Peaky Blinders fans may now be unable to separate "Tommy Shelby" from Irish actor Cillian Murphy. But another British actor was actually the first choice of creator Steven Knight, who just named names in a new interview with Esquire.
In fact, Knight revealed that a more traditional action star nearly landed the role ahead of Murphy: Jason Statham.
Statham was Knight's first choice, but he shared how Murphy convinced him that he was the man for the role.
Peaky Blinders: "Tommy Shelby" was nearly Jason Statham
In the video interview with Esquire, Knight recalled his first impressions of meeting Murphy and Statham.
"I met them both in LA to talk about the role and opted for Jason," Knight told Esquire. "One of the reasons was because physically in the room, Jason is Jason," he said of Statham, the hulking English action star.
Knight went on to explain how Murphy, 44, may not provide the immediate presence that Statham does in an audition. "Cillian, when you meet him, isn't 'Tommy,' obviously, but I was stupid enough not to understand that."
He revealed that Murphy awakened him to this fact via a text message, which prompted him to reconsider his decision. "[Murphy] sent me a text saying, 'Remember, I'm an actor'," Knight explained.
"Which is absolutely the thing, because he can transform himself. If you meet him in the street he is a totally different human being."
Peaky Blinders: Cillian Murphy and co. head to season 6
Few would question Knight's decision now, as Peaky Blinders and Murphy's performance as "Tommy Shelby" have accumulated rave reviews over five seasons between 2013 and 2019.
Season 6 of the BBC crime drama (which also streams worldwide on Netflix) was originally scheduled to air in 2021, but a release date is uncertain at this time due to production delays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.