In Conversation With Mr Colin Farrell
Ms Nicole Kidman and Mr Colin Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, 2017. Photograph courtesy of Curzon Artificial
MR PORTER catches up with the actor ahead of his new film.
Mr Colin Farrell forged his career on big-hitting, macho lead roles (Phone Booth, Alexander, Miami Vice). But following films such as 2008 indie hit In Bruges and the low-budget Crazy Heart, the Irish actor has found form character acting in smaller pictures over the past decade. And it seems to suit him. It certainly suits Mr Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director who cast him in The Lobster – his bold, bizarre and critically acclaimed 2015 film that provided Mr Farrell and his deadpan performance with a Golden Globe nomination. If you have seen The Lobster (also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), you will have a sense of the world in which director Mr Lanthimos operates. You may have also seen Dogtooth, which deals brutally with the family dynamic. It’s a bleak and almost nihilistic viewpoint. And, in Mr Colin Farrell, the director has found a leading man who understands it. In their latest collaboration, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, Mr Farrell plays a surgeon whose family is put under a murderous spell. It has all the hallmarks of a Mr Lanthimos movie – uncomfortable, deadpan dialogue, unexplained plot nuances, and macabre plotting – and is perhaps his darkest yet. Before the film’s release this week, we grabbed Mr Farrell for a quick chat, during which he spoke of his love of working with Mr Lanthimos and why he could never be a surgeon in real life.
Do you have to be a fan of Mr Lanthimos’ to act in his films?
I loved Dogtooth. I didn’t know who the hell he was, but I thought, “Whoever made that film is possibly insane, but they are brilliant”. But I don’t think you have to be a fan of his work. If you’re familiar with his stuff, you’ll have a greater sense of what you’re getting into. Even though all the stories are different in Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, there’s a similar genetic tonality. He searches for truth through awkwardness. I don’t know what truth he’s searching for, by the way. He’s into provoking… anything. Just a response.
Is he a nihilist?
Not at all. But he does have a somewhat absurdly twisted perspective on the foibles of human beings and how we interact with each other. Either in the family dynamic (Dogtooth), or the world of romance (The Lobster), which is all around us in self-help books and daytime TV shows. Or the world of the professional and familial ideal, which is The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.
What other themes does he home in on?
There is a pervasive presence of cruel self-interest. In The Lobster, everyone’s exposed as only caring about each other. In this film, two parents have a dilemma about killing their own child. So you’re left wondering – is there such a thing as altruism? Or is it just fortune allows altruism to suit our greater purpose? I just think he’s brilliant, man.
People often comment on the deadpan dialogue in his films…
He never asked for it. Straight up. There was never a memo. Rachel Weisz arrived two weeks into The Lobster and asked: “How’s it going?” And I said, “Fucked if I know – I’m giving the flattest performance!” I remember an actor delivering a line on his first day. He did it really believably. And I heard Yorgos from the monitor, “[name of the actor], stop trying to be so naturalistic!” That was as close to a tonal direction I ever saw. But having seen his previous work: I’ve never met anyone that communicated like they do in The Lobster or The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. This puts the audience on edge because they’re not seeing any emotional context from the characters in these extraordinary situations. The material is so exquisite and unique. As an actor, it makes you get beneath it rather than impose yourself upon it.
How much research did you have to do for your new character?
You know, the start of the film [which shows a close up of open heart surgery]? That was a real person. He signed his life away. Well, he’s up and at it now – it was a massive success. But I was there. Just outside the operating theatre. You could smell burning flesh, and hear the saw. We were watching it on the monitor. I went green. I don’t know what I got out of that other than I couldn’t be a surgeon. With this film, if you do too much research, you’re bringing unnecessary shit into it. Usually, you can only base it on your own experiences and imagination. Working with Yorgos is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had to push all of your stuff to the side. There’s something liberating about that.
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer is out now (US) and 3 November (UK)