Now five seasons in, the period crime drama Peaky Blinders continues to engage audiences with its detailed world-building and complex cast of characters. Well, one of the staples of the show, Brummie gang leader Tommy Shelby, was almost played by someone very different than 28 Days Later star Cillian Murphy. Showrunner Steven Knight has revealed that the role almost went to none other than The Transporter action man Jason Statham.

"I met them both in LA to talk about the role and opted for Jason,' Knight recently disclosed to Esquire magazine during a recent Peaky Blinders watch-along. "One of the reasons was because physically in the room, Jason is Jason". So, it sounds like one of the primary reasons that Knight opted for Jason Statham over Murphy was due to the Crank actor's general hard-man presence.

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Of course, as we all know, Statham did not end up sporting a razor blade-wielding newsboy cap, and for that, we can thank a text message. "Cillian, when you meet him, isn't Tommy, obviously, but I was stupid enough not to understand that," Knight continued: "Afterwards, he sent me a text saying, 'Remember, I'm an actor.' Which is absolutely the thing because he can transform himself. If you meet him in the street he is a totally different human being."

Thankfully, Murphy was able to remind Knight that he is, in fact, an actor and is able to portray characters that are nothing like him in real life. Such is his talent. Whilst it would have been interesting to see Statham step into the role, it is very, very hard to imagine the actor pulling off a Brummie accent. After all, even fans of The Stath would readily admit that accents are not his strong point. Besides, Murphy has etched out an endearing, charming, yet terrifying grey area of a character in Tommy. An anti-hero you can root for, yet never quite trust.

Murphy continued, discussing the characters that he regrets killing off, highlighting Game of Thrones' Aiden Gillan and his Romany Gypsy hitman-for-hire Aberama Gold along with two other characters that were dispatched so early in the show's run. "I should have kept [Aberama] alive, I could have just wounded him," Knight said. "There's him playing Barney Thompson [Cosmo Jarvis] who's just brilliant and I really wish I'd kept him alive now because he's such a good actor."

"The other one is Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who played Malacki Byrne and it's quite a small part but he just took it over and he was brilliant... but sometimes you have to do it because the story has to move on and there's obvious examples of characters who've gone."

Peaky Blinders follows Tommy Shelby, the dangerous leader of the Peaky Blinders, a criminal gang based in Birmingham in 1919. The sixth season of Peaky Blinders is currently in the works, though production has been halted due to the ongoing global situation. Is there anyone out there who would have preferred Statham in the role of Tommy Shelby? Thought not. This comes to us courtesy of Esquire.

Jon Fuge at TVweb
Jon Fuge