Tommy Shelby star Cillain Murphy loves watching TV geek Brian Cox

Posted on 21 January 2024
By George Morris
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Tommy Shelby star Cillian Murphy has revealed he’s a massive fan of brainbox Brian Cox and that he was the main inspiration for his role as nuclear bomb wielding physicist.

Danny Boyle’s 2007 film Sunshine. Whilst filming the galactic blockbuster, likeable TV egghead Brian was the scientific advisor who helped shape Cillain’s role.


The movie follows a group of international astronauts, who are trying to save our dying sun, by exploding a nuclear bomb inside the star, to wake it back up again. The astronauts are met by a strange danger as they approach the sun.

The Oppenheimer star plays Robert Capa, the main protagonist and only physicist aboard the ship. Only he knows the true capabilities of the bomb.

Cillian, who was an up-and-coming actor at that time, remembers spending a lot of time with Cox saying: “he was the most helpful, amazing and brilliant person”.

During filming, Brian Cox was just generally known as a Professor of Particle Physics at the University of Manchester and not the posterboy of the BBC’s astronomy shows.

Danny Boyle originally found Cox by watching him on a TV series called Horizon. The Trainspotting director thought Brian’s mannerisms and personality would suit the space scientist in Sunshine.

Robert Capa, who is played by Cillian, was based on Brian Cox. The Tommy Shelby actor said he really focused on Cox’s mannerisms and attitudes so that he could try and implement them throughout the film.

He is still a huge fan of Brian Cox, saying on the BBC Sound and Vision podcast: “Every time he comes on, I still love to sit down watch him on the telly”.

Other members of the cast also wanted Cox to scientifically advise them throughout the film to make their performances look as legit as possible in this sci-fi spectacle.

Brian Cox’s documentary ‘Star God’ was inspired by Boyle’s Sunshine. He said: “I really like the healthy correlation in the film comparing the sun to a god”.

Cillian Murphy was also inspired in taking the role because of this. He added: “I was really interested in the question of science vs religion”.

The visually striking film won postive reviews and has become a fan favourite of Danny Boyle’s filmography. It also paved the way for the mind-bending sci-fi films of the 2000s.