspector Campbell.
He was born in Northern Ireland to army parents, but his family later returned to the South Island of New Zealand in the 1950s. …