ESQ&A: Colin Farrell

The Irish actor on The Lobster, cravats and why Paul Newman's his inspiration

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Colin Farrell's latest film The Lobster is set in a dystopian future where single people must check into a place known as The Hotel. Once there, they must find a partner within 45 days or risk being transformed into an animal of their choosing.

We sat down with the In Bruges star to discuss his proudest career moments, hugging Pierce Brosnan and being an Irish actor in Hollywood.

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If you were checked into The Hotel, which animal would you choose?
I have flying dreams so maybe I’d pick an apex predator so I could stay in the air for a while – an eagle or a peregrine falcon, perhaps.

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What’s the proudest moment of your career?
The day we wrapped Alexander actually. We were on the border of Laos at the Mekong River – I was a 25-year-old kid from Dublin surrounded by loads of other Irish actors who were all broken. I remember going up the way feeling a bit emotional and having a smoke, looking out over the river and thinking ‘whatever happens with the film, we’ve achieved something here.’ I mean, we all know what happened with the film...

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What one style item should every man have in his wardrobe?
Maybe a cravat – and he never has to wear it, but just to know it’s there taunting him over whether or not he’s bold enough to take it out in this temporary world of staid fashion that we live in.

Do you have any people you look to for style inspiration?
I don’t really have any style inspiration. But Paul Newman would certainly be an inspiration for any man who wants to live his life the way he wants to live it. And not in a way that makes it sound like I don’t give a fuck, but literally from his marriage to his career as a racecar driver to what he did with Newman’s Own and the Hole in the Wall Gang; this is a man who left a beautiful imprint on the planet and the lives of those around him.


What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
I remember bumping into Pierce Brosnan, ten years ago or so – I had a meeting in Los Angeles and remember him coming out and wrapping his arms around me, giving me a big hug. He just told me to keep being bold. I don’t know what I’ve done with that but I remember thinking that was a really lovely thing to say to a young man.


Which character of yours has stayed with you for the longest?
I’d probably have to say the character in Ondine – not so much the character, but because my youngest son Henry was born of that experience: or as I call him, the wrap gift that keeps on giving. I met Henry’s mum on that film, so that was the most profound experience in regard to how it’s affected the rest of my life.


You’re on a desert island – what are your book, album and film of choice?
I should probably pick something more dense, but I don’t think I could ever get bored of reading Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. Oh, it’s beautiful. It’s just ten letters of correspondence with a young man who was investigating whether or not he could become a poet himself, published by this young guy when Rilke died. Album? Astral Weeks by Van Morrison, and film would be Withnail & I – it just doesn’t seem to be diminishing after any of the 30, 40 viewings I’ve had.


Who’s the closest you’ve had to a mentor?
I haven’t seen him in a while – and he’d scoff if he heard me say this – but I’ve had some really good chats with Christopher Plummer. Back in the day when I was drinking, and he was drinking more than he is now, we’d stay up ‘til the wee hours in the bar. As I said, he’d scoff now – he’d be like “We were talking about women; what do you mean mentor?” But I have some lovely memories of spending time with Christopher.
 

If you could save only one item from a burning building, what would it be?
A carpet because I think people should build their lives from the ground on up.
 

Do you ever get starstruck?
Not really. Maybe if I’d ever had the chance to meet Paul Newman – and I was a bit starstruck when I met Elizabeth Taylor for the first time – but not anyone really contemporary. Not that I don’t have respect for people’s work.
 

What’s it like being an Irish actor in Hollywood?
I honestly don’t think about it. It’s really lovely going home; I’m always filled with humble gratitude over how decent the people I meet who know who the fuck I am are when they see me on the streets there. I think of it in Dublin, but in Los Angeles [where Farrell lives full-time], I kind of just get on with it. It’s a pretty normal life there.


You’ve achieved a lot but do you have any more aspirations?
I always say I’m only doing acting until I figure out what I want to do. Part of me knows I’m hitting 40, but another part of me feels like a teenager. I’m okay to see how the road unwinds before me.

The Lobster is out 16 October

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MORE ESQ&A:

Ethan Hawke
Michael Douglas
Henry Cavill
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