Colin Farrell is in the middle of a career peak. The collective pop culture zeitgeist just isn’t 100% completely aware of it yet, but by this point next year it will be.
Presently, the Irish born actor, who won a Golden Globe for his performance in “In Bruges,” is celebrating a Globe nomination for “The Lobster,” a film he shot 2½ years ago that finally arrived in American theaters in May after issues with the original distributor. Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ poetic dramedy has had remarkable staying power since its Cannes 2015 debut. The film became a surprise art house hit for A24, which came in to shepherd its release and, among other accolades, took the 2016 screenplay honor from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. The fact that the film continues to resonate isn’t lost on Farrell, who currently calls Los Angeles home.
“Films that are as provocative as ‘The Lobster’ and ‘In Bruges,’ when people like them they tend to go deeper because the questions they ask are more existential, they trigger people’s emotions and intellect,” Farrell says. “Potentially, you can carry [those films] with you. That’s one of the things I got from people was, ‘Geez, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. We went and got a drink after and there were four of us and talking about it for two hours.’ And that’s kind of cool.”
Farrell gained 40 pounds to play David, a sheepish, middle-aged man who, after his wife leaves him, is forced to stay at a hotel full of other single people to find another life partner. If he is unsuccessful after 45 days the law says he’ll be turned into an animal of his choice and set free into the wild. The film’s alternative reality purposely leaves more questions than answers, but it’s a stage for Lanthimos to explore the dynamics of modern relationships and social constructs. The transformation Farrell makes is somewhat remarkable, and he’s not sure whether gaining or losing the weight was harder.
“Honestly, when you have to eat 12,000 calories a day and not work out it stops being fun. You feel really gross and then when you start to get fat it becomes less of a challenge because your body is going, ‘Give me more, give me more.’ And taking it off is a nightmare,” Farrell recalls. “It’s just an exercise in discipline both ways. You cut down to 500-800 calories a day and you burn 2,000 and then it comes off. So, it was eight weeks putting it on, eight weeks taking it off. The best thing about taking it off, you know you are heading toward better health.”
This fall, Farrell reunited with Lanthimos for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” which also features Nicole Kidman. He says both films share a strain of “awkwardness.”
“The characters are left of center, every single one of them, but they are more recognizable, more contemporary, even if by virtue of being set in a world that we shot in Cincinnati,” Farrell says. “There is a bit of a shorthand with Yorgos. I don’t always know what he wants, but I’ve existed in the realm of his thought and creative experience for a while now.”
Before the holidays, Farrell also wrapped Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the Civil War-era thriller “The Beguiled.” Farrell steps into the boots (or should that be boot?) of a character Clint Eastwood originated in the 1971 version. He acted again opposite Kidman, whom he’d never met before filming “Sacred Deer.”
“We literally wrapped ‘Sacred Deer’ and said, ‘I’ll see you in three weeks.’ We have this small, little acting troupe of two, her and I,” Farrell jokes. “It’s hyper-dramatic and it’s gonna be good stuff.”
In between both films Farrell promoted “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a global blockbuster that took 5½ months to shoot. He relished that experience but said the creative experiences on “The Lobster,” “Sacred Deer” and “The Beguiled,” which shot for shorter periods, are more up his alley.
“I love being part of the storytelling process. I’m not a big fan of ‘Break for two hours. Go back to your trailer. We’re gonna re-light.’ It’s a downer. I wanna be on the set,” Farrell says. “So that’s the best thing about being on a film on a smaller budgetary scale or schedule. Your trailer is better on the bigger ones. The food is better, but all those bells and whistles don’t matter. At the end of the day, you’re there to do the same thing, to honor the character and try and tell a story, y’know?”