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The Real Reason Paul Anderson Was Drawn To His Role In Peaky Blinders

For fans, it can be enlightening to learn what about a particular project first captured an actor's, writer's, or director's attention. Take "Peaky Blinders," for example. Steven Knight's semi-historical crime drama provides all kinds of material that the cast and crew can sink their teeth into: lush period details, a moody atmosphere, twisty politically-charged plots, and, most of all, a cast of colorful, morally complex characters.

As "Peaky Blinders" creator Steven Knight told the BBC, a chance to highlight how warfare changes the soldiers serving on the front lines was one of the main things that interested him about this story. "All of these men had returned from the First World War where they had been instructed to carry out mass murder every day on an unprecedented industrial scale. They've returned very damaged and they are violent as a result of their experiences," he says. "I'm always very keen that any act of violence has a consequence in terms of the story."

Arthur Shelby, who's played by Paul Anderson, is one of these violent men. The eldest brother on the Shelby family's sprawling family tree, Arthur is hot-tempered, extremely loyal, and capable of some truly horrific actions. There's a lot to dig into there — so, what was it that first drew Anderson to this character, specifically?

Paul Anderson loved the script, the team, and Arthur's violent, flawed personality

While speaking to the BBC about what attracted him to the role of Arthur Shelby, Paul Anderson began by speaking about the writing and the strength of the show's creative team. "First of all the script, the writer, Steven Knight, and I think what really did it was when I met Otto Bathurst, who directed the first three episodes," Anderson said. "I met him and I got this enthusiasm from him and this impression from him that it just felt really right, it felt really good." 

Additionally, Anderson was excited to play such a flawed character, and to really dig into the reasons why someone would turn out that way. "They're the most interesting roles to play: violent, brutal, dark characters," Anderson said. "There's so much scope because you can do the obvious brutish kind of stuff, but then you can play the sort of different layers with a violent man. There's a reason for that sort of behavior and mentality. ... It was a pleasure to play Arthur Shelby. Much better than playing the nice guy." 

And although "Peaky Blinders" wrapped up its six-season run in 2022, Anderson will have at least one more chance to delve into Arthur's twisted psyche. A "Peaky Blinders" movie is currently in development; hopefully, Anderson will have just as much fun filming that as he did making the show.