LOS ANGELES – Even in his so-called “bad boy” days, Colin Farrell was, deep down, this sweet, good-natured Irish kid, gracious and engaging in interviews. Colin stayed grounded and approachable, and kept his sense of humor even as he earned a reputation as a party man who liked to drink and smoke and figure in headline-making shenanigans that included fights and a sex video.
Over the years, Colin gradually matured as he got over his dependence on prescription drugs and eliminated booze from his life. His complete turnaround was nowhere more apparent than in our recent chat. He’s a devoted father who speaks movingly about his sons—James, 9, (mom is Kim Bordenave) who has Angelman syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder that impairs speech and motor skills; and Henry, 3 (mom is Alicja Bachleda).
“James is one of the two greatest things that’s ever happened to me,” said a beaming Colin, looking fresh and trim one recent afternoon at Stardust, the Beverly Hilton’s rooftop restaurant. “Not to quantify any parent’s love, but there is something a bit different when your child was born with a certain level of adversity—[not the usual] adversity that we usually experience as human beings. When it’s something genetic, congenital, there’s a deep sense of not only love but also of respect. Also, [a resolve to] take nothing for granted. I mean, I’ve run through hospitals with James in my arms, [while he’s] having a seizure.”
The 36-year-old dad continued: “Yet his condition is, as far as conditions go, really good. James has a really happy life. I’ve been very blessed to be able to afford certain therapies and other things that other parents can’t afford. He works really hard. A child’s first steps are seminal moments in the life of both parent and child. If you’re told that there’s a chance your child will never walk those first steps—those steps take on a whole new meaning. They go into another realm. It’s heartbreaking. So James is a constant source of inspiration and admiration. I have so much respect and love for him. I just adore that little man.”
Colin was all smiles, too, as he talked about his younger son. “Henry is completely different and so much fun,” he said. “I adore him just the same, and yet in different ways. One has to be careful about how one says, ‘Everything is for my child.’ That could be such a burden for the child. It’s important that you live for yourself … and all that Psychology 101 self-help stuff. They (his children) give me a great reason to stay around for a long, long time.”
The kids are also the reason that he hopes to slow down soon. “By the time I’m 45, I don’t want to be doing two or three films a year—I really don’t,” Colin declared. “I prefer to be at home with my kids. I’m not yet in a position to do that … it’s a balancing act because it is hard to leave home. I find now with the kids and stuff that it’s harder. I miss them. They visit but we’re constantly trying to figure it out.”
It’s ironic that while he announced his desire to cut back on film projects, he also emphasized that he enjoys acting more than ever. He stars in “Dead Man Down,” a thriller by Niels Arden Oplev, who directed the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Also in the cast are Noomi Rapace (who originated the Lisbeth Salander character in the Swedish version), Terrence Howard, Dominic Cooper and Isabelle Huppert.
“I have no new ambition but I do like the work more than I used to,” Colin pointed out. “I just realized now that I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I love the work more than I ever did. At the same time, ideally, I’d like to work less in the next eight to 10 years.”
Family is very much on his mind. “You notice on film sets that filming takes up a lot of people’s lives,” he volunteered. “And I am not talking about Mr. Fortunate Actor Guy, who’s overpaid. I’m talking hair, catering people who work on films … that [shooting] takes up a lot of their lives. They miss a lot of things—weddings, funerals. Some miss the birth of their children. Their marriages suffer. Any marriage can, of course, but … the work is quite tiresome and long.”
Asked about staying sober for several years now, Colin jokingly took a glass, and, hand shaking, pretended to pour a drink. “You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he cited. “Removing alcohol from your life, of course, does allow you to have a look at the stuff that the alcohol …” and then he acted like he was drifting into sleep and made a snoring sound.
He said, “I was saying to a friend recently that if, when I was 17, I had the level of health that I have now, I don’t think I would have become an actor. I love stories and film but I wasn’t brought up in an artistic home. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted to figure out my emotional life. Acting gave me an opportunity for that. I grew up in a house where emotions weren’t discussed. Acting did offer a container for that. But a lot of it was due to wanting to be popular, needed and all that. I feel that less and less now.”
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