He was born Colin James Farrell in the Castleknock area of Dublin, at the edge of Phoenix Park, on March 31st, 1976. The place was fairly well-to-do, a new money suburb, but Colin came from resolutely working-class stock. His mother Rita's father was a chauffeur, while Colin's father Eamon and his uncle Tommy both played football for Shamrock Rovers. At their Sixties peak they were the Manchester United of Ireland, a crowd of over 30,000 watching them defeat Red Star Belgrade in 1961. Colin was the youngest of four, his brother Eamon now running a performing arts school in Dublin, while sisters Catherine and Claudine have both popped up in Colin's movie productions, Claudine also working as Colin's assistant and companion.
It was Catherine who first drew Colin towards acting. She'd stay up late watching old movies, and her younger brother would sit with her, revelling in the efforts and attitudes of Brando, Newman, Clift and, interestingly, Ernest Borgnine. His first big crush was on Marilyn Monroe. At 8 or 9, totally besotted with the dead goddess, he'd leave some of his precious Smarties under his pillow along with a note inviting her to come down from Heaven to share them with him. Catherine also provided him with his first experience of stage performance when, at age 12, he watched her play Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. When Eamon Jr took up dance lessons, young Colin was also forced by his mother to attend.
Colin's early ambition, though, was to follow his father into football, and he did show talent. However, Castleknock College, an expensive private establishment to which his parents had sent him to curb his wild ways, was more of a rugby establishment and, anyway, Colin quickly went off the rails, deciding that hard training was far less enjoyable than smoking, drinking and chasing girls. Indeed, he was a pretty naughty lad, being caught shoplifting, smoking joints and, later, driving over the limit, spending a night in the slam for his pains. One of his school reports claimed he was "getting in too many fights".
Being thoroughly uninhibited in interviews, Farrell has revealed much about his wild teens in Dublin. At 15, he's said, he was something of an E-head, barrelling through the city's clubs with his mates, often ending up at Shaft, a gay club with a late licence. It was here that he met an Australian woman, some 20 years his senior, who took him back to her flat, produced a wicker basket filled with 100s of condoms and asked him to choose one. Farewell, then, virginity...
At 16, love hit him for the first time (disregarding the earlier Monroe infatuation), when he fell for Amelia, the young daughter of a Portuguese family in Castleknock. It would end tragically when Colin, a serial fighter and consummate gadabout, had over 20 boys at school after his blood, his parents moving him on to Gormanston boarding school.
This did not prove a solution to the problem. Colin did not react well to the school's stricter discipline. He and his mates were constantly in trouble for skipping classes, spending long lunches drinking at a local pool-hall. Back in the study hall, they'd put on their Walkmans and fall asleep. One day, when he was 17, Colin was grabbed by a supervisor. Instead of submitting to the inevitable punishment, Colin threw him against the nearest wall and threatened him in his usual, spectacularly profane manner. Naturally, he was expelled. He remembers leaving the grounds feeling like a rock star.
Blowing out of school altogether, he continued on his messy way, at 18 spending time in therapy for depression. He found he had plenty to say - "I just vomited for 6 months" - but the therapist, concluding that much of it was down to drink and drugs, simply asked him "You're wondering why you're depressed? Have you read your shopping list?" Hoping to escape his problems, Colin took off for Australia for a year, with friends Steph and Paul. They'd share a one-bedroom flat on Sydney's Taylor Square where Paul would sleep on the couch and Colin would endure Steph's near-nightly habit over throwing his leg over him and calling out for the girlfriend he so missed. When this happened, Farrell would get up and visit nearby gay bar The Judgment, where he'd down a few pints and either read or shoot the breeze with the other lost souls. At one point, in a case of mistaken identity, he'd actually be arrested for murder.
Waiting on tables for spare cash, the boys would also toil for three months in a bank, being sacked together for taking a 4-hour lunch break in the pub.
But Colin would also enjoy his first experience of acting. Having met photographer Stuart Campbell, he'd stay for a while at Campbell's place in Bondi. Discovering Farrell fancied acting, Campbell agreed to take some snaps of him and, during the shoot at the Colgate Palmolive factory, Campbell would introduce his Irish buddy to Tony Knight, head of acting at NIDA. Knight would recommend Farrell try hanging out at The Performance Place, an open-air amateur dramatics spot in a park on Sydney's Cleveland Street. He did and soon won a stage debut as Steve Hart in Kelly's Reign, Hart being one of the main men in Ned Kelly's renegade crew. It wasn't a great show but it was memorable and, as Farrell said later, it was 'perfect for somebody who'd never done more than bang-bang-you're-dead, playing Cowboys and Indians in the back garden'. It was 1995.
Returning to Dublin, he took all manner of jobs, waiting on more tables, painting warehouses and , for 8 months, joining a touring troupe of line-dancers, drawn together by a C&W fanatic who wanted to take middle America to the wilds of Ireland. It couldn't last. One day, looking into a brutally honest mirror, he saw himself in Stetson, choker and cowboy boots and realised he didn't respect himself all that much. Indeed, all-round his life was a mess. Happily, Colin was now persuaded by his brother Eamon (who'd been at him for 2 years) to try acting classes. Eamon himself coughed up the '20 for a first shot at the National Performing Arts School. For the first time in his life he discovered something he liked doing (other than smoking, drinking and chasing girls) and, come 1996, Colin followed his sister Catherine to the Gaiety School of Drama. It was while here that he made his screen debut, scoring a small role in The Disappearance Of Finbar, a low-budget effort concerning the effect on a group of Irish kids when Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Finbar bounces a ball down the road and never comes back.
Back in Dublin once more, and acting the waster as usual, Colin was persuaded by his brother Eamon (who'd been at him for 2 years) to try acting classes. Eamon himself coughed up the '20 for a first shot at the National Performing Arts School. For the first time in his life he discovered something he liked doing (other than smoking, drinking and chasing girls) and, come 1996, Colin followed his sister Catherine to the Gaiety School of Drama. It was while here that he made his screen debut, scoring a small role in The Disappearance Of Finbar, a low-budget effort concerning the effect on a group of Irish kids when Jonathan Rhys Meyers' Finbar bounces a ball down the road and never comes back.
There'd be another small part while at Gaiety, Owen McPolin's Drinking Crude, a coming-of-age tale with a pumping rock soundtrack, where a Kerry teenager fruitlessly attempts to escape the frustrations of the Emerald Isle. Farrell would appear as the annoying Chick (this was the part that would win him an agent), the film also giving a screen debut to Eva Birthistle. Then, in the summer holidays, he'd film the 4-part TV miniseries Falling For A Dancer where an Irish girl in the 1930s falls pregnant by a travelling actor - a problem as she's married another man to escape nun-run hell. Colin would play Daniel McCarthey, the chief suspect when the girl's fierce husband is killed.
It wasn't much, but it was enough to persuade Colin to leave Gaiety. He hated it anyway, as ever resenting the authorities and their rules. He particularly hated being told he mumbled too much and would never amount to anything (a theory backed up by his failed audition for the boy-band Boyzone). "I didn't think", he explained later "that I should have to pay '2,500 and take a year out of my life to be told that I was crap". Some money came in from local print ads and a TV ad for Cadburys, but then, in the summer of 1998, came a real break, a stage role in London. At Gaiety Colin had appeared in productions of Blood Brothers, Lady Windermere's Fan and Philadelphia, Here I Come, but this was the real deal, playing semi-autistic teenager Richard Delamere in Gary Mitchell's In A Little World Of Our Own at the Donmar Warehouse.
It wasn't a big hit, but Colin was noticed, most importantly by Kevin Spacey, there taking a break from rehearsals for The Iceman Cometh in the West End. Spacey was impressed by the youngster and the pair would hang around together, Spacey eventually mentioning the kid to the producers of a movie he was soon to make in Dublin - Ordinary Decent Criminal.
Before this, though, Farrell had already made a major breakthrough. He'd scored a part alongside Ray Winstone and Tilda Swinton, as their daughter's new boyfriend in Tim Roth's excoriating incest drama The War Zone. And he'd found TV fame in Ireland, in a production as far away as it's possible to be from that bruising familial tragedy. This was Ballykissangel, a long-running soap involving a na've English priest in a small Irish village and a huge success in Ireland, and in Britain, too. Colin stepped in at its peak, joining for the 4th and 5th series as Danny Byrne, a young kid who's come to stay with his uncle Eamon because he can't get a licence to keep his beloved horse in Dublin. Colin had been surprised to get the part in the first place. After performing badly at his audition, he left Dublin's Royal Marine Hotel feeling "about an inch tall".
After a couple more TV parts, including a tiny one in a production of David Copperfield starring Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen, came Ordinary Decent Criminal. This saw Spacey as a notorious gangster in Dublin (based, like The General, on real-life Martin Cahill), who endlessly evades and taunts the police, becoming beloved of the people. Colin played Alec, the youngest of Spacey's gang, specialising in car theft. During the filming, he showed exceptional confidence when he told Linda Fiorentino (playing Spacey's wife) that he had whacked off to her performance in The Last Seduction. Amazingly, she didn't deck him.
Things were moving so fast, Farrell thought he'd better keep up the momentum and went off to Los Angeles to tout for work. Ensconced at the Holiday Inn, he'd spend each night carousing in the bars of the 3rd Street Promenade. Sometimes he'd return on his own, sometimes with a girl, often with a bunch of strangers. Meanwhile, his agent Lisa Cook was hooking him up with the influential CAA. Farrell knew he needed American representation and was glad when they took him on. He'd probably have been more pleased if he'd known that their roster included Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Shue, Ed Harris and Cuba Gooding Jr. But maybe not. And that's Farrell for you. He takes things as they come, enjoying them while they last. He's the first to admit that his success was based on connections and lucky interventions, that he skipped "at least 100 rungs of the ladder".
Before he knew it, he was attending parties with Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and Brad Pitt. And it made absolutely no difference to him. Where many would have attempted to turn on the discrete charm, Farrell was his usual crude, honest and entertaining self. At one party, when his agent's assistant admitted she'd never seen an uncircumcised penis... well... she has now.
Returning once more to Dublin, Farrell finally got a call for an audition. This was in London for a low-budget picture to be directed by Joel Schumacher, the man behind Batman And Robin, 8mm and A Time To Kill. Colin was the 41st and last actor to be seen and, as he was late, Schumacher was preparing to leave as he turned up. They spoke for some 5 minutes and the director asked him to send an audition video and he'd judge him on that. Yeah, right. Recalling the incident Farrell says he thought "Well, f*** that fancy director. That's a plane ticket wasted".
Back in Dublin, Colin studied the part he was chasing and his sister Catherine filmed him in his flat in Dublin's Irishtown. He sent it to Schumacher and, 2 weeks later, got a call saying "Wanna make a movie?" Soon he was off to Florida, enduring 2 weeks in boot camp as he and his fellow actors in Tigerland learned what it was like for new recruits in 1971 training to go to Vietnam. He picked up the requisite Texan accent by flying to Austin and hanging out at the Golden Spoke bar, watching the Country bands and chatting to the locals.
And then there he was in Tigerland as Bozz, a highly intelligent rebel who tries to persuade his peers to recognise the madness of their situation as they undergo Advanced Infantry Training in Louisiana. Immediately the target of the authorities, who see his leadership potential and despise him for refusing to use it for military purposes, he's attacked by all sides.
It was an eye-catching role, not unlike Jack Nicholson's McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and, though the movie did not receive a major release, it was a critical success, with Farrell being lauded as Best Actor of the year by the Boston Society of Film Critics. Schumacher had taken a risk when casting this unknown but was proven correct, and Farrell gracefully credits him as the author of his own success.
Now hot property, Colin starred as Jesse James in American Outlaws, a post-Young Guns roustabout that pictured the James and Younger gang as a kind of pistol-totin' boy band. He also got married. Having met actress Amelia Warner, daughter of TV actress Annette Ekblom, at a party where she was promoting Quills (wherein she played the teen bride of sadistic doctor Michael Caine), the couple enjoyed a rollercoaster romance before marrying in July 2001. Everything looked perfect. She'd won the title role in a TV adaptation of Lorna Doone, he was Hollywood's Next Big Thing. But they were too young (he was 25, she'd just turned 19) and by November had filed for divorce.
After American Outlaws, Farrell moved on to bigger projects. First came Hart's War, a Bruce Willis vehicle set in a WW2 prisoner-of-war camp. Here two black soldiers are billeted with whites. One is killed and the other accused of murdering a racist he believes offed his friend. Farrell was Lieutenant Thomas Hart, a former law student brought in to defend the man and facing bribery, corruption and overt racism in the US forces, all the while being hampered by the fact that he can't use important information as it would jeopardise Willis's plan to break out and destroy a German munitions dump.
It was another stand-out role for Farrell and a fun shoot. Growing more confident by the minute, at one point Farrell noticed Willis sometimes had a problem with his lines and joked "You better go home and get an early night - you have a word to learn tomorrow". To which Bruce replied, in his Bruce-like way, "F*** you, you Irish p****". The pair would get on well, Willis lending Farrell his jet so he could attend the Dublin Film Festival.
Report. Based on a Philip K. Dick story, this saw Cruise as a future cop working in a pre-cog unit that arrests people before they've committed their crime. Unfortunately, he finds himself accused of a murder he feels he won't commit and goes on the run, hoping to discover who's framing him. Colin provided an over-the-top enemy in Detective Danny Witwer, pursuing Cruise with relish as he's (to begin with anyway) quite evidently the guy who set him up.
Of course, Minority Report was a big hit, Farrell's first, and, despite having terrible trouble with the line "Surely you understand the fundamental questionability of Pre-Crime methodology?", it was a great experience.
Now came Farrell's wonder year, 2003, when he appeared in no fewer than 6 movies. First came The Recruit, where he played brilliant young CIA operative James Clayton, who's led through intense training by mentor Al Pacino, then asked to help find a mole in the agency, while at the same time becoming involved with fellow recruit Bridget Moynahan. It was another big hit, blowing away Brad Pitt's recent espionage drama Spy Games, and fully justified Farrell's new price tag of $5 million.
Next up was Daredevil, one in an increasingly long line of comic book adaptations, where Ben Affleck played Matt Murdock, the blind man-come-superhero. Of course, such films are made or broken by the quality of their villains, and Farrell made a superbly flamboyant Bullseye, the shaven-headed and ultra-intense assassin who can kill with anything - including peanuts and paper-clips.
After this came Phone Booth, which reunited Farrell with Joel Schumacher. The film had been some time at the pre-production stage, with both Jim Carrey and Will Smith mooted for the lead role. Then, set for release in November 2002, it was held up by the furore surrounding the real-life Washington snipers. Farrell was excellent in the part as a slick New York publicist who answers a ringing pay-phone and is told if he hangs up he'll be shot, a red laser spot attesting to the gravity of the threat. Worse, when the sniper kills a passer-by, the police, led by Forest Whitaker, believe Colin to be the perp. So, amoral, arrogant and utterly smartarsed, Farrell has to somehow talk his way out of trouble. The movie was shot in 12 days, with Colin in pretty much every shot - a dream role.
There'd be yet more Schumacher later in the year when the director drafted in Colin to play Spanky McSpank in his biopic of Victoria Guerin, a courageous journalist for Dublin's Sunday Independent who, in 1996, exposed the city's crime barons and was murdered - Cate Blanchett taking the title role. Farrell would exhibit some of her courage in a Playboy interview that year when he attacked the IRA for their bombing outrages, calling them "scumbags and terrorists".
Then there was SWAT, based on the Seventies TV series, and an $8 million pay-day. Here Colin played Jim Street, right-hand man of SWAT leader Samuel L. Jackson whose team faces trouble when a drug lord they're transporting into federal custody offers a $100 million reward to anyone who can help him escape.
Yet despite the fame and the big money, Colin stayed true to his roots. Even his family has noted that his Irish accent grows even stronger when he's away from home. He loves to party but, despite being linked to the likes of Britney Spears, Demi Moore and Maeve Quinlan, he was more likely to be seen drinking with his family than hob-nobbing with the stars. And this reflected in his work-choices, too, when he returned to Dublin to film the crime drama Intermission. This was a parochial Pulp Fiction, with a vast array of characters involved in betrayal, bank robbery, kidnapping and revenge. Farrell would stand out as the tracksuited bully Lehiff, charming the pants off everyone and, due to his penchant for psychotic ultraviolence, constantly playing cat and mouse with cop Colm Meaney.
After this would come A Home At The End Of The World, produced by Tom Hulce and written by Michael Cunningham (who won a Pulitzer Prize for his later work The Hours). Working for scale, Colin here played a fellow who's seen his whole nuclear family die one by one and is left feeling an overwhelming need to be loved, which is manifested in his constant efforts to help, heal and comfort. No one around him understands this, though, so massive complications arise when he gets too close to his gay best friend Dallas Roberts and flatmate Robin Wright Penn. The tabloids, naturally, would go nutso over rumours that nude scenes had been cut from the film because test audiences had been too distracted by the sight of Farrell's penis.
Most male stars would shy away from non-hetero roles, but Farrell now proved himself to be utterly fearless when taking the lead in Oliver Stone's $150 million epic Alexander, based on Robin Lane Fox's book and a biopic thats rapid production caused the cancellation of a rival Baz Luhrmann/Leonardo DiCaprio effort. Here Farrell would portray the great conqueror more as Hamlet than Achilles, a thinker more than a warrior, who's tortured by both his ambition and his sexuality - his temptations including tigress wife Rosario Dawson, soldier/lover Jared Leto and Angelina Jolie as the world's most sultry mum. The plot was interesting, the battles stupendous, but the movie was not a hit and reviewers were not kind.
Undeterred, Colin would continue to maximise his potential by working only with the most revered writers and directors. Next he joined up with Robert Towne for Ask The Dust, a project the famed author of Chinatown had been working on for 30 years - fruitlessly until Tom Cruise and Paramount stepped in to help.
Based on John Fante's Depression-era novel, this would see Farrell as Arturo Bandini, a poverty-stricken Italian wannabe writer in California whose need for success is so strong he blows all his minor triumphs out of proportion. Having entered a relationship with gold-digging Mexican waitress Salma Hayek, the both of them considered foreign outsiders, the pair endure an affair based on desire and disgust as the movie explored a love that was unequal and bad for both parties.
. Having starred in an episode of Scrubs where he was injured in a barfight and proceeded to teach the headlining doctors how to embrace life, Farrell would then return to the epic genre with Terrence Malick's The New World. Based on the Pocahontas story, this concerned the torrid lives of British settlers in 17th Century Virginia. Christopher Plummer (earlier Aristotle in Alexander) and David Thewlis would lead the struggle against Native American overlord Powhatan, with Christian Bale as John Rolfe, eventual husband of Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan. Colin, meanwhile, would star as John Smith, the ambitious and intrepid adventurer who's famously saved from a horrible death and taught dignity by the young princess.
Farrell would remain in the big time by taking a co-lead in Miami Vice, Michael Mann's caustic update of his own 1980s TV series. Here Colin would be Sonny Crockett to Jamie Foxx's Ricardo Tubbs, the pair of them going undercover to bust a major drug cartel. As Mann led them from glitzy beachfronts through dense jungles and tenebrous nightclubs, they dug ever deeper into the operation, Farrell eventually falling for gangster's moll and money manager Gong Li, his peril level consequently rising exponentially. The movie was a brooding affair, brilliant to look at, and Farrell riffed well with co-star Foxx.
Offscreen, Farrell's lust for life and a refreshing openness unusual amongst Hollywood stars made him a figure of some controversy. Aside from his comments about the IRA, in 2003 he also outraged some by saying he sometimes sought casual sex and has enjoyed the company of prostitutes. His admission that he had made casual use of heroin in his earlier days did not go down well, either. Thing was, he explained, he was only 26, he'd been in 3 major loving relationships, all of which went wrong, and he wanted some fun (drugs were clearly no longer involved in this). His logic was unarguable and it was quite clear that he intended to go on doing his own thing, his own thing including fathering a child, James, born in 2004 to Kim Bordenave, an American model some five years his senior.
Beyond this, in 2005 the acclaimed actress Eileen Atkins stated that, during the filming of Ask The Dust, Farrell had begged her for no-strings sex - more proof, if any were needed, of Farrell's catholic tastes and genuine fascination with women, Atkins being 70 at the time.
By the end of that year there'd be reports of his being treated for exhaustion and dependency on prescription medicine he'd been taking for a back injury. And there'd be yet more controversy in 2006 when, during a taping of the Tonight Show, Farrell was approached by one Dessarae Bradford, a model and alleged former lover. Bradford had already filed sexual harassment suits against Farrell in 2004 and 2005, both of which were dismissed. Now she was filing another $10 million suit against him. Spotted by the Tonight Show security, she'd be apprehended and bundled away. On top of this there'd be continuing problems with a video made by Playboy Playmate Nicole Narain, a lady Farrell had dated back in 2003. Well, he'd more than simply dated her, as the 14-minute film conclusively proved. The video would leak onto the Internet in January, 2006, and much effort would be expended preventing its promotion and sale.
. Onscreen, 2007 would see Farrell appear alongside Edward Norton in Pride And Glory. Here Norton would hail from a family of cops and be forced to investigate corruption in a precinct run by his own brother, played by Noah Emmerich. Colin would appear as Norton's best friend and a cop in the same precinct who may well also be dodgy, his relationship with Norton adding confusion and fire. Following this would come an invitation to work with Woody Allen on an English-set piece where Farrell and Ewan McGregor would play brothers whose financial problems lead them first to crime, then to mutual hostility.
It's testament to Farrell's gifts and work ethic that so many great directors have chosen to sign him up. Michael Mann, Oliver Stone, Terrence Malick, Spielberg - you have to think these people have an eye for talent. It's near certain that Farrell's star has much further to rise.
in October 2011, Paparazzi said they had seen him several times with the actress Morgane Slemp... Witnesses said the two are currently in a relationship.
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