Having an actor like Jason Statham as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders could have completely changed the dynamic of the character. The nuanced portrayal of a violent but vulnerable individual haunted by his past would likely take a backseat to a no-nonsense governor who blows things up, settles scores and pays no lip service. Would the cheeky personality Statham is known for have been a good fit for Shelby? A sensitive soul brutalized by a world gone haywire, Shelby possesses a stillness and watchful caution that is channeled more through intense expression and less through choreographed action and sheer physical presence.
But Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight told Esquire that choosing between Shelby and Statham was a tough one, saying, “I met them both in LA to talk about the role and I chose Jason Zimmer Jason is Jason. Cillian when you meet him is obviously not Tommy but I was stupid enough not to understand.”
According to The Guardian, Murphy sent Knight a text that read, “Remember, I’m an actor.” Although there has been speculation that the text was Murphy’s subtle way of highlighting his talents over Statham’s, Knight disagrees. The show’s creator explained, “What[Murphy]meant by the lyrics is that when he walks into a room, he’s not Tommy Shelby. But he can become him. He fully embodies this role. It’s phenomenal him.”