(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
“The magazine’s called RedEye?” asks “Red Lights” star Cillian Murphy, who played the villain in the 2005 horror-on-an-airplane film “Red Eye.”
Yes, I tell him, and ask if he gets strange looks on planes. “No, thankfully I don’t,” the 36-year-old actor says. “I thought I would, but people forget movies quickly, man.”
Not when actors choose parts as carefully as Murphy, who has appeared in memorable films such as “Inception,” “Batman Begins,” “Sunshine” and “28 Days Later.” In “Red Lights,” opening July 27, Murphy stars as Tom, a physicist determined to expose a renowned psychic (Robert De Niro) as a fraud.
Murphy says he embraces the entertainment aspects of psychics who feed off of people’s need to believe in the irrational, but he says it becomes “shady” when they prey upon the vulnerable and weak. “When people pretend to cure cancer, that’s dangerous territory you’re getting into,” he says. “But if people are desperate, people will keep searching and searching and searching.”
At the Four Seasons Hotel, Ireland-born, London-dwelling Murphy and Spanish writer-director Rodrigo Cortes (“Buried”), 39, talked about buying into the illusion, when a role influences your own beliefs and preferring dark material to, say, “The Wedding Planner.”
Cillian, after seeing Ryan Reynolds confined to a box in “Buried,” how concerned were you about what Rodrigo would do to you?
Cillian Murphy: [Laughs] Well, I saw “Buried” on my own in a small screening room in London in the summer time. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I had to go and have an ice cream afterwards. Everybody talks about that movie. It just affects your physiology. You just feel different afterwards. You could see that he was the real deal, what he achieved and the performance. I enjoy directors who push you and challenge you and test you. I like the immersive experience of making a film where you get completely and utterly involved, physically and emotionally.
Which do you find more satisfying: when you’re fooled, or when you’ve figured out the trick?
Rodrigo Cortes: When you go to see David Copperfield, you know that everything is a lie but you want to believe in that. You don’t want to be there for a couple of hours spending 200 bucks to figure out that he doesn’t fly. We all know that he doesn’t fly; that’s part of the thing. But you try to fool everybody in the sense that it’s not about surprise, it’s about challenging everybody. I love the films that don’t end … and you find yourself thinking about them a day later or two days later or three days later. So that’s what really pleases me as a creator if you achieve that.
Cillian, as a skeptic, do you try to go along with people like that or are you looking for a giveaway?
CM: When it’s entertainment … I went to see Copperfield and Criss Angel in L.A. when I was researching this and it was pure entertainment and it was amazing. It’s like saying to actors or directors, “When you go to a film, are you constantly trying to figure out how do they get that shot or how did they do that?” You’re just in it and you’re watching it and enjoying it.
What did you say to those guys? Because you met Copperfield, right?
CM: I met him briefly. He was very cool and very nice, but you can tell he plays on this aura that he has, which when you see him it’s quite palpable. But they were cool and very supportive. I didn’t meet Criss Angel.
You’ve talked about not having seen something in real life you couldn’t explain. What would be something you can think of that would make you think, “Maybe there is something else out there?
CM: Hey, man, I’m open. I’m always open. And you have to be curious I think as a creative person. You have to be interested.