Born March 31, 1976, in Dublin, Ireland; son of Eamon (a professional soccer player) and Rita Farrell; married Amelia Warner (an actress), July 17, 2001 (divorced, November, 2001); children: one son (with model Kim Bordenave). Education: Studied acting at Gaiety School of Drama, Dublin, Ireland.
Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Home—Dublin, Ireland.
Worked as a warehouse painter and busboy in Dublin, Ireland, and performed with a country line–dance group; appeared in the television series Pie in the Sky, 1994; cast in the British Broadcasting Corporation television comedy Ballykissangel; appeared onstage in the play A Little World of Our Own, Donmar Warehouse, 1998. Film appearances include: Drinking Crude, 1997; Ordinary Decent Criminal, 2000; Tigerland, 2000; American Outlaws, 2001; Hart's War, 2002; Minority Report, 2002, Phone Booth, 2003; Veronica Guerin, 2003; S.W.A.T., 2003; Intermission, 2003; Alexander, 2004.
Irish actor Colin Farrell emerged in 2002 as Hollywood's most–sought–after new leading man with roles in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report and a string of other major feature films released over the next year. Farrell had little trouble submerging a thick Irish brogue to play American characters, such as a maverick L.A.P.D. cop in S.W.A.T. and a sleazy, philandering publicist in Phone Booth, both released in 2003. Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum asserted that Hollywood typecasting standards requiring a certain "taciturn iconoclasm suits Farrell's scruffy handsomeness, and the Irish actor seems more at ease than ever portraying rule–breaking American men." Part of Farrell's appeal seemed linked with reports of his penchant for drinking, brawling, and randy public behavior. He admitted to Esquire writer Chris Jones that his infamous, hard–drinking, bad–boy image and fast–moving career were inextricably linked. "I'm chasing something I'll never catch with this job," he said. "I'm chasing a feeling of peace that I don't think I'll ever experience."
Born on March 31, 1976, in Dublin, Ireland, Farrell was the last of four children in his family. His father, Eamon, had been a professional soccer player in Ireland in the 1960s, and his parents' marital union eventually dissolved. Farrell and his siblings lived with their mother in Castleknock, an area of newer homes just outside Dublin, near one of the world's largest parks. But Farrell remembered Castleknock more for its suburban pall, as he said in a Vanity Fair interview with Ned Zeman, and likened it to Los Angeles. "People here are suspect," Farrell told Zeman. "Everyone has a hidden agenda. They live in a bubble, and it's a very nice bubble to live in."
Farrell attended Castleknock College, but eschewed higher educational pursuits for a series of menial jobs. He worked as a warehouse painter, and as a busboy at a Dublin pub called the Elephant & Castle. When a country line–dancing fad swept through Ireland briefly, he joined a touring company and traveled in a van with other teens demonstrating the dances. "I did it until I couldn't look at myself," Farrell recalled in the Vanity Fair interview. "I looked at myself in the mirror and I had a Stetson, and I looked like what the Village People's idea of what a cowboy is, and I was like, 'I can't do this anymore.'"
By his own account, Farrell was a discontented young adult, drinking himself into further despondency. His brother, Eamon, who would become a director of a Dublin performing–arts academy for youth, talked him into taking an acting class, and he went on to classes at the Gaiety School of Drama in the city. He landed a television commercial for his first job, and then a part in a comedy series called Pie in the Sky in 1994. He was soon cast in recurring role in a British Broadcasting Corporation television series, Ballykissangel, about an English priest transferred to a small Irish village. His feature film debut came in a 1997 Irish movie, Drinking Crude.
Farrell moved to London, England, to further his career, and in 1998 was appearing onstage in the play A Little World of Our Own at the über–hip Donmar Warehouse theater. American actor Kevin Spacey saw the play one night, and was impressed with Farrell's performance. Spacey cast Farrell in his Dublin–set gangster flick, Ordinary Decent Criminal, and made the necessary calls back in Hollywood. Farrell soon arrived in Los Angeles, California, taking a room at the Holiday Inn in Santa Monica, and with Spacey's introduction went for a meeting at the talent–firm powerhouse, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Farrell's first meeting there involved some 25 CAA associates assembled to greet him in a conference room. "I rabbited on for 15 minutes," Farrell Vanity Fair's Zeman. "It was scary.… I mean, I was 22. I didn't even know what this was about."
Not one to turn down an invitation, Farrell was soon a fixture at Hollywood A–list parties, and his brazen attitude was not the type of networking that was common to the industry. Determined nevertheless, Farrell learned of auditions to be held in London by Lost Boys / Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher for a small–budget Vietnam–era story, Tigerland. Without having read the script, Farrell talked his way into an audition, and Schumacher sent him away with orders to make an audition tape. Farrell did so with his sister's help—the tape is included on Tigerland's DVD release—and won one of the leads. The 2000 release was not a box–office hit, but earned critical accolades for its gritty look at a United States Army boot camp in 1971 Louisiana. Farrell's character, the Texan rebel of the group, helps some of his fellow grunts avoid being shipped off to the war overseas. To deliver a convincing Texas accent, Farrell submerged his thick Irish brogue by spending a few weeks in Texas and carousing at honky–tonk bars there.
By the spring of 2001, there was a serious press buzz about Farrell. In May, Time International's Jumana Farouky called him "The Man Who Stole The Movies," noting that the relatively unheard–of actor was earning $2 million per picture. "Farrell won't be unknown for long," Farouky predicted, and asserted that in Tigerland, "Farrell displays a kind of cool that's rare in today's leading men. A sensitive brooder with rugged good looks, he's Russell Crowe without the ego." Farouky explained that Farrell's arrival in Hollywood as worries about a potential Screen Actors' Guild strike intensified gave his career an unexpected boon: fears about a walkout made some of the top names choosier about their next parts, and thus other roles were up for grabs for newcomers.
Farrell's next choice of a role did not bode well for his future, but it would be one of the few missteps of his career. He starred as nineteenth–century rebel Jesse James in American Outlaws, and the film bombed at the box office in August of 2001. Critical assessments were scathing, but Farrell had better luck with his next part, which came thanks to the fears about a strike: Edward Norton bowed out of a role in Hart's War, and Farrell was offered it instead. The World War II–era drama was set in a German–run prisoner–of–war camp, and featured him alongside veteran leading man Bruce Willis. Again, the film failed to lure audiences in any great number, but critics liked it and wrote favorably of Farrell's performance.
Farrell was stunned to land a role in Minority Report, director Steven Spielberg's summer of 2002 blockbuster. Again, he won the role after Matt Damon dropped out, and did not have to submit an audition tape, either; in this case, he dropped by Spielberg's office on the set of another movie, shared a sardine sandwich with him, and was offered the role opposite Tom Cruise that same day. Spielberg's picture was based on a story by cult–favorite sci–fi writer Philip K. Dick, and described as "a thriller confident and complex enough to mix mayhem with meditations on predestination and free will" by Newsweek's film reviewer, David Ansen. Minority Report is set in Washington, D.C. in 2054, where Cruise's character is a "pre–crime" detective. Law–enforcement authorities now have the power to stop crime before it happens, thanks to a trio of psychic "Pre–Cogs" submerged in a top–secret tank, but Farrell's Justice Department agent arrives to keep an eye on Cruise's zealous detective. The plot takes a sinister and high–speed turn when Cruise's upright character shows up on one of the pre–cog screens. Though Farrell's role was a somewhat thankless one as merely a foil to the star, the movie was a huge box–office draw, and helped make the Irish actor a household name.
By early 2003 Farrell's asking price had climbed to $5 million per picture, and the caliber of roles offered him continued to escalate as well. He starred next in The Recruit, opposite Al Pacino, as a whiz–kid from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recruited by Pacino's Central Intelligence Agency veteran. The film opened as the No. 1 box–office draw its first weekend, but his next film, the comic–book adaptation Daredevil with Ben Affleck, fared less well. Farrell sported a shaved head and a bulls–eye target on his forehead, the latter an eerie harbinger for his next role.
In Phone Booth, Farrell played a man trapped a phone booth by a sniper's cross–hatch. It was also the first film in which he received top billing, and was expected to carry with a minimum of special effects. Farrell was cast by Tigerland director Schumacher as New York media publicist Stu Shepard, a man of dubious moral character with a penchant for expensive suits and waifish, up–and–coming actresses. Hoping to romance one of these clients, Stu calls her daily from a pay phone so that his wife will not see the calls on his cell phone. She spurns him, but then the phone rings, and Stu answers it. In short order, the man on the other end reveals far too many unsavory details about Stu's life for the call to be a prank, and tells him to reform. The caller also trains a gun on him, and Farrell's character is then pinned inside the booth as prostitutes, the police, the media, and finally his wife clamor for him to come out. The part, with just one location to keep the viewer's interest, was a challenging one for any actor, and critics asserted that Farrell handled it masterfully. "Slippery and defensive, with panicky eyes and a touch of beard accenting his chin, Farrell jabbers and implodes.…" declared Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman. "He has the intensity to play two conflicting states at once—cockiness and anxiety—and the flow of the movie is in watching the former give way to the latter."
In all, Farrell appeared in six movies released in 2003, including S.W.A.T., a genre action–thriller featuring yet another example of Hollywood's penchant for formulaic action movies with a Los Angeles Police Department plotline, and Veronica Guerin, Schumacher's tale of a slain Irish journalist. He had a supporting part in Intermission, filmed in Dublin, carrying one of eleven linked subplots related to the break–up of a couple, and was also to appear in The Home at the End of the World, an adaptation of a novel by Michael Cunningham. Oliver Stone cast Farrell in the title role in Alexander, a sweeping, big–budget epic about the Macedonian king who conquered large parts of the known world in the fourth century B.C.
With a price now reportedly in the $8 million range, Farrell seems relatively unaffected by his stardom. Profanity–laced interviews are still the norm, and his reputation for carousing remains: in the summer of 2003 he reportedly spent $20,000 at a New York City strip club in a single evening. His entourage, however, often includes family members such as his brother, Eamon, and sister, Catherine, an actress. Another sister, Claudine, serves as his assistant. Farrell has been romantically linked with a number of actresses and celebrities, and was even wed briefly to Amelia Warner for four months in 2001. Model Kim Bordenave, 33, gave birth to Farrell's first child in September of 2003, but the pair were never a couple. He bought a Los Angeles home for her and the child, and keeps one of his own back in Ireland, in the Dublin section of Irishtown near the city's Grand Canal. "I'm fairly low–maintenance," the actor, who obtained the first credit card of his life in 2002, told Vanity Fair's Zeman. "Packets of smokes and a few pints and I'm a happy man. I have all this [money] that I never thought I'd have. And I wouldn't know what to do with it, apart from just let it sit there. People will think it's from me being smart, but it's from me not knowing what to do with it. They pay me this money for a job that I would gladly do for minimum wage, and it's insane."
Economist, April 19, 2003.
Entertainment Weekly, November 3, 2000, p. 23; August 24, 2001, p. 103; February 15, 2002, p. 42; February 14, 2003, pp. 8–9; April 11, 2003, p. 52; April 18, 2003, p. 16; August 15, 2003, p. 50.
Esquire, September 2003, pp. 162–167.
Film Journal International, September 2001, p. 65.
Newsweek, February 18, 2002, p. 69; July 1, 2002, p. 57.
New York Times, February 2, 2003, p. 1; February 16, 2003, p. 11.
People, March 3, 2003, pp. 61–62; May 12, 2003, p. 114; August 11, 2003, p. 92.
Time International, May 28, 2001, p. 69.
Vanity Fair, July 2002, pp. 106–110, 156–158.
Variety, August 5, 2002, p. 11; February 17, 2003, p. 39.