Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy pays moving tribute to 'special' co-star Helen McCrory after her tragic death

PEAKY Blinders star Cillian Murphy has paid a moving tribute to his "special" co-star Helen McCrory after her tragic death.

Actor Cillian, 45, who plays the lead star Tommy Shelby in the BBC drama, said he was in "awe" over the late actress for how she "lived her life".

Helen, who played the series' matriarch Polly Gray, tragically passed away last month aged 52 after a secret and "heroic battle" with cancer.

Cillian paid tribute to his on-screen aunt, saying she was his "closest colleague" and noted her "power" on screen.

Speaking to The Guardian, he said: "She was my closest colleague on Peaky, and one of the finest actors I've ever worked opposite.

"Any material, any scene – she made it special. She could do power and vulnerability, one after the other. She was just so cool and fun, and had such compassion for everyone she met. 

"I was kind of in awe about how she lived her life – the way she balanced her work and her family so beautifully."

After Helen's passing was announced in April, Cillian was among the first of the Peaky Blinders stars to pay tribute to the actress.

Saying he was "broken-hearted" the star penned a touching tribute to his "dear friend" who he would "dearly miss".

He said at the time: "I am broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend. Helen was a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being.

"She was also a gifted actor — fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played. 

"It was a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman, to have shared so many laughs over the years.

"I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family."

Peaky Blinders creators also release a statement to mark her passing, thanking her for her "inspirational" performance as Polly Gray.

"Helen's performance was inspirational, joyous, transgressive, hilarious and incredibly moving," they wrote.

"As a person she was off-the-scale charismatic, and deeply caring. We feel so privileged to have worked with her over the last decade."

Cillian revealed recently how he had to shoot the final scenes in series six of Peaky blinders without Helen.

He told Men's Health: "We're all still deeply, deeply saddened. I'm deeply saddened and still trying to get over it. It's hard to think of the series without her. 

"She was so much a part of that and always my favourite storylines were the Polly and Tommy storylines."

The actor confirmed that the final season of the hit show, which wrapped up on production this week, would be dedicated to Helen.

Helen passed away aged 52 after a hidden battle with cancer, her husband Damian Lewis revealed last month.

The fellow actor opened up on Twitter: "I'm heartbroken to announce that after a heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family. 

"She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives.

"She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you."

Peaky Blinders finished filming its sixth and final season in Cheshire this week, with show director Anthony Byrne concluding its production on Instagram.

Anthony, 45, told his following that the programme was "done & done & done" as he posed on set at Arley Hall in Northwich.

Standing alongside assistant director, Jon Midlane, and director of photography, Mathieu Plainfossé, he showed off the shows' clapperboard.

It had been decorated with a beautiful sketch of the late Helen.

Second assistant director Arizona Mimi Eastwood detailed how filming took place over 86 days and took more than two years of planning.

The coronavirus pandemic shut down filming last March and postponed the series production until January of this year.

While series six marks the final season of the show, screenwriter Steve Knight said the story will continue in "another form".

He said: "Peaky is back and with a bang. After the enforced production delay due to the Covid pandemic, we find the family in extreme jeopardy and the stakes have never been higher. 

"We believe this will be the best series of all and are sure that our amazing fans will love it. While the TV series will be coming to an end, the story will continue in another form."

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