We talk to the Irish actor about his latest vampire themed movie…
It’s been a while since he’s appeared front and centre on a big Hollywood movie poster and that suits Colin Farrell just fine. Even his latest, a damn fine remake of the blackly comic 1985 vampire classic ‘Fright Night’, has Farrell as the menacing presence looming over leading lad Anton Yelchin. There was a time when Hollywood couldn’t get enough of our boy, throwing flipping great wads of cash at the casually-cursing Castleknock Casanova, for movies like ‘Hart’s War’ (2002), ‘The Recruit’ and ‘S.W.A.T.’ (both 2003). The wheels on this overnight sensation began to wobble though with the release of Oliver Stone’s much-mocked historical epic ‘Alexander’ in 2004 (who knew the Macedonian king shared the bleached hair and broken-glass accent of a Supermac’s assistant manager?), and spun completely off their axles with Michael Mann’s ill-judged and unintentionally funny ‘Miami Vice’ two years later.
Shortly after the latter’s release, Farrell checked himself into rehab (his career right behind him). A quick glance at Farrell’s Wikipedia chapter headings can tell you why with Drug Addictions, Sex Tape, and then Dessarae Bradford’s Accusations (Bradford being a telephone sex worker who ended up with a restraining order after she tried to accost Farrell live on The Tonight Show in 2006). All that crazy dust appears to have settled, as Farrell began rebuilding his career as a character actor. Being a father of two (7-year old James Padraig, with US model Kim Bordenave, and 1-year old Henry Tadeusz, with Ondine co-star Alicja Bachleda-Curus) has no doubt grounded him somewhat.
When I caught up with Farrell, he was halfway through the 4-month shoot in Canada of Len Wiseman’s ‘Total Recall’ remake. In which Farrell plays the lead. Which once again will have him front and centre in the posters.
PAUL BYRNE : What was the attraction with ‘Fright Night’? Tom Holland’s original? Working with director Craig Gillespie? The cast, your character, Jerry, the fact that you get to play a vampire…? COLIN FARRELL: It was kind of an amalgam of all of the above. Initially, before I read the script, I was looking for something that was a little lighter. Something that was going to be designed purely for entertainment purposes, and not shine any light on aspects of society, or history – something that didn’t have that much emotional weight to it. I had just come off the back of Triage, and then Ondine, and then I did The Way Back with Weir, and they were all incredibly, crazily satisfying, but I was looking to have a big sea change. And the only way I could see that was to say, okay, something light. And this came across my path. I read it in about 50 minutes, and I asked who the director was. And they told me it was Craig Gillespie. I had seen Lars & The Real Girl, and it was the clearest time I’ve had where I could see a director who was about to bring something very interesting to an old genre.
Were there reference points for you here? It’s more ‘Let The Right One In’ than ‘Twilight’ or ‘True Blood’… The way that Jerry designed this house, and had these cells built behind a wall, there was this sense of the common serial killer who preys on innocent people, and who gets enormous amounts of gratification from fear, from innocence, and if there was anything emotional to the character of Jerry at all, it was his desire to feed off that innocence and that fear of others, that’s all. I know Craig was very much interested in going, this guy is a serial killer, moving from town to town, feeding on the innocence of whatever community he finds himself in. It’s strange to take fear out entirely. You remove fear from a character, and it’s chilling.
The movies you’ve been making for the last few years have largely been more intimate affairs – keen to become known as a character actor, or are you just slowly climbing back up to movie star status? Oh, man, the way it happened, my trajectory into this, after ‘Tigerland’? You could probably ask any casting director in Hollywood, this was one of the top 5 meteoric rises – and this is not saying anything about me. It’s got nothing about ability, as you well know; it’s to do with madness, and it’s to do with frenzy, and I was in this machine, I was at the whim of this machine, and I was capitalizing from this machine. But within it, I wasn’t really understanding what it meant to me, as an actor, and what the work meant. I knew that none of it was important, and I knew that it didn’t make me a better man, or this or that. I just didn’t have an understanding of it. So, in the last five or six years, I began focusing on the work. It wasn’t exactly a plan, but, what happened was, there were a couple of gigs lined up after ‘Miami Vice’, and they happened to be smaller gigs. And the phone stopped ringing as well, I can guarantee. The phones for the bigger films stopped ringing, so, you know, necessity being the mother of some invention, it was six of me, half of my agents deciding that we had to look at more eclectic films. And since then, I love it more than I ever did. More than when I was seventeen and did a workshop with Conal Kearney in Diggs Lane.
How close did you get to throwing in the towel after ‘Alexander’ and ‘Miami Vice’ derailed your Hollywood career? You got a major kicking from the critics… I’ve gone on record in interviews saying that around the time of those movies – and they were both big body hits – I really did think twice about what I was doing. To have these things said about you, to have this much of an effect, you have to question why you’re in this job. After ‘Miami Vice’, I was going, ‘Ah, fuck this!’. It takes me away from home too. I know I’m an incredibly well-paid young man, which is a place of great fortune to be in, but it’s taken me away from weddings, funerals, major family events. I’ve missed big parts of the lives of those I love, so, that’s okay, but you have to understand why you’re doing it. It was a healthy time, in a way, because it brought better clarity to my life.
Finally, you seem to be having a little fun with your image in the recent ‘Horrible Bosses’, going the full Les Grossman gross-out as the balding, pot-bellied, coke-snorting, hooker-banging Bobby Pellitt. Not a lot of Hollywood pretty boys would let it all hang out like that… Ah, sure, I’m not a pretty boy anymore. I’m old enough to be called a pretty man. Either way, I’m free of that chain now, I think. I’m free of that…
Words – Paul Byrne Fright Night hits Irish cinemas on September 2nd.