‘Commitments’ star Johnny Murphy dies at 72

Actor played Estragon in the long-running Gate Theatre production of ‘Waiting for Godot’

Actor Johnny Murphy, best known for his role as trumpet player Joey 'The Lips' Fagan in The Commitments, has died at the age of 71.

 
The actor Johnny Murphy, best known for his portrayal of Joey “The Lips” Fagan in The Commitments, has died at the age of 72.

In addition to performing in a number of other high-profile films, including Angela’s Ashes and Into the West, Murphy had a long and varied theatrical career. Perhaps his most notable performance was as Estragon, with Barry McGovern as Vladimir, in the long-running Gate Theatre production of Waiting for Godot which toured around the world to critical acclaim.

He reprised the role in the film version produced in 2001 as part of the Gate’s Beckett on Film series in 2001. Other notable theatrical roles included A Whistle In The Dark and Brothers of the Brush at the Abbey.

When director Alan Parker came to Dublin in 1990 to make his film version of Roddy Doyle’s novel about a soul band from Dublin’s northside, he explored the possibility of casting a musician such as Van Morrison as the mysterious saxophone player Joey “The Lips”.

However, he finally settled on Murphy, who ended up as the only professional actor - and the only non-musician - among the male leads, who were played by unknown young musicians.

In one of the film’s running gags, Joey “The Lips” is the one who manages to seduce all the female singers (Bronagh Gallagher, Angeline Ball and Maria Doyle Kennedy), despite being a generation older than everyone else in the band.

His Commitments co-stars Maria Doyle Kennedy and Glen Hansard have paid tribute on Twitter. “Johnny Murphy. Gentleman,” tweeted Doyle Kennedy. “The great Johnny Murphy, (Joey the Lips Fagan) passed yesterday..” tweeeted Hansard. “A beautiful man, and a true gent. Bless you Johnny.”

His funeral will take place on Friday.