In 2000, Colin Farrell came out of nowhere to become one of Hollywood’s new heartthrobs.
The Dublin-born actor caught everyone off-guard when he was cast as the lead in Joel Schumacher’s Vietnam movie “Tigerland” and followed that up by playing opposite Tom Cruise in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster “Minority Report” two years later. After that came two more leading roles in studio movies, highly publicized flings (like with Britney Spears), and rehab.
For most stars in that position, the next, unfortunate stop would be direct-to-video fame. But Colin Farrell has rebounded in a big way.
In the last year alone, we’ve seen him do incredible work in the polarising second season of “True Detective” and in the surprise indie hit “The Lobster.” The latter — with Farrell packing on pounds and delivering a performance some believe should receive awards recognition — is a defining moment in the evolution of Farrell from beautiful movie star to serious actor.
“The Lobster,” by acclaimed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”), follows Farrell’s David, who’s newly single and by law must check into “The Hotel” and find a romantic partner within 45 days or be transformed into an animal of his choosing (his request is a lobster). What follows is a darkly comedic, Charlie Kaufman-esque look at life and love.
Farrell talked to Business Insider recently about making “The Lobster” (which is currently available on iTunes and Blu-ray/DVD), why he has no regrets about doing “True Detective,” and what it was like making the highly anticipated “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
Jason Guerrasio: What is the craziest interpretation of “The Lobster” someone has given you?
Colin Farrell: I have friends home in Dublin who saw it and just didn’t get it. They were like, “When are you doing ‘S.W.A.T. 2’?” They just didn’t get it. They would be like, “I’m sure it’s good and it’s art, but not my favourite of yours.” They didn’t give any particular interpretation but the moment in the film that’s most open to individual perspective and interpretation is the end of the film. It’s left open-ended and that’s something that kind of invokes a person’s level of hope or belief or need to cling onto the idea of love and the idea of “the one.” One of the great things about the film being so unusual and provocative is the filmmaker to me doesn’t seem to have a definite opinion on the rights or wrongs or the immorality of behaviours and systems, he just presents a set of very unusual circumstances and asked the audience to partake in the judging of what feels right or wrong or what feels natural and unnatural.
Guerrasio: This isn’t the first time you’ve taken a chance with an offbeat movie, but even for you was there a moment when you were in the woods on set and saying to yourself, “This better work”?
Farrell: [Laughs] You kind of get to that point in every film. You have no idea. Making a film, you’re in a really dark tunnel and the only kind of illumination is the shared experience you’re having with your fellow cast and director. That’s the process of making the film and it isn’t until the world puts their eyes to it that you find out if it’s creating any kind of connection at all. But every single film at some stage of the film I think, “I wonder what this is going to be?”
Guerrasio: So every film you’re 100-per cent optimistic?
Farrell: No, I’m not optimistic at all, nor am I pessimistic. I have hope. I have no expectations. I’ve done far too many things that I felt were going to be genius that weren’t and I’ve done some things that I didn’t think were going to be much that really connected with people. So expectations are left at the door. But hope exists all the time.
Guerrasio: Why are people connected with this movie?
Farrell: I think people enjoy it because people respond to original things, but I think they only respond to original things if they connect to some truths within us. As much as “The Lobster” feels like a world we recognise but not the world we live in, it’s all drawn in an allegorical way from all the systems that exist. Around the world there are certain marital systems, certain physical systems, political systems, social systems, and all those things are kind of turned on their head but represented in various ways within “The Lobster.” So I think there’s a recognition of truth. But at the same time those are the same things that had my mates going, “What the f—?”
Guerrasio: How much input did you bring for the look of the David character?
Farrell: Myself and Yorgos, we spoke a little bit and I was at a certain body weight that I was closer to making a statement or defining the character physically by losing weight. There was no justification for him to be emaciated, but I thought, say I was 165, I thought what if I went down to 155 and have him rail-thin? And Yorgos was like, [speaking in Greek accent] “Well, if he’s very thin I think maybe it will speak to some kind of psychological trouble that we want to stay away from,” and I was like, “F—, you’re right.” So he said, “What about if he’s a bit soft?” And I said, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” He just comfort-eats a little bit too much. He’s just asleep in his own life and has let himself go. And the mustache, I don’t know if it was him or I suggested it. But I remember my sister was watching me eat and she was like, “God, does he have to be fat?” And in retrospect I couldn’t think of David being any other way because it affected the way I moved. It really did. It slowed me down in a way that I felt was conducive to kind of tapping into the spirit of the character.
Guerrasio: What were the fun things you ate to pack on the pounds?
Farrell: Man, I only had two days of fun and then it got old.
Farrell: Yeah. I had a list of about 35 restaurants, 25 of which were fast-food joints all around Los Angeles and I didn’t get a quarter through the list. It just became me thinking about going to these places and wanting to enjoy the food and food just not being enjoyable anymore. So I just ate s— at home. [Laughs] You dream to eat whatever you can and get away with it and then when you’re told you have to eat, it loses its fun straight away.
Guerrasio: You have already finished shooting another movie with Yorgos. What can you say about “The Killing of a Sacred Deer“?
Farrell: I can say it’s — ugh, God — it’s eerier than “The Lobster.”
Guerrasio: Get out of here!
Farrell: Yeah, I don’t know, it felt pretty bleak to me. I mean, when I read the script it was extraordinary and to work with Yorgos again was amazing.
Guerrasio: Can you tell where his stories are going when you’re on set or do you not know for sure until you see footage?
Farrell: Until you see a cut. There are so many interpretations that this film could be approached from. But Yorgos is so specifically minded, he’s so clinical in his direction of the film. He’s really a master I feel, I really do. And I wouldn’t throw that word around often. I’ll wait to see what the film is, but it’s set in a contemporary world, in America, there are hospitals and diners, parks, things that we will recognise and experienced ourselves but yet there’s this similar kind of uneasiness through all the interactions and all the things that take place. It was unnerving reading the script. I kind of felt nauseous after reading it.
Guerrasio: I like that description: “The movie makes me nauseous.”
Guerrasio: This is the point of the interview where I have to tell you that I was a fan of season two of “True Detective.”
Farrell: Oh, that’s lovely. I’m glad to hear it.
Guerrasio: Were you excited to shoot that scene where Ray gets shotgunned and you think he’s dead two episodes in?
Farrell: Yeah, I didn’t know because I read the first episode when I signed on so when I came to that I was like, “What the f—?” I called Nic Pizzolatto and he said, “No, no. You’re in it the whole way through.” That was fun to shoot. I had a few scenes in that show that were some of my favourite all-time scenes to be in.
Guerrasio: What was another one?
Farrell: The scene of beating up the kid’s dad. It was just so sleazy and so f—ing wrong and yet it’s something that various parents have dreamed of, no doubt. That was an amazing scene. And there’s a scene at the kitchen table with Vince [Vaughn]’s character. All the scenes in the bar, every single one of those I enjoyed thoroughly. I enjoyed that set. We would come in, sit down, and we’d bang them out pretty quick because there was no blocking. It doesn’t get any better than a well-written scene, two actors across a table.
Guerrasio: With something like “True Detective,” where a lot of people didn’t like it, do you get in your head and wonder why it went wrong?
Farrell: You move on. It’s work. Yeah, I’m privileged and paid handsomely and it’s not exactly being in a coal mine, but you still work your arse off and you work as hard as you possibly can and you hope that people connect to it and enjoy it. So yeah, I was disappointed, but I kind of knew it was going to be an uphill struggle because of how strong the first season was. But the level of backlash was kind of fascinating and not fully shocking because I know what the world of the internet is and how it’s a platform to project their greatest anger and frustrations. But it’s also a place where people can wax lyrical and be effusive in their glowing fondness of something. I was very disappointed, man, but I never once regretted doing it. I really didn’t. I believed in it.
Guerrasio: You’ve been in some big movies in your career. Can you compare the scale of “Fantastic Beasts” to anything you’ve done in the past?
Farrell: I remember some of the sets on “Alexander” were extraordinary and it would just take your breath away and on “[Total] Recall” also, but this was next-level. They built two or three blocks of midtown Manhattan in 1926 and it was inhabited with 400 extras and 24 Model Ts and a train system and all that kind of nonsense. It was madness. You would walk into shops and they would have the goods from that period, it was just huge. I didn’t work with any of the beasts, I didn’t have much green screen, but I loved working on it. I’m excited to see it myself.
Guerrasio: Do you feel you’re hitting a second gear in your career right now? You’re making some spot-on choices with “The Lobster,” “Fantastic Beasts,” and the upcoming Sofia Coppola movie, “The Beguiled.”
Farrell: I’m enjoying it. If anything I’m aware that the pressure of the first, I suppose, six or seven years I was in America — I mean that energy of having such a rapid and ascending celebrity — it’s not there anymore. It’s the end of that chapter and now I’m just enjoying the work probably more than I ever have and yet I’m simultaneously less attached to it I think, which is kind of a strange state of grace to be in.