Colin Farrell: ‘People really rooted for me during my wild years’
THERE comes a point in every wild child’s life when they have to either clean up their mess and glance back at it ruefully or wallow in it and suffer the consequences.
We can easily see which route Dublin actor Colin Farrell has chosen — he sits beside me in a state of health so rude it’s almost, well, rude.
This is probably why, as soon as he enters the five-star Dublin hotel lounge and strolls over to the cosy sofa, that female heads swirl and female conversations comes to an abrupt halt.
It doesn’t last more than a couple of seconds (the Irish like it to be known that they are cool to the point of chilled with rock icons and movie stars) but for that brief period of time we are all members of the Colin Farrell Appreciation Society.
Yes, even the blokes, who to a man know it’s pointless to seep a smidgen of envy. Let’s be honest here — Farrell looks the proverbial million bucks. He knows it wasn’t always that way, however.
“At some points,” he recalls of what he refers to as the lost years, “I was removed from the amount of passion and curiosity that I had about acting.
“Maybe that passion and curiosity got diluted or a little bit toxic due to the amount of success and fame that came my way.” He is, he says with a palpable sense of relief, genuinely delighted that this particular chapter of his life is over.
“That chapter was pretty much a seven-year block — from going over to America in 2000 to the Miami Vice movie in 2006 — and it came crashing down like a house of cards. It doesn’t make a noise but you can see the structure is gone. Initially, I was fearful — you know, ‘Jesus, what’s going to happen, the phone isn’t ringing’, all of that.”
He hadn’t known, apparently, what a bad reputation he’d landed himself with (“I was never screaming at people or trashing rooms”), but the pinch started getting tighter when he realised that film studio head honchos weren’t necessarily open to (as they say in Hollywood) reaching out to him.
“Oh, yeah,” he virtually winces at the memory, going on to lucidly outline his failings. “Without any self-aggrandising, the myth had shown itself to be fallacy.
“That said, I’m glad to say I have a bit of goodwill in Hollywood; it might seem a contradiction but it actually exists. It’s the same in Ireland and other parts of the world: blood beats throughout hearts and people experience stuff like hope and faith and gestures of kindness.
“I know that people rooted for me during those wild years, and that was lovely to discover after the fact.”
And the practicalities of being seen as not so much a loose cannon as Guy Fawkes?
“Well, after Miami Vice some big films went away from me, but that was kind of okay because I had other work lined up that provided an opportunity for me to go back to the more simplistic elements of what I was trying to do, which were the elements I fell in love with — a good actor that tells a story in a way that your voice comes across, but also that you allow the person who is perceiving it to have their own interpretation and experience of it.
“So I went back to that, and through that period I did movies such as Pride and Glory, Cassandra’s Dream, In Bruges. Those films allowed me to reconnect, and that’s where I find myself now.”
It looks like it hasn’t been too much of a struggle for Farrell — a vague notion that he would agree with. For no reasons that he can think of, he says he just “fell into acting”.
After he unsuccessfully auditioned for Boyzone, he attended acting school but dropped out when, in the late ’90s, he was cast in the BBC drama Ballykissangel.
Attractive features notwithstanding, Farrell’s acting skills developed quickly enough (a bit movie part here, a small theatre role there) for American talent scouts to come chasing. “I was not full of self-confidence,” he admits.
“I was just on the journey of being an actor, and finding out what that meant to me personally, making a bit of a living, auditioning, getting call-backs now and again.”
What would his ambitions have been at that point? “To work, to work, to work. As an actor, you understand very early on that you’re in a low percentile job for getting consistent work. That’s common knowledge, but that’s what I wanted to do.
“My childhood dreams of fame that I may have had — either as a footballer or a singer — disappeared when I started acting. The practical thought every day was just to get work as an actor.”
But then America came calling? “Yeah! A fella came over from America and messed it all up! Brought me down a path that led to massive financial success!
“Well… what really happened is the guy from America came over and asked me did I want to go over there for some meetings, and I said sure. The meetings were set up, and I went over to LA for a few weeks. And that was it.”
Almost instantly, Farrell was cast in Tigerland, a low-key movie that nonetheless set Hollywood business tongues wagging about this “new Irish guy in town”. Following the generally positive reception to Tigerland, Farrell’s ducks, so to speak, lined up in a neat, long row.
“I really benefited — or capitalised, if you like — from the work that was presented to me under certain elements of fear that exists in Hollywood of people not wanting to miss the boat. If they hear something is good, or big, or happening, they go, ‘Oh, man, give us with a meeting with these people, can we get a private screening?’ and so on.
“So a short time after Tigerland I started getting really major work. Shocked? God, yes, of course. I was going over to America to have a laugh — I was quite happy in Ireland, just acting and trying to figure out where I was going and how I’d get there.”
This is pretty much the point of where he has now arrived — to his present state of Zen-like self-awareness. Through the fog of the wild years Farrell is the father of two children: ten-year-old James (with model Kim Bordenave) and two-year-old Henry (with actress Alicja Bachleda-Curus, who co-starred with him in Ondine).
He is also at a point in his career where he can slip and slide from big-budget (Total Recall, Saving Mr Banks) to low-budget (Seven Psychopaths, which reunited him with In Bruges’ director/writer Martin McDonagh) to this month’s romantic weepie A New York Winter’s Tale and forthcoming movies such as The Lobster, which he will commence filming in Ireland in March.
What Farrell is doing in his work, he is at casual, charming pains to point out, is chasing an idea. “You really are, and sometimes those ideas have been chased down the line and exploded into a thousand pieces, so you can never catch it.”
He then finger-combs his short head of hair and delivers a multi-million bucks smile. Inevitably, you can’t help but be impressed. The lounge, meanwhile, experiences a collective flutter and swoon. “But you try.”
A New York Winter’s Tale is released in cinemas nationwide this Friday