Cillian Murphy Is Finally Confirmed To Appear In 28 Years Later, And I Think I Have An Idea On What His Role May Be

 Cillian Murphy looks up to the sky smiling in 28 Days Later.
Cillian Murphy looks up to the sky smiling in 28 Days Later.

As we’re all anxious to hear the latest about the upcoming horror movie 28 Years Later, the plans for a trilogy of legacy-quels to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s 28 Days Later remain a mystery. However, there have been bits of information here and there to update what we know about 28 Years Later.

Which leads to what’s probably the biggest announcement thus far, as Cillian Murphy’s acting return to the franchise that put him on Hollywood’s map has been confirmed. And with that information, as well as some other choice tidbits revealed by Sony chairman Tom Rothman, I think I know how and why we might see Jim return.

Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later
Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later

Cillian Murphy’s Confirmed For 28 Years Later

As Deadline caught up with Rothman during an event celebrating Columbia Pictures’ 100th anniversary, past and future were firmly in frame. With that event taking place as part of the Cannes Film Festival, Tom Rothman was, of course, asked for an update on Cillian Murphy’s involvement, which was previously limited to a producer for 28 Years Later.

But as you’ll read below, Tom has potentially changed the game with this cryptic answer to whether Jim is back:

Yes, but in a surprising way and in a way that grows, let me put it that way.

Ok, Mr. Rothman. Curiosity and attention are firmly focused on you, good sir. And it’s not just this statement that has me picturing the future of the 28 Franchise, but some further choice remarks that the Sony mogul shared later on in this conversation. If you'll indulge me, it's time to step into the black cab of speculation, as we begin to guess what Cillian Murphy's return might mean for 28 Years Later.

Megan Burns sits on a couch looking zoned out while Naomie Harris looks on with concern in 28 Days Later.
Megan Burns sits on a couch looking zoned out while Naomie Harris looks on with concern in 28 Days Later.

How I Think 28 Years Later’s Story Is Going To Play Out

Previously, when news broke that seemingly announced Jodie Comer’s presumed 28 Years Later casting, a theory started to form amongst myself and my colleagues. That potential story beat was that Ms. Comer would be playing a grown-up version of Hannah, the young girl played by Megan Burns in 28 Days Later. Seeing as Burns is seemingly retired from acting at this point, Comer's casting alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson seemed to suggest that this was the way forward with this particular story.

Which leads to Tom Rothman’s equally vague remarks about the movie’s potential plot. Seeming to confirm both Comer and Taylor-Johnson’s casting, Mr. Rothman said the following:

It’s 28 Years Later, but not in any way a literal sequel. Great cast, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jodie Comer.

Let’s start with parsing out those exact words above: “not in any way a literal sequel.” There’s room for debate on what counts in that specific descriptor; however I have my own interpretation on what that means. I think what Tom Rothman has said above is that this isn’t a 2018 Halloween-style enterprise that skips over 28 Weeks Later, thus de-canonizing it.

In other words, this is more of a legacy-quel that keeps the events of Weeks in play, while not following any of its surviving characters; kind of like how Tron: Ares looks like it’s going to keep the franchise at large going, but doesn’t sound like it’s a direct continuation of Tron: Legacy. So the events of 28 Weeks Later might still have happened, and 28 Years Later follows up with the trio who eventually became known as “The Manchester Three.”

28 Days Later… cast
28 Days Later… cast

With that in mind, and recalling Rothman’s “surprising way” comments, I don’t think that 28 Years Later is going to feature Cillian Murphy’s Jim all that much. What I do think is that Jodie Comer’s Hannah is going to be searching for her fellow survivors from 2002 as a means of achieving some sort of goal throughout the rest of the 28 Years Later trilogy.

Hannah will probably find Jim at the end of 28 Years Later, with Naomie Harris’ Selena joining up in Chapter Two, leaving the final entry to see the trio back together for good. After all, according to returning writer Alex Garland, "time" is the theme of the new 28 Trilogy.

At least, that’s the impression i get from Tom Rothman and this very familiar euphemism for a character that’ll become “important to the Trilogy.” Matt Smith’s casting in Terminator: Genisys is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, and hopefully 28 Years Later doesn’t falter in its first chapter, leaving those subsequent stories to wither away.

If that's true, it doesn't dull the hype for this movie in my eyes. If anything, it just makes me want to see the whole vision through all three movies. There's a lot of potential excitement, and we might find even more answers in the near future.

Since 28 Years Later is currently looking at a June 20th, 2025 release date, production on the back-to-back efforts to land the first two films is probably getting underway soon. So keep your eyes and ears open, as everything we've discussed could all change in a heartbeat.