After Big Oscar Win, Cillian Murphy’s Cork School Declares Homework-Free Day

There was a whiff of Hollywood glamour in the air on Monday at St. Anthony’s, a primary school in the Irish city of Cork that counts Oscar-winner Cillian Murphy as a past pupil. The day after Murphy won his first Oscar – Best Actor for his role in Oppenheimer – staff, parents, and children at his former school were basking in his success. “When we woke up this morning there was such a buzz of excitement,” Sean Lyons, principal of the all-boys Catholic school, told AFP.

The 47-year-old Murphy was a pupil at St. Anthony’s, in the tidy Cork neighbourhood of Ballinlough, between 1982 and 1988.

He won his first Oscar Sunday for his portrayal of J Robert Oppenheimer, the US physicist who masterminded the atomic bomb, capping a glittering awards season that saw him snare a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and other prizes.

“We thought can this be real, that this man from Ballinlough in Cork actually won the Oscar, a global award!” said the beaming bespectacled teacher.

“He has set the seed now for many students not just here in Ballinlough and St Anthony’s but all around Ireland that they can achieve on the global stage,” said Lyons.

Super proud

A “Congratulations” banner referred to the actor’s recent Golden Globe and BAFTA awards and wished him luck for the Oscars. “That will have to be updated now,” smiled Mary Harrington, a 68-year-old grandmother picking up her grandchild at the school gate.

“I got up early this morning to make sure he’d won – I don’t know why I did that as I knew he was going to win,” she laughed.

“My brother was in secondary school with Cillian and here as well, and he remembers all the gigs that he played with his music,” said Valerie Ni Cochlain, who was waiting for her child to come out from her school.

“Well done to Cillian and his family, it’s great news for Cork and Ireland,” she said.

Murphy had dipped his toe into acting at both school and university in Cork. In 1996, after pestering a local director, Murphy landed a lead part in the frenetic Disco Pigs, a play written by fellow Corkonian Enda Walsh.

The stage show was a critical success, going on an 18-month world tour, and proved a launchpad for his career. “Cork is a small close-knit community, a small city, we’re proud of everybody who achieves success and goes on to achieve great things,” said Elaine Murphy, who is no relation.

“We are super proud and so are the children, it’s a great boost for everybody to be proud of a local,” she said alongside her two smiling children, seven-year-old Liam Eanna, and Holly, aged six.

Homework-free day

Displayed inside the school in a questionnaire filled out in 2015, Cilian Murphy advised current students on how to break into acting and film. “Join a theatre group, start making films on our phone with your friends, edit them on your computer and put them on YouTube,” wrote the actor, who now lives in Dublin after returning to Ireland from a decade in London.

According to the questionnaire his biggest challenge was “trying to understand the Cork accent” after moving to Cork as a child from Dublin, some 260 kilometres (160 miles) southwest of the Irish capital.

“One regret I have is that I didn’t put money on him getting an Oscar back then,” said Eddie Hogan O’Connell, a staff member who was a classmate of Murphy’s. “I’d say the odds would have been great, whereas now he is up there with the best in the world and congratulations to him,” he said.

For the children at the school Cillian Murphy’s win was reason for a surprise from the teachers: no homework. “The kids are especially happy that the teachers let them off,” said Phil Howard, a grandmother collecting her grandson, Colm. “Cillian would be happy if he heard that I’m sure,” she laughed.

​Cillian Murphy was a student at St. Anthony’s, in the Cork neighbourhood of Ballinlough, between 1982 and 1988  

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