“Oscar Nominee: From Tabloid Fodder to A-List Success”
- Colin Farrell’s road to his first-ever Oscar nomination has been a 20-plus-year roller-coaster ride.
- Early on, he was known more for the women he was rumored to be dating and his hard-partying ways.
- 2022 marked the best work of his career as he played The Penguin and was Oscar-nominated for “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
There are several moments through Colin Farrell’s career where he could have just been another pretty-faced crash-and-burn Hollywood tragedy. But now he’s on the cusp of winning an Oscar, and it’s hard not to root for the guy.
The Irish actor came on the scene like a bat out of hell over 20 years ago when he was cast in the lead for the 2000 movie “Tigerland.”
Having gotten a taste of the business by starring in a few episodes of the BBC series “Ballykissangel” and a couple of indie films before joining the Joel Schumacher-directed Vietnam War movie, the role of Private Bozz was his breakout. It didn’t just put Farrell on the map, but it also showed he possessed an “it factor” that would go on to make him an instant star.
Yes, he had the matinee looks and acting talent to tell great stories, but he was also the story itself. Every interview, he captivated reporters with his rebel vibe as he seemed to be up to talk about anything — all while dangling a cigarette from his mouth or sipping on a beer.
Farrell’s swagger was undeniable. Suddenly he was on magazine covers and the subject of meaty profiles, all before he even had any real screen time yet.
But that was all about to change.
(L-R) Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell in “Minority Report.”
Farrell took on Tom Cruise and was launched into stardom
Two years after the release of “Tigerland,” Farrell began his push to become one of the most-known movie stars of the early 2000s. It all started with being cast in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise sci-fi blockbuster “Minority Report.”
This had to be the moment when Farrell was pinching himself. While growing up in a suburb of Dublin, Farrell realized he needed to become an actor after watching Henry Thomas play Elliott in Spielberg’s classic “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It was an especially lucky casting, too — Matt Damon was offered the “Minority Report” role first, but turned it down to go make “Ocean’s Eleven.”
Having now gotten the chance to work with Spielberg, Farrell wasn’t about to blow it. Playing Danny Witwer, a brash agent for the Department of Justice who sets out on a manhunt for Cruise’s character after he’s accused of a murder he hasn’t committed yet, Farrell easily held his own acting opposite the “Mission Impossible” actor, who was the biggest movie star in the world at the time.
Colin Farrell in “Phone Booth.”
After he secured a meaty role in a Spielberg movie alongside Cruise, it was clear he was worthy to be among the Hollywood A-list. Practically overnight, Farrell became a big-time movie star and continued to be cast as such.
In 2002, he teamed with Schumacher again for the thriller “Phone Booth,” in which he spent most of the movie literally inside a phone booth. The following year, he starred alongside Al Pacino in “The Recurit,” acted opposite Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Rodriguez, and LL Cool J in “S.W.A.T,” and played the villain Bullseye in the Ben Affleck-led Marvel movie “Daredevil.”
Farrell seemed to be the face on every poster of every movie hitting theaters — which isn’t always a good thing. Some were well received, but most got mixed reactions.
And Farrell was grabbing more headlines for what was happening off-screen than what he was doing on it.
Britney Spears and Colin Farrell at the premiere of “The Recruit” in 2003.
Sex, drugs, and relationships with Britney Spears and Elizabeth Taylor
At the premiere of “The Recruit,” then 26-year-old Farrell put the tabloids into a frenzy when he showed up on the red carpet with 21-year-old Britney Spears as his date. The pairing didn’t last long, but it was clear Farrell was having a blast with his new fame.
Things had changed in a big way compared to when he first came to Los Angeles, lived in a Holiday Inn, and, as he admitted in a 2003 Playboy interview, would occasionally call a prostitute when he was feeling lonely.
Along with Spears, he was eventually linked to Demi Moore, his “Alexander” costar Angelina Jolie, and even the late screen icon Elizabeth Taylor, who was 40 years his senior.
Farrell opened up about his relationship with Taylor in 2013, two years after her death.
“It was kind of like the last, it feels like in my head, not her, I’m projecting, but the last kind of romantic relationship I had, which was never consummated,” he told Ellen DeGeneres at the time.
Colin Farrell in 2003.
Farrell’s star was shining bright in the early 2000s but he was in the tabloids constantly and his hard-partying ways were on display nightly, it seemed. It was even captured in a 2003 Esquire profile titled “Don’t You Just Want to Punch Colin Farrell?”
But the good times were about to run out. Oliver Stone’s 2004 epic, “Alexander,” in which Farrell played Alexander the Great, marked the first time he felt full-on backlash from critics and audiences about his work.
“Expectation is a dangerous thing,” Farrell said of making the movie while taking part in an actors’ roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “It took us six months to shoot, on three continents. It was incredible. When I say ‘expectation,’ we all had our tuxedos ready.”
“I’m not even joking,” Farrell continued. “We were all like, ‘Right, lads, we’re off to the Oscars. This is a sure thing.’ And then it came out.”
Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell in “Alexander.”
Bombarded with bad reviews that called the movie everything from “Alexander the Dull” to “Alexander the Inarticulate,” Farrell said he hid out at a ski resort in Lake Tahoe once the movie opened and spent three days wearing a mask and beanie to hide from everyone.
Soon after, he went on to make the Michael Mann-directed big-screen reboot of “Miami Vice” opposite Jamie Foxx. That set wasn’t a good place for Farrell’s already broken psyche. Along with the demanding Mann and the production dealing with hurricanes during filming, Farrell was in a tailspin of drugs and alcohol.
By 2005, after “Miami Vice” wrapped, he checked himself into rehab. He was there for a year. (In 2018, he returned to rehab briefly, but as a precautionary measure so he wouldn’t relapse).
When he got out, he had to deal with his past, like a 2003 sex tape he made with then-girlfriend Playboy Playmate Nicole Narain that was almost released in 2006 until the two reached a confidential settlement. But now with a clearer head, he was thinking about what the future held. We only knew Colin Farrell as the good-looking hard-partier who was a strong actor in bad movies. How could he change our minds?
Writer-director Martin McDonagh knew how.
Colin Farrell in 2014.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images
How Farrell went from movie star to acclaimed actor
Throughout his career, there was never a question of Farrell’s talents or his dedication to the craft. Heck, to nail his American accent in “Tigerland,” which didn’t have the budget to provide him with a dialect coach, he boarded an Amtrak and listened to all the passengers as it traveled through the country.
But his choices were certainly a headscratcher at times.
That began to change with McDonagh’s 2008 dark comedy “In Bruges.” Starring alongside Brendan Gleeson as two hitmen with some major emotional baggage, the movie highlighted Farrell in a way none of his other roles had done before. It gave him the ability to prove he’s an actor with a lot to share from his toolbox; up until this point, most directors had just not been able to get him to unlock it.
(L-R) Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in “In Bruges.”
The movie went on to get a best original screenplay Oscar nomination for McDonagh and a lot of respect around town for a rejuvenated Farrell, who won a Golden Globe for his performance.
Now, he still had to put food on the table so he took on roles like the 2011 comedy “Horrible Bosses,” the awful 2012 remake of “Total Recall,” and the forgettable “Dead Man Down.”
But there were better roles on the horizon, starting with 2015’s “The Lobster.”
Under the wild imagination of director Yorgos Lanthimos, Farrell delivered one of the most unique performances of his career yet as a single man who must find a partner in 45 days or he’ll be transformed into a beast. His monotone delivery in the most unusual of circumstances was hilarious.
Taking a moment to reflect on his career, while speaking to Insider in 2016, he admitted: “I’m aware that the pressure of the first, I suppose, six or seven years I was in America — I mean that energy of having such a rapid and ascending celebrity — it’s not there anymore. It’s the end of that chapter and now I’m just enjoying the work probably more than I ever have.”
He continued churning out impressive work, like in 2018’s “Widows” and 2019’s “The Gentlemen.”
But then 2022 hit — and with it came some of the best and most diverse work of his career.
Colin Farrell as The Penguin in “The Batman.”
First, Farrell was unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, in “The Batman.” He knocked it so far out of the park as the Gotham mobster that there’s now a spin-off TV series in the works dedicated to his character.
Then he appeared in Ron Howard’s criminally underseen “Thirteen Lives,” which recounts the 2018 rescue of the young boys and soccer coach trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand. Farrell gave a beautifully nuanced performance as one of the cave divers who pulls off the rescue.
But maybe most notably, he reteamed with McDonagh and Gleeson for “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
Playing Pádraic Súilleabháin, Farrell delivers a touching performance that’s topped with his magnificent thick eyebrows perpetually raised in utter shock as he tries to understand why his best friend Colm Doherty (Gleeson) no longer wants anything to do with him.
Like with “In Bruges,” McDonagh once more shows us a vulnerability and acting talent we’d never seen in Farrell before, leading to yet another Golden Globe win. But unlike before, Farrell finally received his first-ever Oscar nomination.
(L-R) Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”
Though Farrell has some stiff competition in the best actor category this year with Austin Butler up for “Elvis” and Brendan Fraser for “The Whale,” the fact that Ferrell will now and forever be known at least as an Oscar-nominated actor is nothing short of astounding.
Farrell has taken some sharp turns and interesting detours throughout his career, but he’s thankfully bypassed some dead ends — leading him right down the path to becoming an actor worthy of his acclaim.
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