Described by his co-stars as a ‘loveable Irish rogue’, Colin Farrell has been linked with Britney Spears and Demi Moore, drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney and his vocabulary is more than a tad colourful, but the young star of Daredevil and the delayed Phone Booth is still an Irish lad at heart and remains happily unspoiled by Hollywood. Paul Fischer reports.
Colin Farrell has no qualms about ignoring the hotel’s no smoking policy where we meet. Cheerfully lighting up a cigarette and clearly wishing the bottle of water he has been handed was laced with something a little stronger, one has the distinct impression that he’s having a ball. Nothing phases this 26-year old Dubliner who is always in a perpetually good mood, calls everyone he meets ‘lad’ and doesn’t give a ‘shite’ about playing the game, Hollywood-style. Yet in the last week, despite his growing success, the whole world has gotten to know Farrell more not because he is starring as the cheeky bad guy in Daredevil, but because of his much publicised relationship with Britney Spears, and the actor is only too aware of that, but Colin looks at the whole Spears thing with a certain downplaying philosophy. “She was one guest out of 25 that was there that night”, Farrell explains denying that there’s little more than that. “We’re just mates and that’s about it.”
The actor says that “it’s not surprising” that despite a successful career and stable professional life, the whole world now knows Colin Farrell, not because of the work, but some seemingly trivial story revolving around Britney Spears. “It’s not that shocking, really, because it’s a crazy fuckin’ world, what are ya gonna do?” Yet before he walked down that infamous red carpet with the singer, at the LA premiere of one of his latest films, The Recruit, Farrell admits that he had no idea what the end result would be. “I’m such a fuckin’ idiot when I don’t think and sometimes I just don’t. So I’m sitting in a hotel with 25 of my family and friends who had come over from Dublin, and she was there talking to someone in the corner with HER friends. And I’m going: Isn’t this fuckin’ dandy, we’re all together having drinks before the premiere. Then we all get out and as I do that I go: Oh, of course, of course, then it was a feeding frenzy. But until then I had no idea despite friends going: You manipulated little bastard of course you did, but I didn’t. It’s not that I’m dumb I just don’t think sometimes,” he adds laughingly.
Whether there’s anything in the relationship or not, that hasn’t stopped the British and Irish press having a field day, with reporters in Dublin camping outside his mother and brother’s house just to get the real low-down. But since this kind of personal publicity is new, Farrell the reaction of Farrell’s Dublin-based family is currently muted. “Like me, there’s not enough there to react TO, really because it’s all just new for them as it is for me. I’ve never been one for preparing to deal with things; all I can do is deal with what’s an inch from my face, so we’ll see what happens.”
While Farrell’s private life is on display, the actor’s professional career and profile continue to grow, and he admits to being continuously surprised that he has achieved so much in so short a period of time. “You know, I got the shock of my life when I was told I was getting the chance to do Tigerland, and then when I got the next job I couldn’t believe it and when I got offered Minority Report I thought: Are they on fuckin’ drugs? Each step along the way has surprised me and I’m still not used to the fact that I get to sometimes choose bits and pieces and that I’m in a position of privilege as an actor that I’m in. It’s shocking and surprising and I don’t know why I was given this opportunity.” The modest actor says that he owes his new found success “to a few thousand air miles and a lot of good luck.”
That profile looms even larger as the comic book film Daredevil begins to explode in theatres. Based on the popular Marvel Comics character, the film revolves around Ben Affleck’s Matt Murdock, blind lawyer for the underdog by day, masked vigilante by night. Farrell is Bulldog, one of the film’s two bad guys. He says that doing a film like Daredevil brings out the kid in him. “It was a lot of fun, man, it was really was”, he says with a genuine child-like enthusiasm. “It was a case of check your subtlety in at the door and just have a good time, “he adds, lighting up another cigarette. “I’d never done a job like this before because most of the characters I’ve played have been rooted in some kind of reality and had some struggle within themselves as they try to find out who they are and what their place is in the world. But THIS guy was just so black and white and such a fuckin’ lunatic that I had a field day doing it.”
Unlike many of his Daredevil co-stars, Farrell was completely unfamiliar with the 1960s comic book, or most comics for that matter. “There wasn’t much of a comic book culture where I come from, no baseball cards, nothing like that.” That is until he met the film’s writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, “whose blatant passion for the project, the comic book and characters was contagious and that was a huge reason why I wanted to do this piece because of him.” Farrell’s clear enthusiasm for Daredevil has to do, he says, “with the power of escapism and we all like to have heroes in our lives, whether it’s a singer or a baseball player. These kinds of mythological heroes of folklore that are modern-day comic book heroes are an amazing outlet for escapism.” The Daredevil character, however, is unique, says Farrell. “He’s one of us, a man of the people, who is more human, pops painkillers and has scars all over his body. Sure, he’s a vigilante searching for justice, but he also gets a fuckin’ beating from time to time which is why a lot of people are such die-hard fans of this.”
Farrell’s over-the-top, snarling assassin in Daredevil is in contrast to the superficial publicist in the thriller Phone Booth, which was to be released following last September’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Garnering strong reviews, Farrell has no problem with that movie’s delayed opening. “You just want to get over it. More than anything you’re going: You did that two years ago, let it fuckin’ go out, see if anybody sees it and then put it to bed. But I had no problem when it was held over because there were people dying on the East Coast and it’s only a fuckin’ movie you know?” In the Joel Schumacher-directed thriller, Farrell stars as a slick New York publicist who picks up a ringing receiver in a phone booth and is told that if he hangs up, he’ll be killed… by a menacing sniper, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Asked if he researched the world of publicists for the role, Farrell laughs. “I know enough of them, but his particular danger of the direction in which he was heading as a human being meant that in a few years he could have ended up as a pretty nasty fellow. That’s not necessarily a publicist’s disease. Anyone in this industry could be suffering from the problems he’s suffering from. Besides, there are assholes everywhere in the world, some of whom I’ve met to draw from.”
When Farrell isn’t travelling the world making movies, publicising them or getting into hot water with the tabloids, he finds respite back in Dublin where he tries to visit at every given opportunity. Far from the frenetic world of Hollywood, Dublin “is my favourite city in the world, it’s where I’m from, it’s the only place that I truly consider home, otherwise I’m like a vagrant. The only fixed address I have is Dublin city.” And Colin makes sure that he has his family around him when he’s working, despite the tabloid reports and his legendary drinking habits, Farrell says that his folks “know that I’m an alright person and not a bad man. My mother would worry about me, of course, but she’s a mother so what’s she going to do? But she knows I’m just finding my way in the world, though she’d prefer it if I didn’t say ‘fuck’ as often as I do, she’d like me to smoke and drink a little less than I do.” Colin says he looks forward to returning home immediately after wrapping on S.W.A.T. Then it is back to work, from The Trojan Wars to Alexander the Great, Colin Farrell is well and truly on the way.