One last smash-up

An older, wiser Colin Far­rell re­calls the way things used to be with Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IWON’T HEAR a word against Colin Far­rell. Some mal­con­tents may find it an­noy­ing that the en­tire coun­try bows down when Mr Far­rell flies into town. Just look at the cov­er­age he re­ceived when at­tend­ing the Dublin pre­miere of To­tal

Re­call last week. Stamps were is­sued. Planes wrote his name in the skies above O’Connell Street. You gen­er­ally need to be a fe­male boxer to at­tract that de­gree of ac­claim.

Quite right too. He’s been a star for 10 years and, throughout that pe­riod, he has re­mained the most ac­com­mo­dat­ing of gentle­men. There have been a fair few racy sto­ries: a drink-and-drugs melt­down; the odd stalker; the in­evitable sex tape. But he never at­tempts to shift re­spon­si­bil­ity and he al­ways (well, nearly al­ways) proves happy to anatomise the lat­est cri­sis.

“There are times when I mope and gripe about not want­ing to do this or that,” he says. “But they seem to be get­ting less and less. I’m run­ning out of road and now I’m just glad to do any­thing. I don’t ex­actly look around and think, look how lucky I am, but I do know that a lot of peo­ple, through cir­cum­stance, un­dergo a lot of hard­ship. I do a job I love do­ing. I get to travel. So, I have to talk to you about my films. That’s so try­ing and trau­matic. Ha ha!”

The path to fame is well known. Raised in Castle­knock, mem­ber of a com­fort­able, close fam­ily, he spent a spell in the Gai­ety School of Act­ing be­fore catch­ing his first break in the TV se­ries Bal­lykissan­gel. In 2000, he edged to­wards the big time with Joel Schu­macher’s

Tiger­land. Demon­strat­ing a keen eye and good taste, he went on to work for such demigods as Steven Spiel­berg, Michael Mann, Ter­rence Mal­ick, Peter Weir and Terry Gil­liam.

Mean­while, he man­aged to scare up the sort of glee­ful, tobacco-stained no­to­ri­ety that used to fol­low around vet­eran (ex­cuse the cliche) hell-rais­ers such as Richard Har­ris and Richard Bur­ton.

Colin is now cleaner than a sur­gi­cal scalpel. Well-scrubbed, hair in or­der, he sits alertly up­right in a plush cor­ner of the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel. He doesn’t mind the press palaver, but he’s ea­ger to get home to his two boys: James, son of model Kim Bor­de­nave, and Henry, born to ac­tor Alicja Bach­leda-Cu­rus.

Would it be naïve to sug­gest that hav­ing chil­dren changes a fel­low?

“That’s an ideal that’s not re­alised as of­ten as it should be. You see peo­ple all over the world hav­ing kids and it hasn’t changed them at all. That’s to the detri­ment of them and the kids. For the first three years of James’s life I was say­ing: ‘Oh, I’m go­ing to be his friend. It’s not go­ing to change me.’ We re­sist change. We’re like school­yard bul­lies that way. Then I made changes in my own life. The fear of not be­ing around long enough for him be­gan to worry me.”

Since he’s brought it up (as I said, I won’t hear a word against Colin), let’s pon­der that great per­sonal ful­crum in his life. He seemed to hit sev­eral brick walls si­mul­ta­ne­ously in late 2005. Hooked on var­i­ous ex­otic chem­i­cals and more mun­dane stuff that comes in bot­tles, Far­rell checked him­self into re­hab. At about the same time, he en­dured wretched re­views for his per­for­mance in Oliver Stone’s undis­ci­plined Alexan­der. Speak­ing to this writer then, he re­marked: “Oh man. They were just so per­sonal!” He smiles awk­wardly at the mem­ory. “I re­ally felt that way, man,” he says. “It re­ally was per­sonal. The life in­forms the art. Then all that in­verts and the art in­forms the life. You try to have a healthy re­la­tion­ship be­tween work and home life. As Mar­got Fonteyn said, it’s hard to sep­a­rate the dancer from the dance.”

Far­rell felt him­self try­ing to re-con­nect with the guy who, a decade be­fore, had, for no ob­vi­ous rea­son, de­cided to wan­der into act­ing classes.

“And why did I go back the sec­ond day?” he pon­ders. “I had to see if I could re­align my­self with that fel­low. There re­ally is a child­ish thing that gets to be ex­plored through the dra­matic arts. As the years go by it comes in a more ma­ture con­tainer. But it re­mains play­ful.”

He has cer­tainly at­tempted to stretch him­self over the in­ter­ven­ing years. He rel­ished Martin Mc­Don­agh’s pro­fane po­etry while mak­ing In Bruges and won a Golden Globe for his ef­forts. He tramped across the steppes in Peter Weir’s The Way Back. He was the best thing in the broad com­edy

Hor­ri­ble Bosses. Box-of­fice smashes have been rel­a­tively few and far be­tween. But Far­rell has gained in­creased re­spectabil­ity.

“You check your imag­i­na­tion in at the door when you’re eight or nine,” he says. “It tends to go to sleep. Act­ing should bring that back to life. And that can be within the con­tainer of a heavy drama. It’s not just wear­ing a pil­low for a belly and hav­ing a comb-over in

Hor­ri­ble Bosses. Move­ment is play. Ex­plo­ration is play. Hey, Shack­le­ton wasn’t hav­ing a good time. But he was still play­ing.”

So, he seems to have a firm grasp on his mojo. But I won­der if he re­ally wishes the boozy years had never hap­pened. It is, of course, nice to be nice. He must, nonethe­less, have some juicy mem­o­ries of days lived in dou­ble vi­sion.

“No. I don’t re­ally wish that hadn’t hap­pened. I had some great times,” he says calmly. “Some of them were in early houses

prop­a­gated on a bed of lies.” One can’t help but be im­pressed at how deeply Colin has thought all this through. He seems to have built him­self a fairly solid plat­form from which to launch the rest of his life. Yet he does not ap­pear to have fallen for any cults, gu­rus or su­per­nat­u­ral crutches. The most con­tro­ver­sial chap­ter in the fa­mous 12-Step-Pro­gramme to so­bri­ety – orig­i­nally pro­posed by Al­co­holics Anony­mous – re­mains the need to recog­nise a higher power. If one doesn’t be­lieve in such a thing, must one re­main drunk? “I have an un­com­fort­able re­la­tion­ship to the world’s

reli­gions,” Far­rell says. “I don’t rail against them. Cer­tain sys­tems of be­lief and cer­tain ma­te­rial things get blamed for man’s mis­be­haviour. Money is the root of all evil? No, it’s not. It’s man’s greed. If we didn’t have a cur­rency on this planet, we’d be fuck­ing killing each other over bot­tle caps. If bras were the cur­rency, we’d be fight­ing over bras.”

So, he’s not ex­actly against re­li­gion. But he’s not on­board ei­ther?

“The idea of or­gan­ised re­li­gion is a tricky one. But I do have cer­tain be­liefs. They are my per­sonal be­liefs. The ‘higher power’ was my son. They were very cool in my re­hab. They said: ‘If you don’t be­lieve in God, that’s fine. Your higher power can be your own de­sire to live.’”

The life he ended up with turned out to be a tad com­pli­cated. He might have been mar­ried to Amelia Warner, an ac­tor and mu­si­cian, for a few months in the early part of the cen­tury – she now good-na­turedly de­nies the union was ever le­gal – but he has failed to make his way up the aisle in the in­terim. Both James, who has a se­ri­ous ge­netic dis­or­der, and Henry, now just two years old, live with their re­spec­tive moth­ers in dif­fer­ent cor­ners of Los Angeles.

“They are both deadly,” he says of his sons. “James is about 25 min­utes away from my house and Henry about 10 min­utes away. So, I sel­dom get to pick up both in one day. The lo­gis­tics are com­pli­cated, but not in terms of where they are, just in terms of who’s avail­able on what day and at what time.”

In a few months’ time, the pub­lic­ity ma­chine for Seven Psychopaths, Martin Mc­Don­agh’s twisty, agree­ably de­ranged (and bril­liantly ti­tled) fol­low-up to In Bruges, will kick into fu­ri­ous ac­tion. In that film, he stars along­side Christo­pher Walken, Sam Rock­well and Woody Har­rel­son.

“Martin is an in­cred­i­bly unique writer,” he says. “I have never read any­thing that matches the idio­syn­cra­sies with which he writes. The script grabs you, beats you up, throws you around the room and then dumps you back in your chair.” Be­fore that, we have to dis­patch To­tal

Re­call. A re­make of the brash Paul Ver­ho­even sci­ence-fic­tion flick from 1992, the pic­ture finds Colin play­ing a hum­ble miner who, af­ter un­der­go­ing mem­ory im­plan­ta­tion, gets caught up in a daz­zlingly com­plex con­spir­acy. It looks to have been fun to make. Then again, work­ing with all that tech­nol­ogy must have ex­haust­ing.

“Ac­tu­ally it is fun,” he says. “There’s an aca­demic, sci­en­tific thing that comes into it that you don’t get in dra­mas. In dra­mas, you do the same scene 20 times and do it dif­fer­ently each time. But, do­ing an ac­tion scene, you try to do it the same way 20 times. It doesn’t leave as much room open for in­ter­pre­ta­tion. Run­ning, jump­ing and grab­bing the top of a wall is al­ways run­ning, jump­ing and grab­bing the top of a wall. But that re­ally is a chal­lenge.”

Then of course there’s the ar­du­ous busi­ness of pro­mot­ing the thing.

“Yeah. Ha ha! Oh no, an­other ques­tion about my $125 mil­lion film? How aw­ful.” on Capel Street and oth­ers were in the Play­boy man­sion. Nei­ther was more fun than the other, but one was the ar­che­typal teenage boy’s dream – I don’t mean the early houses. I had great nights and days and morn­ings. And then I didn’t. It just be­came about some­thing else. By the end, I was liv­ing with shack­les that I put on my own wrists.”

I guess there’s not much point hav­ing fun when hav­ing fun ceases to be fun.

“Yeah. It gets bor­ing when you’re drink­ing and do­ing drugs like I was. You are not in­ter­ested in any­thing. All you are in­ter­ested in is when you can get the next hit. Your life is

irish­times.com/cul­ture

“They were cool in my re­hab. They said: ‘If you don’t be­lieve in God, your higher power can be your own de­sire to live’”

“We re­sist change. We’re like school­yard bul­lies that way”: Colin Far­rell (above) in Len Wise­man’s re­make of Paul Ver­ho­even’s 1990 film of the same name and (right) on the red car­pet with co-star Kate Beck­in­sale

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