— LOS ANGELES - Colin Farrell was pacing back-and-forth in front of the coffee table in his suite as I entered the room. The cloud of cigarette smoke trailing him totally engulfed me and “In Bruges” writer/director Martin McDonagh, who was seated on the sofa. At first glance it looked as though Farrell, whose reputation as a Hollywood bad boy made him tabloid fodder during the early days of his career, was a bit nervous. I quickly found out, however, that wasn’t the case.
Dressed in a long-sleeved white T-shirt, a black vest and ripped jeans, Farrell looked at me with those irresistible puppy-dog eyes and said:
“I’m just going to wander because it will make me seem more interesting.”
Farrell is so intriguing and arresting that there really ought to be a law against him. He couldn’t have been more interesting if he had done this interview standing on his head with a pink boa around his neck.
Sure, he has those dashing good looks that are even more appealing on a guy who more often than not chooses not to follow the rules. But Farrell also possesses a quick wit, the courage of his convictions and a sensitivity that seeps through even when he’s dropping F bombs.
And he lands a bunch of those in “In Bruges,” his new dark comedy about a pair of hit men who are sent to Bruges to chill out after a difficult gig in London. Farrell plays Ray, a young and restless chap who is most unhappy about being banished to a “s--thole” like Bruges. Brendan Gleeson plays his kinder, gentler partner who tries to persuade Ray to soak up a bit of the local culture. Bruges, however, became increasingly more interesting after their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) ordered another hit.
A career high for Farrell
Farrell’s performance is inarguably the best of his career.
“He brings a coolness, a sexiness and a danger and all those kinds of things,” McDonagh said. “In this film he opened himself up to going to the saddest most vulnerable place that a human being could be in. Tearing that kind of performance out of him was beautiful. It was stunning. It was everything the character needed and more — much more really.”
Farrell, who hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2006’s disappoint “Miami Vice” remake with Jamie Foxx, said “In Bruges” made him laugh out loud when he first read the script.
“It was the best thing I’d ever read,” Farrell, 31, said of the film that opened up this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “On one hand, I felt I understood the characters and understood their way of communicating and, on another hand, I couldn’t figure out how the hell an actor could say any of these words because some of them were quite outlandish.”
One of the reasons Farrell disappeared for a bit after “Miami Vice” was to reassess his career. “I’m just trying to figure it out,” the now reformed Farrell said. “I use work kind of selfishly to try and understand myself and the world around me and all that kind of stuff. I also use myself and the world around me to try and understand the work so it’s kind of mutually generous in that way. I had a chance after ‘Miami Vice’ to take a little time off and I took a little time off. There was no major orchestration and I’m being really genuine because I know it sounds like I’m just saying it for saying its sake, but I never really had a master plan. I’ve just been very lucky and have had a load of opportunities.
“I just took the time to try and figure out what it all means to me.”
Fatherhood comes first
Another reason was to spend time with his 4-year-old son James that he had with former girlfriend Kim Bordenave, an American model. James was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 1, but Farrell kept that news under wraps until last year. Despite the challenges of rearing a child with that disease Farrell says that James is the biggest blessing in his life.
“No, he’s much better than I am or was,” Farrell said wistfully when asked if he saw a lot of himself in his young son. “He’s just perfect to be honest. I really hope if he’s anything of me he’s whatever the best of me is. But, I have time to destroy him still!”
But now that he’s back, the Dublin-born actor, who initially burst onto the scene with an impressive performance in “Tigerland” eight years ago, finds acting a little more therapeutic than he did previously.
“For me over the course of doing it I have found that there’s sort of a breaking down of the personal fourth wall,” Farrell said regarding his career path. “I get that the world is a stage and we’re all f---king actors on it. There’s a personal fourth wall that I know I’ve carried in life. Through a film and kind of through the safety of existing through characters, you get to kind of channel that down a little bit.”
Farrell enjoys scaring himself
And he’s starting to give a (F bomb) — somewhat — about what other people think of his work. Farrell said putting himself out there as he does makes him a little vulnerable. He admitted he hasn’t always made the right choices, but that he’s always going to go after the roles that scare him, like Ray.
“‘In Bruges’ scarred the s--t out of me,” Farrell said. ‘Alexander’ was the most f--king frightening thing ever. I mean that’s what it is — it’s all just an adventure. It really is. It’s born of curiosity. Although I’m curious about myself and probably always will be, I’m curious about others and I get to kind of shadow that wall in between myself and others and at times become something of an every man.”
Although he still enjoys throwing back a few ales at the pub, Farrell is now considered a reformed bad boy. He can now do the math. Fewer women, less partying and no scrapes with the law equals not so many headlines. He’s at that age when people start thinking about their own mortality, realizing that there really needs to be a method to the madness once you plant a seed.
Farrell, who will next be seen in “Pride and Glory,” obviously finds comfort in exploring himself. And he should. He’s a fascinating cat — maybe too much so for his own peace of mind. Perhaps that’s the real reason why he was pacing the room.
Some people simply think better on their feet.
Miki Turner is currently co-executive producing a documentary on girls and gangs with actor/director Bill Duke. She can be reached at email@example.com.