Cillian Murphy's grounding force: How actor's artist wife Yvonne McGuiness has been 'crucial' during his rise to fame and helped the Peaky Blinders actor 'tolerate' red carpets – after first meeting during 1996 play

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  • Yvonne McGuinness , 51, shares two sons with the Oppenheimer actor
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He is one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors who has starred in everything from Peaky Blinders to Oppenheimer. 

But despite his steady rise to global fame over the past few years, Cillian Murphy, 47, has managed to maintain a low-key family life – thanks in part to the unwavering support of his wife Yvonne McGuiness, 51.

Appearing on Desert Island Discs, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday, the actor, 47, said his wife has been ‘crucial’ in helping him adapt to Hollywood.

Speaking to host Lauren Laverne, Cillian explained how he found the ‘ancillary aspect’ of being an actor – such as walking red carpets – ‘quite challenging’.

Gushing about his wife, he continued: ‘To have a really secure, solid base is important.

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuiness arriving at the Golden Globes last month, where the A-Lister won Best Actor

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuiness arriving at the Golden Globes last month, where the A-Lister won Best Actor

‘You have to have that safe place. I certainly do. It’s just like an island of comfort and ease.’

He told Lauren Laverne: ‘It’s been crucial, honestly. I don’t think I could have done any of the things that we’ve talked about without having them.

‘It’s been the most important thing for me, having those kids and raising them.’ 

The couple – who have made efforts to shun the spotlight – have now been together for over 28 years and share two sons. 

Here FEMAIL takes a look back at one of Hollywood’s most successful love stories and how Yvonne has supported Cillian from the sidelines every step of the way.

First meeting

Cillian and Yvonne first met in the 1990s when he was starring in a play called Disco Pigs, which is about two Irish teenagers and was later adapted into a film. 

Following a successful run in Dublin, the play then transferred to Edinburgh, London, Australia and the US, which is how Irish musician Yvonne McGuinness got involved. 

Speaking to The Guardian in 2016, the actor – whose parents were teachers – said: ‘That time, making Disco Pigs, was kind of the most important period of my life. The people I met there remain my closest friends. 

Cillian Murphy in a promotional image for the 2002 film Disco Pigs, which was adapted from a stage play he starred in

Cillian Murphy in a promotional image for the 2002 film Disco Pigs, which was adapted from a stage play he starred in

‘They shaped me in terms of my tastes, in terms of what I wanted to do with my life. And it was around the same time I met my wife. 

‘She came on tour with us. It was so exciting, 20 years ago or whatever it was – we were all just kids, trying to find our way – but such a special, special time.’

Yvonne grew up in Kilkenny, Ireland, and studied at Cork Institute of Technology. In 2001, the couple are said to have moved to London so Yvonne could study for her master’s at the Royal College of Art.

Yvonne’s uncle is the Irish politician Jim McGuinness and her grandfather Michael McGuinness also reportedly was Kilkenny’s longest-serving councillor from 1959-1999.

Secret wedding and becoming parents

The couple married in 2004 and reportedly held the ceremony at Yvonne’s father’s vineyard in France. 

However, the couple have never publicly commented on this rumour or acknowledged where their wedding took place.

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuinness pictured with their son Malachy in Brooklyn, New York, in July 2006

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuinness pictured with their son Malachy in Brooklyn, New York, in July 2006

The following year, the couple welcomed their first son Malachy – with Aran following in 2007.

Although the family were living in London at the time, Cillian and Yvonne decided to return to Dublin to raise their young family.

He told The Guardian: ‘We wanted them to be Irish, I suppose. It’s amazing how quickly their accents have adapted.’ 

In 2005, Cillian also shut down any possibility of him moving to the US for work and praised Yvonne for her continuing support.

He told People magazine: ‘I don’t need to live in Los Angeles. I’d be tremendously far away from my family — I’d never see them.’

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuinness pictured during a trip to New York City in August 2016

Cillian Murphy and Yvonne McGuinness pictured during a trip to New York City in August 2016  

Describing how Yvonne kept him grounded as his career took off, Cillian said: ‘It’s very important to have somebody like that. 

‘My life hasn’t changed in any way, really. I still have the same friends and we go to the same places.’ 

In 2016, Cillian explained how he relocated to Liverpool to film Peaky Blinders while his wife remained at home with their two sons. 

When he returned to the family home after filming seasons, Cillian joked that it takes him some time to shake his on-screen persona.

He explained: ‘My wife can see it happening. “OK. Tommy’s gradually leaving. I’m getting Cillian back.”‘

In an interview with GQ in 2019, Cillian gushed: ‘I couldn’t do this without [my wife] and her understanding. But it is a struggle.

The couple have two children together, Malachy, 17, and Aran, 16. Pictured: the family in Dublin in 2014

The couple have two children together, Malachy, 17, and Aran, 16. Pictured: the family in Dublin in 2014

‘I think it is for any dad whose work takes him away, which it generally does, and which consumes him, which my work does.’

He added: ‘I make sure that I try not to go from job to job to job, because that means you live in a bubble of set, hotel, set, hotel, plane, film festivals – which, to me, is not reality. So I just check out from that for six months a year.’

Cillian and his family now live in Dublin after he reportedly splashed out close to £1.7million on a Victorian townhouse.

The four-storey home, originally built in 1863, is located in Monkstown, south Co. Dublin, and has six double bedrooms as well as four receptions rooms.

Yvonne’s artistic career 

While Cillian’s career skyrocketed over the past two decades, Yvonne has also created short films and other experimental artwork.

During an interview with The Guardian, Cillian joked that it takes him some time to shake his on-screen persona from Peaky Blinders

During an interview with The Guardian, Cillian joked that it takes him some time to shake his on-screen persona from Peaky Blinders

The mother-of-two’s bio on her website reads: ‘She has an interest in embodied experience of place and belonging by staging live, public, interventions and performances which create surreal and dynamic moments of interaction and connection to place, time and communities.’

Last summer, Cillian revealed it was Yvonne’s idea to adapt Claire Keegan’s novel Small Things Like These into a film. 

Speaking to The Guardian in a separate interview, Cillian remembered telling her: ‘No, there’s no way [the rights would be available]. That’s going to be gone already.’

Much to his delight, Cillian’s agent told him the book rights hadn’t been purchased – which prompted him to pitch the idea to Matt Damon, who has his own studio.

Rare PDA at Golden Globes  

When Cillian Murphy won Best Actor at the Golden Globes in January, his wife Yvonne jumped up and kissed him on the mouth - leaving a red lipstick stain

When Cillian Murphy won Best Actor at the Golden Globes in January, his wife Yvonne jumped up and kissed him on the mouth – leaving a red lipstick stain

Earlier this year, Cillian Murphy won Best Actor for his role in Oppenheimer at the Golden Globes.

After his win was announced, Yvonne jumped out of her seat and gave her husband a quick kiss – prompting him to joke about the red lipstick on her mouth during his speech. 

During his acceptance speech, Cillian dubbed himself ‘the luckiest man’ as he spoke directly to his wife and children. 

‘To my family, I’m the luckiest man and I love you,’ he said. 

The week before, the actor paid tribute to Yvonne and their sons while honored with the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the Palm Springs International Film Awards.

He said: ‘Two-thirds of them are sitting down there. We had to leave one of them at home doing exams.

‘But just thanks for putting up with me — putting up with the half me and the shadow me and the absent me, the remains of me when I’m doing a film like this or work in general. You’re always there. I love it. So thanks, guys.’

Cillian’s loving tribute to Yvonne

During his appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Cillian admitted he has ‘struggled’ with walking red carpets in the past.

He added: ‘It is still not something I’m totally at ease with. You have to choose to enjoy it and I think you can do that in your brain. Just make that alteration and it’s easier then.’ 

However, he did go on to say that having Yvonne with him this year has made it easier.

He added: ‘I’ve had my wife and kids with me and that’s been lovely. You’d be an idiot not to enjoy it. Go with it, that’s my attitude.’ 

Elsewhere, Cillian paid loving tribute to his wife and their life together.

He told Lauren Laverne: ‘It’s been crucial, honestly. I don’t think I could have done any of the things that we’ve talked about without having them.

‘I’ve been with my wife for 28 years now. It’s been the most important thing for me, having those kids and raising them.’ 

The A-List actor went on to say that having a ‘secure, solid base’ has been really important to him and functions as a ‘safe place’ amid the madness of fame. 

During the interview, Cillian also admitted he was ‘relieved’ the BBC drama had ended in 2002 but is now ‘totally’ on board with a movie adaptation.

Murphy also hinted that the programme’s writer, Steven Knight, had more stories to tell about the Birmingham-based Shelby clan and their criminal activities between the 1880s and 1910s.

He explained: ‘I have always said that if Knight delivers a script that I know he can deliver, because he is such a phenomenal writer, I’ll be there. If we want to watch 50-year-old Tommy Shelby, let’s do it.’