Change Clothes

As the high-altitude freelance terrorist in Red Eye and the man in the maggot-eaten burlap sack in Batman Begins, Cillian Murphy reigns as this movie year's number one blackguard, his doll-like, almost epicene features adding creepy frisson to his sinuous villainy. But in Neil Jordan's whimsical Breakfast on Pluto, Murphy simply looks like the prettiest girl in Ireland as sweet-souled Patrick "Kitten" Braden, the transsexual Candide of Patrick McCabe's 1998 novel. "It's a virtuoso piece of literature, and this was a once-in-a-lifetime role," says the Cork-born Murphy, who first gained attention as the Rip Van Winkle figure in 28 Days Later. "The voice was the thing for me, and her physicality. I didn't want to be butch; I wanted to be as beautiful and feminine as possible. We've seen the whole tough-transvestite thing before, and I wanted her to have a softness, a vulnerability. I wanted her to be a real girl."

Murphy adores his director ("We never had enough money, never enough time, never enough light, and yet Neil would always somehow get that perfect composition or that perfect tracking shot") and the movie's costume designer, Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, who coordinated Kitten's enviable thrift-chic wardrobe. "Some of the costumes were charity-shop finds, some of them were made for me. There's an incremental transformation from kind of a glam look at the beginning into full drag by the end." Your correspondent takes the opportunity to confess that she's the only girl she knows who can't walk in high heels. "Oh, you just need that confidence to go for it and fall down as much as you need to. I hung out with these transvestites in London, and their advice was, 'Learn when you're drunk,' so I did."

 
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