Terrific news about Colin Farrell: the reformed Irish bad boy is enjoying a renaissance professionally and personally.
This week Farrell will unveil the best work of his career in The Lobster, an unmissable new horror film about love. That's right, it's a horror film about love. Every relationship has its drawbacks, and in this flick they can literally kill you.
It's been 14 years since the tense psychological thriller Phone Booth catapulted Farrell, 39, to big screen superstardom. Since then the man who was once Ireland's most enthusiastic lady killer has starred in multiple critically acclaimed hits like In Bruges and in one or two fairly giant missteps like the critically panned Alexander and also in that notorious sex tape he'd probably prefer the world to forget.
But along the way Farrell has honed his craft as an actor and brought greater balance to his private life, and it's showing in his latest work. These days along with being a major box office draw he's also a devoted dad and a self-described social activist (a role that he takes very seriously, defending same-sex marriage and his gay brother Eamon in Ireland).
Inspired by his 12-year-old son who has special needs, Farrell's activism has also led to him becoming an active supporter of Special Olympics International.
What this means is that Farrell has clearly mellowed in recent years and in the process become an all-around good egg, a thing that's virtually unheard of when it comes to smoldering Hollywood leading men who are usually much more concerned with what they're getting from their careers than they're giving back.
But we probably shouldn't be too surprised about Farrell, because his whole screen career is distinctive for the surprising roles he selects, ones that often challenge Hollywood leading man conventions. In fact sometimes they have been distinctive to the point of outright weirdness. Just consider his turn as the pot bellied comb-overed boss Bobby Pellit in Horrible Bosses.
In that film Farrell seemed to revel in the role of a grotesque overgrown bro, skewering the kind of all too recognizable macho tyrant he was cast as. It must have come as a relief to the handsome leading man, who has traded on his brooding looks since his early days on the Irish made 1990's soap opera Ballykissangel.
But the thing that proves Farrell is more than just a pretty face these days is the revelation that his greatest on screen role was in his opinion the one that brought him the most off screen happiness. Reflecting on the highlight of his 16-year film career, Farrell recently gave an answer that will surprise all but his most ardent fans.
“Fright Night is the greatest success of my career,” Farrell told Entertainment Weekly. “First of all, it's a film I’m proud of. But you might look at its score on Rotten Tomatoes. About 70 percent. You might look at its box office gross. Not a blockbuster hit. But none of that matters. It all comes down to how you define success.”
While Farrell was shooting the film in 2010 his mom Rita visited the set. The film’s producer Alison Rosenzweig met her there and immediately loved everything about her. She was so impressed she straightaway thought of her close friend, the film producer Joel Michaels, and telephoned him later that evening.
“Joel,” she told him, “I think I met your future wife.”
With the help of Farrell’s matchmaking sister Claudine a lunch date was set up for Rita and Joel. Sparks flew immediately and six months later -- when Rita was 70 and Joel was 73 -- they were married in Los Angeles.
“They’re the most in-love couple that I know,” Rosenzweig told the press. “It’s like the ultimate romance. The fact that they could find such a passionate, unbelievable connection at a certain age, that just makes everyone feel good. And if I never did another thing in my life, I’d be happy that I had a part in making these two people so happy.”
Farrell strongly agrees. “The two of them have companionship and love together for the rest of their days. My mother is in her seventies and so is her husband, and that’s it, done. So excuse me for being an idealist for a second, but anyone can create their own definitions of success and failure in their life or career.
“If my being in Fright Night led to my mother’s happiness, then, yes, absolutely, that film will always be the greatest success of my career.”
What Irish mother could hear a sentiment like that and not realize she'd raised her son right? Not only that, but she has raised him to consider other people's feelings as much as his own. That's how you know that being Irish has always been the saving grace of being a celebrity for Farrell.
In his latest film, The Lobster opposite Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, Farrell plays a hapless Irish architect (he keeps his Dublin accent) stuck in a deeply dehumanizing, slightly futuristic society. In this sinister world, if you do not pair up and find a relationship within 45 days you will be turned into an animal.
The film is about social conformity in other words, and in particular about how dangerous it is and how far society will go to enforce it at the expense of the individual. If you want to be single in this world (The Lobster was filmed in Ireland and the landscape is utterly beautiful) you better be prepared to meet your maker at any moment.
“It's illegal to be single in this world, which of course it's not in the real world,” Farrell told Today. “Say in the 1970s in Ireland if you were a 30 year old woman and you were still single, people would have thought you had a disease, you know what I mean?
“We're a culture that's obsessed with finding a match. I think that's human instinct as well, that you want to share your life with someone, but this film takes it to the next level.”
He's not joking about that. The Lobster is provocative, unsettling, darkly funny and increasingly terrifying.
It will make you laugh but it will also rattle you to your foundation, sending you reeling into the street. It's the work of a singular cinematic imagination and the absolute highlight of Farrell's career to date in other words.
The film was nominated for a 2016 BAFTA Award and it also earned Farrell a well-deserved Best European Actor nomination at the recent European Film Awards, signaling that his career (and his leading man status) are hotter than ever.
Meanwhile in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel written by J.K. Rowling that's set about eighty years before the Harry Potter series and which is scheduled to screen in November, Farrell plays the enigmatic Percival Graves, a wizard who may or may not be completely trustworthy.
“It was a gorgeous script and David Yates directed the script,” Farrell says, explaining why he came on board. “I loved it, I got a wand, which is something I got to tick off the bucket list! It was a blast.”