Colin Farrell doesn’t like guns. In fact he actually hates even holding them he says, which is ironic because as he admits himself he often ends up doing just that in his films. 

“I’ve gotten bored with carrying guns I think,” the action hero actor who has played a hit man in films like Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges tells the Irish Voice during a press event last Saturday for his new animated film 'Epic.'

He’s surprised how often it’s ended up happening. “I think it might have been some fulfillment things as a kid or something. But I’ve carried a lot of guns and I don’t even like them, I hate the things,” he said.

“But what this family film role means for my wider career I don’t know. I’m just doing different things.”

In person Farrell is nervy and quick-witted and visibly shy, not a bit like the silent tough guys he often plays onscreen. Last weekend he was in New York as part of the lineup of actors (including fellow Irishman Chris O’Dowd) at the luxurious Mandarin Hotel on Columbus Circle to promote 'Epic,' the new animated film gearing up to be a summer box office smash (they hope) by the makers of 'Ice Age.' 

Outside the entrance to the hotel eight black limousines have already arrived from the film’s premiere, which wrapped up just an hour earlier. Farrell steps out first, and each time I see him up close I find myself wondering at many of the film roles he’s signed up for throughout his career. 

The truth is Farrell is much more Shakespeare than 'Total Recall.' When he’s given a role that asks him to do more than glower moodily or shoot people he consistently excels. That’s why it’s such a treat to see his quietly soulful work in 'Epic,' where he plays a character called Ronin, the heroic protector of the magic forest kingdom.

It’s about as far from a fast talking tough guy as it’s possible to get, and Farrell is delighted to have the opportunity. 

“It’s lovely to be able to do something my kids can go and see for sure,” he says. “I have two sons so it will be nice if they like it. I mean they don’t have to like it of course. If they don’t like it the first time I’ll tell them it gets better with the second viewing. 

“They do like 'Ice Age' ('Epic' is made by the same director Chris Wedge), so it would be typical if the first film I do they will be like, ‘Oh no, it’s sh**e, can you put 'Ice Age' back on please?’”

Farrell laughs because he seems to suspect there’s a distinct possibility that that’s how his boys James and Henry will respond. Nothing’s cool when your dad’s in it after all.

In a typical once upon a time fashion 'Epic' opens when a teenager, known by her initials MK (played by Amanda Seyfried), finds herself transported to a forest kingdom where a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is taking place. There’s nothing for her to do but band together with the unlikely group of characters fighting to save their world (and ours). 

Since his star turn in 'Bridesmaids,' Chris O’Dowd has become one of the most sought after screen actors in the world. But being Irish, he seems to have taken it all in his stride, and he entertains himself on Saturday by making outrageous comments in a deeply serious tone. 

Asked if he was attracted to the film’s message, he nods wisely.

“Normally I hate kids, so doing something they are going to be able to watch is very pleasant. But just to keep up with tradition I will be at every screening cursing in the background,” he says. 

It takes a second or two for the people at the press conference to work out if O’Dowd is joking or not. He seems to live for moments like these.

Asked why he and Farrell decided to keep their Irish accents for 'Epic,' he looks deadly serious. 

“We have no range,” he deadpans. 

It goes on like this for a bit. When Seyfried, who is sitting next to him, is asked if she has ever had a three-legged pet like the old pug in the film she gives a rambling answer.

“I have a one-eyed, deaf cat,” she says. Farrell turns to her, “She should be in movies,” he says. 

Seyfried doesn’t blink. “Her name is Fran, I think she must be 15. She’s gotten these big tumors. She’s fine, she’s great. I love the fact that we’re going to talk about my cat. I always worry I’m going to step on her. She’s a street cat, whatever.”

O’Dowd seizes the moment to talk about his own pet.

“I have a one-eyed trouser snake,” he says. “You could easily step on it.” 

Hearing the direction the conversation has taken, the Fox publicity agent interrupts. “I think we need to get back on track,” she sighs. 

Farrell says the film’s message about goodness being a quality that you can’t see but can feel and the beauty and importance of nature attracted him to the role. 

“I love nature and I have a very nice back garden, whether I’m home in Dublin or the West Coast,” he says.

“I just did a film up in Northern Ireland by a lake called Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh, which is beautiful, and seeing the nature there was just wonderful. And there are so many things that I believe in that I can’t see, like compassion and kindness and the emotional life of people.” 

He pauses. “You can light your candles now please and assume the lotus position now,” he adds.

Although 'Epic’s' storyline is occasionally marred by too many loose ends, there’s no question that it presents a deeply magical world certain to appeal to kids. The whole point of the film, director Wedge explains, is to get kids who are wired to their smart phones and the Internet outside into their backyard and into the natural world, where real adventures await them.

“You see kids grabbing their cellphones now because they’re distracted by them, and we all are,” says Seyfried. 

“We used to be different. I was different growing up, and I think this movie brings us back to the wonders of nature and what we have all around us that we forget about.”

O’Dowd arches his eyebrow and says, “The point is, cellphones are great.”  Farrell follows that with, “My three year old never borrows my cellphone because he has his own.” 

These two are an Irish comedy act and the world’s their stage.

In a rare moment of seriousness, O’Dowd reveals that he didn’t write most of his character’s jokes. 

“Ninety percent of the jokes were scripted and then I had to leave the country due to some issue. They dropped the charges; it’s not even a thing anymore. It was fine. Don’t print that.”

'Epic' opens nationwide on May 24.

Colin Farrell at the New York premiere of 'Epic' on Saturday.Handout