By Serena Kappes with Amy Longsdorf
August 19, 2005 06:00 AM

Age: 29
Hometown: Cork, Ireland
Current gig: Playing a kidnapper in the Wes Craven thriller Red-Eye

He doesn’t like to play rough
One of the most difficult moments in shooting Red-Eye, in which Murphy plays a kidnapper who abducts a fellow passenger on a flight to Miami, was having to do a fight scene with costar Rachel McAdams. “I found the scene awful,” says Murphy, who was afraid he would hurt her. “But the thing with that is you have to just rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and trust each other. You have to look into their eyes and know exactly what’s going to happen.” So, does McAdams – who had to head-butt him during their struggle – have a future as a WWE wrestler? “She was amazing in that,” he says.

He’s a late bloomer
Murphy’s breakout role was as a man escaping zombies in a disease-ridden London in the 2002 thriller 28 Days Later, and recently he played a sadistic psychiatrist in this summer’s Batman Begins. But the Irishman (whose first name is pronounced KILL-ian) came relatively late to the acting game.

In fact, he didn’t try his hand at it until he was 20. “I was playing in bands and I was foolishly trying to pursue a degree in law,” he says. “Then I abandoned that.” The turning point? Seeing a play in his hometown. That year, he scored a part in the stage drama Disco Pigs and in 2001 starred in the movie version of the twisted coming-of-age tale about two inseparable friends.

Since then, he’s joked around with fellow countryman Colin Farrell in the 2003 Irish comedy Intermission and tried to romance Scarlett Johansson in that year’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. “The fame thing was never a goal. I just want to improve,” says Murphy about his craft. “If I can leave one film behind that’s something that affects somebody, that’s absolutely fine.”

He can act like a lady
Murphy got a crash course in how to look like a woman for his role as a transvestite in the upcoming drama Breakfast on Pluto. “I take my hat off to the ladies who manage to do it,” says Murphy, who researched his role by spending time at transvestite clubs in London. “The amount of grooming was just – I mean, plucking and shaving and all the other things that we as men never have to do. I got an insight into that world. It was a great experience.”

He likes staying close to home
Murphy has no plans to go Hollywood; he s staying put in London, where he resides with his wife, artist Yvonne McGuinness. “I don’t need to live in Los Angeles,” he says. “I’d be tremendously far away from my family (who live in Cork, Ireland) – I’d never see them. I love living in London.”

And he credits his wife, whom he’s been with for 10 years, with helping to keep him grounded. “It’s very important to have somebody like that,” says Murphy. “My life hasn’t changed in any way, really. I still have the same friends and we go to the same places.”