Peaky Blinders trivia: 12 things you didn’t know about the show - from Cillian Murphy’s accent inspiration to a real-life romance

Peaky Blinders is finally back on our screens after Covid-19 delays, but if watching just one new episode a week isn’t enough for you, delve deeper into the world of the show with our trivia…

By Sophia Moir Published: 14 March 2022 - 7.57pm
BBC Peaky Blinders Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby

Peaky Blinders season 6 is finally back on our screens after a mammoth 30-month wait, with millions of viewers tuning into BBC One every week for the show's final season.

Cillian Murphy is back as Brummie gang boss Tommy Shelby in Steven Knight's drama, the first episode of which featured a touching tribute to the late Helen McCrory, who played Aunt Polly.

But if you're a die-hard Peaky Blinders super fan and one new episode a week isn't enough to satisfy your obsession, we've unearthed the following surprising facts, trivia and things you might not know about the show, for you to delve into...

*spoilers for Peaky Blinders season 1-6 below*

1. Cillian Murphy is an executive producer of Peaky Blinders

He's played the show's protagonist Tommy Shelby from its inception, but Murphy took on more duties from season 5 onwards when he became an executive producer, too. This meant that after long days portraying the ruthless Brummie gang boss, he took himself off to the editing suites to analyse the day's work, amongst other more technical tasks.

He told Variety: "[As a producer] it was nice to work with Steve [Knight], and actually have an input on the character, and then I also got to be involved in the music score, which was all very satisfying to me. 

"I don’t think I’d want to do it on every job because it’s too much responsibility. But this show was such a big chunk of my life, and I felt like there was a lot I could offer, so that was a really good experience."

2. Some famous faces were denied roles in Peaky Blinders

It's helped to launch the careers of actors including Anya Taylor-Joy, Joe Cole and Josh O'Connor, but not all budding actors have been lucky enough to land a part in the show.

One such actor was Spider-Man leading man Tom Holland, who auditioned for a role in Peaky Blinders but didn't get cast.

The show's creator Steven Knight told PA news agency at the season 6 premiere that "it must have been quite a big role he was auditioning for", although your guess is as good as ours as to what that role could have been. Tommy Shelby, perhaps?

Another actor who was denied a role was Vicky McClure, who shared in a 2019 interview with Red magazine that she'd auditioned for every series but never been cast.

She went onto star in BBC's Line of Duty, with the season 6 finale of the crime drama breaking records as the most-watched episode of any drama since modern records began.  So, she's doing just fine without it!

3.  Lizzie was only supposed to play a minor part in the show

The character of Lizzie Shelby (née Stark) has been a core part of Tommy's storyline for season 6 so far, as well as in previous seasons, but that wasn't always the plan.

She was only supposed to play a minor part, until the producers witnessed Natasha O'Keeffe's audition for the role. 

Speaking to the Virgin TV Edit, the show's creator Steven Knight said that the actress impressed them so much with her scene with Cillian Murphy that they signed her up for more episodes. 

"Sometimes an actor is brought in to do one scene with a limited number of lines and I watch it and think, 'Wow, where’s that come from?'," he recalls. 

"The best example is Natasha, who plays Lizzie, who was brought in for one scene with Cillian and she was so good."

The character of Lizzie was a former prostitute, who went on to become Thomas's secretary, then wife and mother to his daughter, Ruby, and stepmother to Charles.

4. It’s not the first time Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy have shared a screen

Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy play something of a dynamic duo in Peaky Blinders as Tommy Shelby and Alfie Solomons. Perhaps their chemistry is a result of the many times they’ve appeared in the same movies?

Peaky Blinders Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons BBC

The pair have appeared in The Dark Knight Rises together, where Murphy plays psychotic villain Scarecrow and Hardy plays villain Bane. They’ve both also starred in Dunkirk and Inception.

Film buffs will recognise all three as Christopher Nolan films, and speaking of Nolan, the director has cast Murphy as the lead in Oppenheimer, his upcoming biopic about Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb: Murphy missed the Peaky Blinders season 6 premiere because he’s filming the movie in Mexico.

5. Two of the show's leading cast members are related

One of Tommy's main antagonists in the new series is Michael Grey, played by London-born actor Finn Cole. But did you know that Finn is actually the younger brother of fellow Peaky Blinders actor (and star of current ITV thriller The Ipcress File) Joe Cole?

Peaky Blinders Joe Cole Finn Cole brothers BBC
Joe Cole, far left, and Finn Cole, left, are brothers in real life

Joe played John Shelby - the younger brother of Tommy, and cousin of Michael - until he left the show in 2017. In an interview with Digital Spy, Joe revealed that Finn gives him "little tidbits" about what's coming up in Peaky Blinders.

"It's funny. We chat," he said. "I mean, not so much now, but I actually really enjoy watching that show as a spectator, more than when I was in it...

"So it's fun to watch that as an audience member now. And yeah, Finn does give me little tidbits. But I prefer just to watch it as a spectator now."

6. Cillian Murphy had to convince Steven Knight to cast him as Tommy Shelby

According to creator Steven Knight, Murphy couldn't be more different to his on-screen persona. “Cillian and Tommy are almost polar opposites... and maybe that’s how it works", Knight confessed in an interview with Esquire.

Knight revealed in the same interview that Murphy text him after his Peaky Blinders audition to remind him that it doesn't matter that he's nothing like Tommy, because he's an actor!

In the message, Murphy told Knight: "Remember, I’m an actor."

“Which I never forgot," said Knight. "And boy, what an actor.”

The creator later admitted that "no one else could have been Tommy Shelby", and we have to agree with him on that one.

7. Sophie Rundle returned to filming four weeks after giving birth

Actress Sophie Rundle, who plays Tommy’s sister Ada in the show, returned to filming for the show’s sixth and final series just four weeks after giving birth to her son.

In a candid Instagram post that she shared in May 2021 - a month after she became a mum over the Easter weekend - the actress revealed that she was "sleep-deprived and slightly delirious" as she changed her son's nappy in between takes.

"I went back to work on Peaky Blinders four weeks after giving birth to my son. This is me - sleep deprived and slightly delirious changing a nappy in my trailer in between scenes," she shared.

"It’s been the most exhausting and challenging thing I’ve ever done but worth it to finish off this batsh*t crazy, brilliant show and say goodbye to this character that I love so much." 

Peaky Blinders director Anthony Byrne commented at the time: "You’re amazing Sophie. It’s been a great pleasure working with you on these scenes. You’re the real deal and today was like being at a muddy Glasto. A very bougie, Shelby festival."

We think she did an absolutely fantastic job portraying Ada, too.

8. There’s a real-life Peaky Blinders romance

No, we're not talking about the bromance between the Shelby brothers, but a real life romance! Tom Hardy, who plays Alfie Solomons, is married to Charlotte Riley, who played May Carleton in the show.

Peaky Blinders Charlotte Riley Tom Hardy Getty

Fans will remember Riley's character from season 2 of the show as a wealthy widow who owns racehorses, before she developed a romantic relationship with Tommy. She later returned in season four.

Tom Hardy's character Alfie Solomons also featured in seasons two and four of the show, but they didn't share any scenes together.

The couple actually met prior to Peaky Blinders on the set of TV drama Wuthering Heights in 2009, before marrying in 2014 and going on to have two children together.

9. Steven Knight drew inspiration from the 'real-life Peaky Blinders' he met during his childhood in Birmingham

The show's creator Steven Knight caught a glimpse of the "real-life Peaky Blinders" as he grew up in Small Heath, Birmingham, where his father used to shoe horses at Gypsy-owned scrap yards.

Speaking to the RTS Magazine, Knight revealed: “I used to go in there as a kid and you would see the Peaky Blinders world. It was full of the last remnants of what Birmingham used to be: stolen stuff, scrap, all kinds of things. It was like an Aladdin’s cave. 

“There was Charlie Strong, who I’ve used in the series, and Curly, who was my great, great uncle. It was that flavour of the last of the old Birmingham that I tried to put into Peaky.”

10. Cillian Murphy based his Brummie accent on Birmingham City football fans

Die-hard Peaky Blinders fans will already know that Cillian Murphy isn't from Birmingham at all. He's actually from Cork, Ireland - not that you'd know from his perfect Brummie accent.

But did you know that said accent was mastered by listening to Birmingham City football fans chanting in a local pub in the city?

He told the Radio Times: “I hung out with Steve [Knight], and we went to the actual Garrison pub in Birmingham with his Brummie mates.

“And we’re just drinking Guinness there, and they’re singing Birmingham City songs and telling all sorts of stories, and I was recording on my iPhone, and then I took that home, and used it to try and track the accents, you know.

“And then I would call Steve and just leave voicemails on his phone in the accent and see how close I was to it.”

11. And he practised his French accent on his mum!

Some of the first scenes in Peaky Blinders season 6 feature Tommy at a bar in Miquelon Island, at the end of prohibition. The actor had to speak some French for those scenes. The result? An Irish actor doing a Birmingham accent doing a French accent. Get your head around that...

Needless to say, Murphy's French accent was impeccable, which he puts down to practising with his French teacher mum.

Peaky Blinders season 6 episode 1 BBC

"I sort of knew French from before because my mum is a French teacher," he confessed in an interview with Variety. "She’s retired now, but I sent her the lines and she spoke them back to me. 

"I used to have very good French when I was young and had the energy to practise it but I let it go a bit and I don’t speak it anymore, so my mum refreshed me for those lines." 

12. There’s going to be a Peaky Blinders film

Season 6 of Peaky Blinders is indeed the show's final series - but it's not the last time we'll see Tommy and the Shelby clan on our screens, because it's been confirmed that a Peaky Blinders film is in the works.

Speaking at a BFI London Film Festival panel, the show's creator Steven Knight revealed that a movie will begin shooting in the next two years - and Cillian Murphy and the rest of the Shelby clan are in talks to take part. 

The film is likely to be set during the Second World War, and is expected to be followed by an unspecified number of TV spin-off series.

Long live the world of the 'Peaky f***ing Blinders!'

 

Peaky Blinders continues Sundays at 9pm on BBC One. Catch up on BBC iPlayer.