Actor Cillian Murphy sees red — “Red Lights” — his paranormal thriller with Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver

Thelma Adams
The Reel Breakdown

Fine-boned, full-lipped Irish actor Cillian Murphy, 35, has bounced around from big-budget movies (he briefly reprises his villain the Scarecrow in "The Dark Knight Rises") to independent classics (he cross-dressed in Neil Jordan's poignant "Breakfast on Pluto"). Now, in "Red Lights," out in theaters in limited release, Murphy plays a serious-minded psychic investigator who teams with Sigourney Weaver's psychologist to debunk paranormal frauds. When the pair set their sights on Robert DeNiro's showbiz seer, their research takes an unpredictable turn. We asked Murphy what drew him to "Red Lights"?

Cillian Murphy: I loved the script. Unfortunately, nowadays you can predict where a script is going. This one was different. I had seen Rodrigo Cortes's "The Contestant," and I was very impressed.

Thelma Adams: Cortes is best known for the Ryan Reynolds movie "Buried."

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CM: It's a remarkable achievement to make a film about a man in a coffin and to have the audience held hostage emotionally. It had a physical effect on me. I just had to have an ice cream when I left the cinema. It was overwhelming in a great way.

TA: And speaking of overwhelming, you have very impressive co-stars in this project.

CM: That added to the appeal. Throw in a couple of legends like Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver, as well; who can say no?

TA: There's a strong supernatural element in this story -- are you a believer?

CM: It's a great world to set the story in. It's ripe for drama. I didn't go out looking for a film dealing with the paranormal; I'm not personally into that at all. I'm really rather rational and logical, rather boringly so.

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TA: What was the challenge in making "Red Lights"?

CM: Every film should represent some sort of a challenge. It's gotta be a journey. In terms of this character's journey, in the beginning he's secondary, and then it becomes his story. It's about the universality of trying to know yourself even while exploring the unknown.

TA: In the film, your character bonds with Sigourney Weaver's psychologist. There's this easy connection between the two of them.

CM: I loved that relationship. They're not related. It's platonic. She's, like, his surrogate mom, and he's her surrogate son. And she's his mentor. We clicked early on, and we shared a sense of humor. She's so amazing to be around. You look at her work and it's quite astonishing; she's all about the work, and she's not fussy, and it was a joy….

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TA: What was it like working with DeNiro?

CM: I didn't spend long with DeNiro, maybe three or four scenes. He is Robert DeNiro! Inevitably, he's going to have stuff you project on him from all the movies that you've watched and are in your consciousness. Then, when you get down to making it work, you have to be two actors serving the script. These two legends came to Spain to make this low-budget movie. They wanted to be there for the work, and they still had a sense of joy. I hope that I will still have that same sense when I've been in the business for that long.

See this clip from 'Red Lights':

'Red Lights' exclusive clip with intro