Colin Farrell’s career went from a string of a number one movies to a series of flops and now to a sequence of critical hits – so how does the 41-year old see his own record and what keeps driving him forwards?
Colin Farrell has appeared in a run of critically acclaimed movies including The Lobster and Fantastic Beasts, following a career wobble that come after the blockbuster hits. ‘I had a string of number one movies and that was incredible at the time but it's not the driving force anymore,’ he says. So what does the 41-year old look for in a script these days, and how has his approach evolved?
RISING caught up with him to find out about his most recent collaboration with Lobster director, Yorgos Lanthimos and Nicole Kidman The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A disturbing, unsettling psychological horror, he plays a surgeon whose family life is infiltrated by an infatuated young man with a very dark secret…
RISING How did you feel going onto set each day, with this dark script? COLIN FARRELL, ACTOR ‘Oh it was terribly bleak. I'd get to set and think: “Jesus, what did I sign up for?” The tone was getting darker and more cerebrally twisted. There's blood, Barry's biting a lump out of his arm – saying it out of context isn't going to mean much to those who haven't seen it so I can wipe my brow with relief there for not giving too much away. This was the job, and amazing creative broth but some days you'd come off after twelve hours on set and just feel flat.’
I’m in the film yet I find it f***ing disturbing – how can that be?
RISING What was it like when you first saw the final film? CF I was completely shattered when I first watched it. You can never feel the same while you’re making the film because you’re somewhere lost inside of it. There’s a third eye of objectivity always floating just above your right shoulder. But I’ve seen it a few times and I think it’s fucking disturbing, haha. Call it like it is, and I loved it. I'm in the film but yet I find it fucking disturbing, how can that be? I guess the closer you are to something, or trying to represent that truth, the further away that is in your own life. Yorgos, casts this existential spell.’
RISING You must have known what you were getting yourself into having worked together on The Lobster? CF ‘The Lobster is a kids movie by comparison. My agent represents Yorgos too and she actually got this script to me but before I sat down, she said, “I’m giving this to you, I’m passing it along but I’m not sure if you're going to want to do this.” Because of certain scenes, particularly leading up to the climax in the last ten minutes, it grabbed me by the throat and knocked me out. But that's in keeping with the arc of how he tells these stories and they never feel gratuitous, they never feel inserted, it’s all part of the tapestry, it feels consistent and resonant.’
‘When I read the script for The Lobster for the first time, I just thought, “what the actual f… What have I just read?” People who've seen it have said to me, “that was very strange altogether,” and I agree with them, it's a bizarre film. So imagine reading the script without the visualisation and the imagery adding colour, wrap your head around, trying to stay in it, that was a challenge of the greatest order. But then you swim in the delicious awkwardness of it all, this detached, removed language. If you expunge that, you lose the fragility and the purity, it becomes commonalised.’
RISING Does that allow the audience to become more engaged with the story? CF ‘Yorgos, I'd call him a hugely generous filmmaker in that he doesn’t tell the audience what they’re meant to emote, he defies the typical way you’re meant to breakdown the story. It’s a twisted logic and he wants you to trust in the twisted mystery of it. That's his way, there's no good or bad, right or wrong.’
‘The individual reactions are so visceral and diverse. I've had people come up to me after The Lobster, they're like, “This is what I got from that scene,” and it's something I would never have hopscotched my radar. That is pure artistry to me. To present these pieces and withhold some of the jigsaw because he respects the audience, he respects their intelligence.’
RISING It sounds like one of those things where you get out what you put in? CF ‘There's no denying, his films are challenging. Not just for us as actors, and there is a lot of work involved but there’s a reward watching his movies like Dogtooth, there's a reward to deciphering your own denotation, I think. Feeling as perturbed or disturbed or humoured as that may be. Often the sole purpose of art is to provoke, and he definitely hits that on the nail. I always say about him, he's bored of the social artifice, and the reliance on the lines spewed. He puts his trust in the truth. Working in film, you’re ultimately permitted a liberty and freedom to interpret how you see it and that's magical. That's a wonderful gift for someone who’s a professional in make-believe. That’s really what we do.’
I want to get behind the wheel and keep driving for a few weeks – I want to get lost
RISING We heard talk that you may be retiring? CF ‘No, no, I'm not joining Daniel Day Lewis at the retirees’ club just yet. Jesus, you say one thing and it's all the quit talk! I'm probably, not even probably, I'm undoubtedly doing the best work of my career, the prospects just astounding and always raising beyond my expectations. Not exactly an opportune time to bow out. But I do want a break from it all.’
RISING What would a break look like for you? CF ‘I want to get behind the wheel and keep driving for a few weeks. I want to get lost and close off that part of my life, temporarily. I highlight, I emphasise the world, 'temporarily' there. You need to switch it down every now and then – from the work, talking about film, discussing it, just revolving around it. The fame? Not really. That level of madness has long faded for me, thank Christ.’
RISING Why has the madness abated? CF ‘Because I’m not out anymore, I'm home, not going as mad as I used to, I'm doing less big movies. I know Fantastic and Dumbo are big movies but this and Lobster and Beguiled, definitely not to same extent. So there are fewer people waiting outside my house these days and I'm very very grateful for that. Although that can often be an indicator of how far up the totem pole you are and whether you're starting to slip down, I'm well aware, I'm fully aware of the geometrics of the business, haha!’
RISING Do you not like the fame? CF ‘I loved it. I did yeah. There were some great perks of the job and I was 22 and just struggling to maintain any level of normalcy, and desperately trying to cling on as best I could but fuck, it’s hard in that world when you’re catapulted into this heavenly stratosphere. I enjoyed those days, very much. I had a great time. Would I go back and do it all again? No. God no. But I can’t, I went through it.’
I’ve never felt accomplished – that’s the appeal and the pain of the job – I engage that eternal chase
RISING What about turning 40, was that a jolt? CF ‘Nah, it's grand. Maybe once you're in it, not a lot you can do there. No, I'm perfectly content, not giving too much to the significance of the number. My one hope is that this decade doesn't go as fast as the last. That scares me. I'd like things to slow down. I'm happy with 41.’
RISING It’s a good point to review your career though – do you feel, you’ve accomplished a lot? CF ‘I have never felt accomplished. I have never felt top of my game. I still feel like I know nothing about acting. That’s the appeal and the lure and also the pain of the job, never feeling like you fully get there and yeah, I think on the whole, it’s the appeal for me. I engage that eternal chase. I like it.’
WHAT NEXT? The Killing Of A Sacred Deer starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman is out now in cinemas – check out the trailer for a sense of the film’s psychological horror…