Best Actor Oscar nominee Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) recently chatted with Gold Derby’s Rob Licuria about being “fortunate enough” to be consistently drawn into great scripts, plus his gratefulness for this specific project. The Irish actor plays Pádraic Súilleabháin in Martin McDonagh‘s period film from Searchlight Pictures, a simple man who can’t fathom why his drinking buddy (Supporting Actor nominee Brendan Gleeson) wants to suddenly end their friendship.
“I’m pinching myself,” he tells us about his awards run so far, which includes a Golden Globe victory and bids at the Oscars, Critics Choice, BAFTA and SAG Awards. Referencing his awards caliber cast mates Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, Farrell explains, “I don’t feel like I’m having to go through this on my own … to be able to share the experience with others means that it feels at least less self-serving.” Of note, “Banshees” marks the first career Oscar nominations for all four actors.
Watch the full video above and read the complete interview transcript below.
Rob Licuria: I’m Rob Licuria, senior editor at Gold Derby here with Oscar nominee Colin Farrell. First of all, mate, congratulations on your Oscar nomination.
Colin Farrell: Thanks, man. Thanks so much.
RL: It’s so exciting. By now, this should have been not nomination number five or something, but unfortunately we have had to wait this long for you to get there. And where were you on the morning of or afternoon of when you found out?
CF: Couldn’t have happened for a better film, by the way. And I say better film, I don’t mean the quality of the film or anything like that, but just the fact that there’s so many of us now. Part of it, the four of us actors got in, Kerry, Barry, Brendan, Martin, Carter Burwell. The film got a best picture nomination. So I’m pinching myself. I don’t feel like I’m having to go through this on my own. Not that I’m talking about anything that’s desperate or negative, but to be able to share the experience with others means that it feels at least less self-serving. Do you know what I mean? I can get to celebrate all my crew. We get to share together. We get to go to the events together. I get to see people that… Like there’s times where I don’t through the 15 years since In Bruges where I haven’t seen Brendan for two or three years.
And then I’d go home and go out to his place for a cup of tea or he’d be in LA and we’d go out and grab a bite. But I’ve gotten to see loads of him and loads of Kerry and loads of Martin over the last two months. So it’s just been really joyful. I was in my house and Kerry came over under the cover of night in her pajamas, knocked on the door because it’s ridiculous-O’clock in the morning when they release the thing. When they do it live, they pull the names like a really fancy form of bingo. And so Kerry knocked on the door at 5:00 in the morning. She came in.
My two sisters were there, one brother-in-law, my youngest kid. I woke him up even though he had school in a couple hours and he came down. I put the kettle on, made cups of tea and the box of Ferrero Rocher and After Eights came out. And we had some chocolate and tea and I’m watching. It was just so much fun. So we’re all trying to treat her with the lightness and the sense of the celebratory that it deserves. And none of us fundamentally seem to take it too serious in the way that it’s-
RL: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, of course.
CF: Yeah. Keep tension away for and just enjoy it. It’s lovely. It’ll be over. All of this will be over in four weeks, man, forever. A moment.
RL: But you’ll always be Oscar nominee, Colin Farrell, finally.
CF: And yeah, nothing wrong with that.
RL: Nothing wrong with that. And a lot of us were expecting to see you and Brendan there and some of the craftspeople behind the scenes, but to have Kerry and Barry there as well is so cool. It’s just the best.
CF: Yeah. It’s deadly. It’s deadly. It’s really fun.
RL: Yeah, absolutely. I was wondering, this is my favorite film of 2022, so we could talk about it all day. I won’t keep you here all day though. So there’s this beautiful melancholy that permeates the film that I found very impactful personally. I’m curious, if you weren’t in this film, what would you have thought about the way that it contemplates things like sadness and emptiness that comes with the end of a relationship? Because it’s something that we don’t really see very often.
CF: Well, I think whether or not any of us have experienced the sense of cruelty or the violence that having a relationship, whether it’s romantic or whether it’s familial or whether it’s a friendship, coming to a very abrupt end when it’s beyond our control, particularly from the perspective of the person that feels like they have no agency perhaps, and gets the rope pulled from under them. Even if we haven’t experienced that directly, I think I would be able to watch this film and be perhaps just as affect, maybe not just as affected by it, but affected deeply by it, like you say you were. And I’m not asking you if you’ve had a similar dynamic take place in your life or not, because I think that we, certainly myself, all my life, as a kid in school, even in my family, in families, we all jostle for attention.
If there’s anything more than one child, two, the jostling gets more desperate the more children there are. And you wonder where you are in the pecking order, where you are in the status. Because inevitably, status always creeps into the human experience or even the animal experience, like the donkey on the film. Jenny had a support animal whose name was Rosie. And the attention that Jenny got as opposed to the attention that Rosie got, I was like, “Holy fuck,” even with donkeys, people were pushing Rosie out of the way to give Jenny a pet.
In school you want to have friends. You want to be liked. You want to feel liked. You want to feel like you’re included. And the one thing that a lot of us fear in our experience as human beings is being excluded from any kind of community experience. Being told that you don’t belong, that you’re not wanted, and that’s essentially what takes place. And it takes place between my character and the person who he has placed all his self worth in in a way. Like Colm’s attention, He knows Colm’s interests. He knows Colm’s a great musician. He knows Colm’s worldly and cultured and all this stuff. So somewhere inside Padraic, he’s just Colm’s attention and friendship is a really keen justification for Padraic’s very existence.
And so when that is taken from him so abruptly at the start of the film, it’s a dissent into anger and loneliness and bitterness from that point on. But by the end of it, when you meet Padraic at the start, he’s full of the joys of life and connection. Yes, he’s a simple man. Yes, there’s an argument that he might be a bit dull, but he’s connected to nature. He’s connected to his sister. He’s connected to the community in his own way. And that’s all been taken from him by the end of the film.
RL: Absolutely. Exactly. Because Padraic is nice and being nice is enough for a lot of people. And I like to be nice to people, but then-
CF: Me too.
RL: But then this film confronts that issue because Colm’s like, “No, I’m done with being nice because I’m getting older. I want to leave a legacy and I’m sick and tired of this.” And I understood that as well. And I just found out for a film-
CF: I did too.
RL: So interesting to me. What do you think?
CF: Yeah, well, when we were doing the film, myself and Brendan, we had a chat about each of us making it harder for the other person to say their lines because of the depth of shared experience that exists and the sense of history between the two characters, which we never really explore that much. The first time you see us, Colm has already decided to draw the line in the sand. I haven’t found out about the line yet, but I find out within the first five or 10 minutes of the film. But the line is drawn from the first frame. So we never see the history. But because of the shared history and because of the depth of friendship, as I said, particularly Brendan was saying, “You’re going to have to make it very hard for me to say my lines and I should make it hard for you.”
But it was always going to be harder for him to say his because Colm is a decent man. He’s not an asshole. He’s not without consideration. He’s not without compassion. Like the scene where he helps me up in the cart and he gives me the reins and then he just pats my hand and off he goes. He’s holding hard to the decision that he’s made and the commitment to his art and the commitment to the idea of legacy, but it is costing him. And by the end of the film, I’ll tell you one thing, I didn’t feel much pity for Colm while we were doing the film, while we were in the scenes. And while I was looking at Brendan, my heart didn’t bleed for my pink. As I said, it was harder for him because he was the one that was proactive. I was the one that was reactionary and on the back foot.
So it was hard for him. He was the one that was pushing the cruelty. He was the one that was reshaping the relationship apparently without any consideration for what I wanted apparently. And that was his right, of course. But when I saw the film then, and I saw Brendan in the film and I saw his scenes with Kerry, and I could look at his performance more objectively as an audience member as opposed to somebody who was on the other side of the political line. I felt deeply for his character.
And by the end of the film, man, I said to Brendan, when we’re on that beach at the end of the film, it was almost like he shrank two feet. He looks smaller. He looks more diminutive. He looked like a goblin. He’s broken by the pain of the stump and by everything that’s gone on. His house has been burnt down. The community now is saying that he’s lost his fucking mind. He’s lost his best friends. I found it very sad. I found the two of them in an awful amount of pain. But I really sided with Brendan. Park of me was going, “Jesus Christ.”
Just leave him alone. He made it clear. He said what he needs. And so often our love is, or what we call our love, is very entangled in our own need rather than actually a pure love for the other. And I’m not even saying that from experience or anything, but it’s often. So Padraic doesn’t honor. If Padraic really had a pure, “I want what’s best for my friend Colm, even if I have to pay the price of pain for him to experience that,” well, then he would’ve really went, “Look, I’ll stay away.” But he couldn’t. His loneliness and his fear, which I, of course, empathize with, haven’t walked in his shoes a little bit, even in their realm of artifice, it disempowered him to honor what Colm was so desperately, desperately asking for.
RL: You’re right. Gosh.
CF: The first finger, if you didn’t give it to him before, you’d think after the first finger.
RL: Yeah. He’d be like, “All right. I did.”
CF: Leave him alone. You know? But geez, like, “God, Padraic.”
RL: Tenacious. I was thinking when you won a Golden Globe back, I think it was 2009, for In Bruges, you were so heartfelt. You talked about love and compassion and curiosity. Then you won this year for Banshees again, and the first thing you did was call out your presenter, Ana de Armas, about how her performance made you feel. So it occurred to me, what does it mean to you when you hear people tell you how your performances make us feel?
CF: Yeah. Then I believe I got accused of having a flirt on the stage. Those moments, man, the few times I’ve had those moments where your name gets called, you go into a bit of a blackout zone. Do you know what I mean? And just honest to God, she gave me the thing and I didn’t plan on saying that to her. I thought she was extraordinary in the film. There’s a few performances this year from male and female actors that just blew me away and really got under my skin and hers was one of them. So if Bill Nighy had been giving me the award, I would’ve talked to him about seeing Living. But sorry, what was the question?
RL: Does it occur to you that you do the same thing for us audiences? Because your performance as Padraic, even in In Bruges, I still think about those performances and that made me feel something.
CF: That’s cool.
RL: What does that mean to you?
CF: That’s lovely to hear. That’s really lovely to hear. Because it’s not like an act of generosity. It’s not like object altruism to be a performer and stuff, but you’re not doing it on your own in a room. You’re not practicing monologues on your own in a bedroom somewhere. If you’re making films or if you’re getting on a stage, whether it’s reading from a book for an audience or you’re performing music or you’re working on scenes or doing a play or film, you are doing it for other people. You’re doing it for yourself. You have to be selfish with it. And the best way to honor the creation of any artistic endeavor, the best way to honor it is to really be quite selfish, is to honor what you find provocative. What you find upsetting, what you find hopeful, what you find a curiosity around.
And if you honor that, well, then inevitably by being singular, you find the commonalities, because we all are very, very alike in lesser, greater ways. So for you to say that honestly, man, it’s really, really cool. Because it doesn’t always work out that way, right? That’s the idea. That’s the hope that whether it’s just something that’s made for entertainment’s sake or something that’s made for reasons of maybe a little bit more profundity or that asks questions about the human condition and how we are the way we are and why we do the things we do, you’re always wanting to reach an audience. So yeah, it’s really cool for people to be affected by this film and for the film to stay with them. And for you to say that you still think about Ray or Padraic or Colm or any of us, Siobhan, Dominic, has stayed with you, it’s huge compliments. Thank you.
RL: I just feel like you bring this compelling vulnerability to your performances. And I’m wondering if that’s something that you think is innately who you are? Or is it just whatever the script provides, you just do it? What is that?
CF: Yeah, whatever the script provides. You know, man, you just… Curiosity, as I was saying, takes you wherever it takes you. And if you’re fortunate enough to… The majority of actors in the world don’t have the opportunity to go, “Oh, am I drawn to this or am I drawn to that? Or is that’s something I want to explore?” They’re working actors and they’re providing for their families. And you’re lucky enough as an actor if you’re working, if you get a commercial or you get a play or you get a bit part in a television show. So I’ve been very… One of the greatest presentations of good fortune in what I do is that I haven’t been able to do, there’s plenty of jobs I’ve wanted to do over the years that someone else got ahead of me and all that stuff. But I have at times had choice.
And so it’s allowed me to go where my curiosity takes me. And with that in mind, I just love doing different things. Of course, the commonality with the different roles I’ve been able to assume is that I’m there. And no matter how different that character is from what you feel you are in life, you’re still leaving from the port of your own experience and the port of your own perspective and the port of your own consciousness. So the character is still you, even if it’s different, because the creation of it is predicated upon you making judgments. You’re making judgments, and so the judgment pool is you. And then you judge less, you objectify less, you become more of a subject of, but I just want to do different things. It’s just more fun that way.
And I enjoy it more now than I ever did, man. I really do. And I don’t feel that I know more about it. And I feel that I find people and the world infinitely fascinating. I was saying, I was talking to Pete Hammond recently about not believing that there’s such thing as a dull person. There are people that I will bore. There are people that will bore me, but that says more about myself than… If something bores me, that says more about me than it does about them. If I bore someone, that says more about them than it does about me.
CF: So there are people that bore people, but there’s a human being. It’s impossible for a human being to be fundamentally boring if you take the time to talk to someone and yet find out about their life and their story. And human beings are fascinating. Physically, what’s going on in our bodies, the amount of machinery and the amount of intellect that’s beyond our control, that is this human body that’s coming together and crashing and colliding and complimenting. And so just getting to… And the glorification, the glorified dress-up aspect of it.
RL: Of course.
CF: You get to keep a part of your childhood alive through the constant invocation of your imagination.
RL: Yeah. But I get a lot of that vulnerability and just at least compelling side of you in things like Phone Booth and Daredevil even, even Total Recall. This is something about your performances I think that are just so fascinating.
CF: Thanks, mate.
RL: I was also thinking that Martin McDonagh films, I just love them. Every time one comes out, I’m so excited about it, because I know what I’m going to get. And then I get completely blown away. You’ve done three, I think. What is it about him that maybe brings out the best in you? What do you most value about working with him?
CF: Well, I will say, because you used the word vulnerability, the parts that he has given me in the three films, and particularly in In Bruges and even more so than In Bruges, somehow with Banshees, are very vulnerable characters. And they’re characters that are going through some really taxing, really internally aggressive psychological and emotional turmoil. And I don’t know, just Martin makes sense to me. As a writer, he makes sense to me. His stuff makes sense to me. Very much like the audiences who, like yourself, who favor his work that I’ve heard from through the years, I find his stuff at turns really tender and really terrifying as well. Absolutely brutal and also beautiful at the same time. I think Brendan jumping off the tower in In Bruges. Splat, his body is just eviscerated. He’s only a torso and everything else is just blood and guts. And yet there’s a real moment of tenderness between he and I.
So he does that thing that he does it in a really extreme form. And yet to me it doesn’t, some detractors may think it does, but to me it doesn’t feel like overt manipulation. It doesn’t feel like anything for shock value. It always feels earned. And there’s always consequences to every single action and every single diabolical decision that’s made in his worlds. I much love him as a writer. I just think he’s brilliant and I think he’s an extraordinary director as well. And I love that he’s nominated for a director at the Oscars. Because I think sometimes people have… He’s such a good writer that people have just focused on his writing, writing, writing, and they haven’t been able to see past the pen. And that he’s actually an extraordinary director.
And he designed Banshees to within an inch of his life. He just every shot, every frame, every camera move. And yet it’s still quite simple. It’s not overly busy, but there’s some very particular… Even the first time we see Kerry and we see the cottage. He had the cottage design so he could shoot the back door and see Kerry walking to the front door. And then the camera comes up over the attached roof and you get a look at the vastness of them sharing. And just a lot of the stuff, John Ford’s stuff in the pub with the wide door and low shots, like a bit of a western. And he was extraordinary. He’s just always extraordinary to work with. And I love being around the man. He’s a dear friend.
RL: Such a good movie. So 2022 was a huge year for you. It just so happened a lot of your projects came out at the same time, probably because the Pandemic or whatever, Banshees, The Batman, Thirteen Lives, After Yang. So what will you take away from 2022 and how you’ve had this moment in the spotlight where you’ve won all these awards?
CF: I was graced. It was great. Yeah. As far as working as an actor, I just felt very spoiled, man. So really spoiled. I just got to… Again, as I was saying, doing different things, it’s not by design necessarily. As I said, it’s just get the opportunity to read a few scripts and you just find yourself drawn to one and you lean into one and you lean a bit away from another. And it’s just that alchemical thing of something happening when you read something and you lean into it. And not because you understand it. It could be quite the opposite because it confounds you. And sometimes you lean into something because you understand it and you want to understand it a bit more. But with that, what was the four? After Yang, Thirteen Lives, Batman and Banshees.
RL: Banshees, yeah.
CF: Yeah. Spoiled rotten, you know?
CF: Yeah. Spoiled rotten, man. And got to work with Kogonada, who… Did you see Columbus?
CF: So it was Kogonada’s first feature. He’s a film essayist. He’s a film historian and essayist. And he has-
RL: I’m pretty sure he did Pachinko. He did an episode of that maybe.
CF: He did do a couple episodes.
CF: I think he might have done the first two, Pachinko, maybe another one. But look up-
CF: Look up John Cho is in… John Cho plays his lead in Columbus and Haley Lu as well, who’s also in After Yang. Look up. Check out Columbus.
RL: I will.
CF: Not unlike After Yang, it’s a really gentle film, but it’s gentle. And for me, it just pulled me in. It’s very much a dialogue over an hour and a half about this man who goes back to his hometown where he was raised because his father is dying and this platonic, romantic, somewhat relationship he has with this young woman. And it’s really good. So I got to, anyway, to work with Kogonada in After Yang was a dream. Matt Reeves, who’s an uttered, just brilliant brilliant file maker and storyteller, and so consumed with passion for the lore and the origin of The Batman and that world of Gotham.
And then Ron Howard, who I grew up watching Splash and Parenthood and Cocoon. And then all the other more heady films and weightier films . Ron did subsequently. Ron’s one of the great American storytellers. And then, of course, me old pal Martin McDonagh. So the answer is, I just felt spoiled, brother. But it wasn’t all done in a year. You know?
RL: No. That’s right. We all… I see that
CF: I used to have a lull. And everyone was like, “Oh, my God, what a year you’ve had.” And it was just-
RL: Because you’ve been so busy. You know?
CF: It’s business as usual, though. I had plenty of time at home, ideally of life at home and kids and stuff. So if you go home for three months is usually on average what it works out for. And then I go away for three and home for three. That’s the average if you were to add it all.
RL: So final question. You’re in pre-production on “The Penguin.”
RL: I just, I’m so jumping out of my… I’m frothing for this. I can’t wait for it to come out.
CF: Me too. Me too.
RL: Are we going to be blown away?
CF: I don’t know. Jesus, I don’t know. You’ll be blown away by the makeup, because it’s just… I don’t know how, and I don’t know enough about the materials and about the different choices of skin tone that Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine are using. But the makeup is even somehow in a very subtle way, even better. It’s just more perfected. So I’m in New York now. I’ll head back to Los Angeles tomorrow. We’ve spent the last two days, three days in New York doing makeup tests and camera tests with wardrobe and stuff and meeting some of the other actors.
And we start shooting on the 27th or 28th of this month. I have to say, I don’t know that I’ve been more excited, because I go into do the Banshees, right? I was really excited about working with Martin and Brendan again and Kerry again and Barry again, and seeing a bunch of crew that I had. Some of the crew on Banshees I hadn’t seen in 20 years.
So I was so excited. I was so excited to get home. And I’d never been to Achill, but I’d been to Inishmore. I loved the west of Ireland. Who couldn’t? And so I was very excited about that. But I also had a degree of trepidation as well, because I knew it’d be a bit sticky at times. And I knew it’d be a bit sad at times maybe. Do you know what I mean? Even though it’s make believe and you were going into a very tricky, very dark story. The Penguin show is dark, but I’ve just got such license to explore in it and there’s such a… I’ve spoken, referred to it before, such a freedom beneath the makeup. There’s some permission you’re given to explore in a way that’s hard to give yourself when it’s just your visage.
So I’m super excited about it. I’ve read the first five of eight and they’re without shadow a doubt, extraordinary scripts.
RL: Oh, man.
CF: They’re so good, man. Which doesn’t even, doesn’t mean I’m not saying that the show’s going to be, I just on paper, it’s fucking great stuff. So excited.
RL: I’m so excited.
CF: Me too.
RL: Thank you so much for your time, Colin. I loved being here with you.
CF: Thanks so much for your generosity, man. It was a pleasure talking to you.
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