When Irish actor Colin Farrell, 37, first arrived in America 14 years ago, he earned the respect of such A-list directors as Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick. But at the same time he got a reputation for drinking and being a playboy, and as he explains in this interview being a father of two has gained perspective on his libidinous past and emerged as one of the finest actors working today. He was heartbreaking as P. L. Travers’ alcoholic father in Saving Mr. Banks, and in Winter’s Tale, a sweeping love story about a pull so strong it leads a man to time-travel a hundred years into the future to fulfill his destiny, the very definition of a romantic hero. With his little Spanish he confesses he travels frequently to our country as he is in love with the city of Seville
Q: You seem to like movies with tales.
CF: Wagging tails, not Winter’s tales, yeah. (laughter)
Q: What tale did you like when you grew up?
CF: The children’s book of Oscar Wilde, and W.B. Bates’ children’s writings as well, Hans Christian Andersen I grew up reading and I do love tales, I do love tales that exist and the tales that you are talking about, they follow the same kind of conventions and the same kind of emotional or psychological plans that we all experience in our lives, but they removed them and put them in a place that’s unrecognizable, so they actually go in deeper because they free us up to think, oh this isn’t real, so you are not concerned about whether you go with whatever is being completely presented to you, so I love the idea of tales that have a mythological aspect to them and a more fantastical aspect to them as well. And also the idea of immersing yourself in another world, because tales like the ones you speak of are more akin to the dream world that we live in, rather than this empirical world that at times can be boring and how physically structured it is.
Q: Any Spanish tale?
CF: My tales in Spain are different (Laughs) I’ve being in Spain many times is a country that I really like. A few months ago I went to Seville and I had a great time, what a city. My Spanish is very limited but every time I have an opportunity I go there to enjoy that wonderful city
Q: What are miracles for you?
CF: The word miracle has a particular energy to it and it kind of seems to lend itself to the notion of something beautiful happening that for all that we know about the logic of life and the physics of the world that we live in, possibly shouldn’t happen. And it’s something that is in the low percentile taking place and that’s a good thing, and it seems like a miracle. So there’s more, I don’t know if I believe water into wine and all that stuff, but I mean, life existing, the whole thing, us being here, moving at eight thousand miles an hour, is that how we are moving? I think we are moving at eight thousand miles an hour. East. Maybe a bit more than that. But that’s the speed we are traveling right now and that’s kind of a miracle. Or not. It’s science, so I don’t know, are each mutually exclusive? Science itself is a bit of a miracle. So that’s the way of saying no, I don’t believe in miracles. (laughter)
Q: Love at first sight, at first listen, do you think that ever really happens? Did that ever happen to you?
CF: It all exists, doesn’t it really? All of it, love at first sight, love that grows over time, arranged marriages that should have probably never happened in the first place that somehow forty years later, they look at each other and go wow, I am really glad that that happened. (laughter) But I believe at love at first sight and love at 147th sight, and all of it.
Q: There are a lot of movies that are about love, but this film, tell me if I am right or wrong, kind of defines love. I mean, you two have to buy into that.
CF: Love can only be defined through each person’s personal experience and personal expression resulting from that.
Q: I don’t know if I am mistaken, but is that a Carpe Diem tattoo?
CF: Oh yeah. I felt like I needed to sober up. (laughter) By the time we got to “R.” (laughter) Fuck!
Q: Do you think you did live the moment?
CF: Yeah, very much so. I mean the whole thing about live each day as if it’s your last, there’s a kind of a trap, there’s a kind of a wormhole there, cause if you live each day like it’s your last, you may not live very long. It’s a bit of a hectic pace to live your life, but I did for a while anyway, and with a miracle, what would I do? Wow, I would turn you into chocolate and I would eat you. (laughter) You do something significant, whether it be with the world and all the pain that exists in it. I have two miracles, one would be to change the world and the other to eat you. (laughter)
Q: You changed your life, and I can see that. You are choosing different movies, you are choosing a different look, even the look that you have today is different than a few years ago. Do you feel that? Do you feel like you are going through changing time and do you have a new object, something to reach? Do you find peace?
CF: More peace than I had thankfully. You should kind of ideally, as the tide turns and the days pass and the weeks and the months and the years, ideally you would find yourself not only reaching in a form of over-extension, I mean that wouldn’t be ideal, forcing the issue, but find that there’s more peace in your life ideally as those that you love find peace in their lives, and that you garner some sense of peace from that and also your own maybe inner solace. But yeah, I had made some significant changes in my life eight, nine years ago and resulting from those changes I have been able to find more peace in my days.
Q: And different movies.
CF: And different movies. I don’t know how I had so many fucking guns in films, I am still not sure how that happened. Kind of infantile wishful fulfillment. But I hate guns, and I am not a violent person, and yet I have hit nine women in films, (laughter) and shot so many people, (laughter) but I think I am just getting a little bit more okay with where my tastes have probably always lay, but yet I just find the simple yet complex interactions between human beings without any of the kind of accoutrements that modern and certainly urban films that take place around Law Enforcement or criminal world, I find that less and less interesting.
Q: So, it’s funny and they work with kids. You have a good chemistry with kids on screen, so what can you tell me about your experience with Saving Mr. Banks and this movie, in those terms?
CF: Kids, people say that you should never work with animals and children, and that’s bullshit. You must only work with children because you can only do eight hour days, (laughter) and there’s such a lack of artifice with children as well, most of the time and a lack of pretense and a lack of ambition or competition as well. And so I had such a blast working with Annie Rose Buckley who played my daughter on Saving Mr. Banks, and the two girls that played Jessica’s sister and Jennifer’s daughter. And on this film they were so easy and they drive the scene, really, and whenever you are working with a little person, they do, they kind of drive the scene and you just go off them, and that’s the smart thing to do anyway, because children are more infinitely interesting in how they act than adults who have been beaten for years into submission trying to fit in and you are often more confused as a twenty-five year old, a thirty-year old, as to who you really are than you were at five or six, before you start molding yourself into aligning with a particular sect or a particular aspect of community or society or class or whatever it may be. So I love working with children, but they have all been very kind to me, the children I have worked with. Cause children are terrifying, they are like dogs, if a child doesn’t like you, you are fucked.
They can see through you straight away. And so they have all been really good with me.
Q: No, like in the movie, never get old?
CF: No, not at all. I think the most beautiful aspect of the cycle of life is change. I really do. So I am open to, I look at the three decades that I have already lived through, and towards the end of my fourth decade, 40s, 50s, 60s…
Q: This is a different kind of proposal for a February 14th movie, so was this the motivation for you, to make this movie? It’s not like cute guy meets cute girl, and they have problems and at the end, get married. It’s different.
CF: I thought that’s what we were doing. (laughter) This cute guy and this cute girl and in the end they get married. I just read it and it was really old-fashioned and it really lacked cynicism and it’s not what you would call a cool script, it’s not hip in any way, and there was something kind of so throwback about it and so pure and sentimental, I had never done anything like this and I believed completely in the character’s journey.