For an actor of just 31, Colin Farrell has squeezed an awful lot of “bad boy” into his brief career.
Two-fisted movie roles in films such as “Intermission,” “Hart’s War,” “American Outlaws,” “Alexander” and “The New World” aren’t the half of it. A four-month long marriage, a much-publicized sex video sold by another woman, a stint in rehab - he has worn the “bad boy” label with a just a hint of Irish pride.
Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Tom Wilkinson, Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins
(Weinstein Company; US theatrical: 18 Jan 2008 (Limited release); 2008)
But for his first-ever shot at making a movie with Woody Allen, the Dubliner found himself cast against type. As Terry, a mild-mannered mechanic who dreams of settling down with his girlfriend, he’s the moral center of “Cassandra’s Dream.” Ewan McGregor plays Ian, the overly ambitious, overly striving older brother who gets the duo in over their heads when they take on job they’re utterly unqualified for - killing a man who might bring ruin to their wealthy uncle. But Terry, a soft-hearted gambler, is the one who realizes this first.
Farrell is, Sara Cardace notes in her New York Magazine review of the film, “way more believable as Ewan McGregor’s loser sibling than he’ll ever be as a bronze god-hero.”
We reached Farrell, Irish flip and quite funny off-the-cuff, in New York.
You and Ewan McGregor had to fake a lifetime of being brothers in this movie. What did you do to allow you to pull that off?
We went bowling. And go-cart racin’. No, seriously, we didn’t do anything. I went over to his house in London and we shot the breeze and talked about what it might have been like for these two brothers growing up, you know, tried to find a basis for understanding between them, what the status was in their relationship. Who is the provider and who was the receiver? Just how they related, in broad strokes.
Would how they relate be because of the age difference between them or what? Ewan’s character is the guy Terry, my character, went to all his life for advice, for guidance.
Your first chance to act for Woody Allen, and he’s cast you against type.
I know! The reason you do this, and it’s a stock answer, but there you go. You do this to work with Woody.
I got to read the script before we went to work and I definitely loved the character, who’s a bit different, for me, kind of the conscience of the piece. I love the journey he goes on. It’s a fall from grace story, a grace that’s not realized. He’s got it all. They’ve got it all. Only looking back, after things have turned to (garbage) does he realize, in a moment of clarity, that they did have it all, or everything they needed in life. But they reached too far, stepped over their own moral boundaries.
I don’t know if there’s a message in there. I suppose it’s about how to reflect on your life, not by looking backward, not thinking too much about what you don’t have, but by focusing on where you find yourself in the present.
But Woody doesn’t let you be funny.
I know, I know. Could’ve been a comedy, which would’ve been a whole new level of nervousness, trying to make Woody Allen laugh.
But you can be funny. We’ve all seen it.
Haha! So I’m told. Every few years. By some crazy person.
When I read the script, though, it was pretty clear that it doesn’t have any comic ambitions at all, this piece. A tragic melodrama is what we went for.
I don’t go into this with an objective or a goal to get anything specific from it. I just wanted to have a decent working experience with a true legend of the business, to do a good tale, well told. That’s who Woody Allen is to me. First and foremost, he’s a great storyteller with a keen eye for human behavior, the folly and the tragedy of existing in this world. With that in mind, knowing his body of work, his reputation, when you get the opportunity, the majority of actors just jump at it. It’s as close to a no-brainer as I’ve had in my career. I didn’t care if he was offering a comedy or a drama.
So you knew his reputation. Famous for the way he treats the script (not a big fan of improvising), the way he shoots (lots of wide “master” shots, quicker than shooting many close-ups), for his phobias about germs and water and the like. I’m watching the scenes with you and Ewan on a sailboat in the middle of a bay, and thinking, “How many life jackets does Woody Allen have on in that chase (camera) boat?”
A chase boat? Are you kidding me? I think he was on shore with a pair o’ binoculars. OK, maybe it was a very, very high-powered telescope, so that he could do a little bit of lip reading.
Him, on the water? I don’t know. Seasickness would’ve been the least of our worries!
At least you looked at home on the water, tiller in hand, wind on your beam…
What’s a tiller? No idea what you’re talking about. Was that the thing I had in my hand? Steering the boat? Haha! Oooh, it was grand. We went out a couple of times on a boat with these lads in England on a very big bay and learned how to keep the bloody thing in a straight line for 40 seconds at a time. Because that’s all it took per take. Forty seconds. After 40 seconds, we’d be pointed who knows where? The magic of the movies!