Family & Companions
One of Ireland's most prominent exports, actor Colin Farrell made his presence on American shores known with a strong turn in Joel Schumacher's antiwar drama, "Tigerland" (2000) followed by an equally mesmerizing turn opposite superstar Tom Cruise in "Minority Report" (2002). A notorious troublemaker who liked to drink, smoke and start fights, Farrell quickly became famous as much for his late-night carousing, as for his acting. Within two short years of being on Hollywood's radar, he was starring in big budget features like "The Recruit" (2003), "Alexander" (2004) and "Miami Vice" (2006), though most of his films - particularly the ones in which he was employed as lead - were more amplified because of his rambunctious reputation than for any success at the box office. Despite having trouble opening films, Farrell enjoyed being in the spotlight, even though that sometimes meant tabloid headlines, namely for a high-profile excursion to rehab and the embarrassment of having intimate moments spread across the Internet via a sex tape. He bounced back nicely, however, with an acclaimed performance as a contract killer in "In Bruges" (2008), and finally enjoyed some box office success with "Horrible Bosses" (2011). Regardless of his dubious infamy and lack of consistent commercial hits, the charming Farrell was nonetheless one of the most compelling talents to emerge from the Emerald Isle.
Born on May 31, 1976 in Castleknock, Dublin, Ireland, Farrell was raised in a modest-sized Irish brood headed by his father, Eamonn, a former professional footballer for the Shamrock Rovers, and his mother, Rita, a homemaker. Farrell was a rabble-rouser throughout his youth, getting into trouble at various schools before he was eventually kicked out of school when he was 17. After being sent adrift in Australia for a year, Farrell returned to Ireland and worked any odd job that came his way - waiting tables, teaching line-dancing - until he was discovered dancing at a Dublin nightclub by Louis Walsh, a music manager who at the time was putting together a boy band called Boyzone. But a tone-deaf Farrell sang George Michaels' "Careless Whisper" at the audition, insuring his career in music was finished before it even started. Soon after, his brother, Eamonn, Jr., encouraged his younger sibling to audition for the Gaiety School of Acting. Lacking any discipline and going nowhere fast, Farrell finally discovered something that was able to maintain his interest.
Farrell left Gaiety after attending only one year, but only because he was offered the role of Danny Byrne on the Ireland-set drama, "Ballykissangel" (BBC, 1996-2001). After making his feature debut in the working-class drama, "Drinking Crude" (1997), Farrell played a traveling actor who impregnates a young rural girl (Elisabeth Dermot-Walsh) after a one-night stand in "Falling For a Dancer" (BBC, 1998). Impressed with Farrell's performance on "Ballykissangel," actor Tim Roth cast the young actor for a small role in his directorial debut, "The War Zone" (1999), a coming-of-age story about a troubled 15-year-old boy (Freddie Cunliffe) struggling to adjust to a new city whose entire world shatters when he stumbles upon his father (Ray Winstone) committing incest with his sister (Lara Belmont). While playing an autistic teen in the Donmar Warehouse staging of Gary Mitchell's "In a Little World of Our Own," actor Kevin Spacey was in the audience and recommended the young actor to Thaddeus O'Sullivan, director of "Ordinary Decent Criminals" (2000), a gangster drama loosely inspired by real-life Irish thief, Martin Cahill.
In just a few years, Farrell had established himself as an accomplished young actor in his native Ireland, making it only a matter of time until he traveled across the pond to make a movie in America. Joel Schumacher was the first to tap the young actor's talent when he cast him in "Tigerland" (2000), the director's absorbing and intense antiwar drama about a young recruit (Farrell) trying to get kicked out of boot camp in order to avoid Vietnam, only to be deemed officer material by his superiors, leading to a confrontation with his fears about death. Despite mixed reviews for the film, Farrell enjoyed nearly unanimous raves for his work, earning a Best Actor award from the Boston Society of Film Critics and a quick vault into stardom. In short order, Farrell found himself fielding offers for roles originally earmarked for the likes of Jim Carrey, Matt Damon and Edward Norton. In 2001, he starred as Jesse James in the poorly received revisionist Western "American Outlaws," then turned up as a lawyer-turned-WWII pilot who is captured by the Germans and forced to defend a fellow P.O.W. (Terrence Howard) on murder charges in "Hart's War" (2002), starring Bruce Willis.
Farrell's major introduction to mainstream audiences came soon after "Hart's War," when he co-starred opposite Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's slick take on the Philip K. Dick sci-fi thriller, "Minority Report" (2002). Farrell played the hard-nosed Danny Witwer, a cop inside the futuristic pre-crime unit, who doggedly pursues his former rival and colleague, John Anderton (Cruise), after he becomes the number one suspect for an impending murder. Meanwhile, he landed his first major starring role in a studio release, "Phone Booth" (2003), a tense thriller about a selfish public relations executive whose life is thrown into immediate turmoil when he suddenly becomes the random target of a vengeance-minded assassin (Kiefer Sutherland). Unfortunately, the film was pushed back from its original fall 2002 release date due to a series of similar, real-life sniper killings in Maryland making news at the time. Despite the delay, the buzz on Farrell had reached a fever pitch, while his press interviews routinely featured the unabashed, outspoken actor drinking, smoking and cursing, and being entirely unashamed about his penchant for doing drugs and procuring prostitutes.
Thanks to his quickly rising profile, Farrell found himself in a series of well-made, but not altogether successful Hollywood projects in 2003. In one of his most prolific years, Farrell starred in "The Recruit" (2003), an engaging espionage thriller in which he played a rising young CIA operative brought into the fold by the Company's top recruiters, only to become embroiled in the mysterious machinations of his mentor and his lover (Bridget Moynahan). He had a memorable appearance as the comic book villain Bullseye, an assassin who throws blades with deadly accuracy and battles a masked vigilante (Ben Affleck) in the mildly successful adaptation of Marvel Comics' "Daredevil" (2003). Despite having limited screen time, Farrell made the most of his appearance as the devilishly over-the-top killer. The fast-rising star next starred in the big-budget version of the 1970s cop drama, "S.W.A.T." (2003), playing a former S.W.A.T. team member thrown off the team in the aftermath of a controversial decision, but who gets a chance to redeem himself when he is recruited by team leader (Samuel L. Jackson) for a high-risk mission.
Farrell then surprised critics with an atypical performance in "A Home at the End of the World" (2004), playing the sweet-natured, soft-spoken Bobby, a man coming of age in the 1970s and 1980s who - after being taken in by a family following the death of his beloved older brother - is caught up in a unique family dynamic and romantic triangle, as he tries to live up to his brother's hippie sensibilities. He followed up with a bravura performance, complete with dyed blonde hair, as Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone's disastrous historical epic, "Alexander" (2004). Farrell's game turn as the conflicted general who cuts a swath across the Middle East in search of some unreachable fulfillment failed to rescue Stone's overindulgent and surprisingly dull film, which proved to be the biggest bomb of the controversial director's career to that point. Meanwhile, Farrell starred in another historical drama made by an acclaimed director, Terrance Malick's "The New World" (2005), a lyrical, but ultimately meandering take on the settlement at Jamestown, VA in 1607 and the ensuing love affair between Captain John Smith (Farrell) and a young Native American girl, Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher).
Farrell was next seen in "Ask the Dust" (2006), a project that finally saw fruition after being in development for over 30 years. Farrell was cast as a young, ambitious writer who had fled from Colorado to Los Angeles because of his Italian heritage where he flourishes as a novelist and becomes obsessed with a Mexican barmaid (Salma Hayek). He was next cast by director Michael Mann to play Sonny Crockett in the remake of the hit 1980s police procedural, "Miami Vice" (2006). Shooting began in April 2005 and from the start, the production experienced one disaster after another. Known to work his actors harder than most directors, Mann told Farrell to bulk up for his role. Farrell complied, but injured his back and ribs while lifting weights, pushing production back six weeks into the heart of hurricane season. Then while out joyriding in a convertible Ferrari with co-star Jaime Foxx, who played partner Ricardo Tubbs, a strong wind blew out the windows on a skyscraper and sent large shards of glass onto the street below where the two actors were cruising around. They barely escaped unscathed.
After a grueling 105-day shoot that saw a local Dominican shot by Mann's security after he brandished a gun near set, Farrell checked himself into a drug rehab for his growing dependence on prescription drugs. He completed the program successfully and took some much needed time off. Around that time, word spread like wildfire that there was a sex tape circulating that starred Farrell and former girlfriend and Playboy model, Nicole Narain. Farrell filed suit to prevent the tape's sale and distribution, while claiming that Narain was working with adult entertainment producer, David Hans Schmidt, to release the video for sale, which she vehemently denied. The tape surfaced on the Internet in January 2006 and quickly spread, despite his efforts to shut down the websites hosting the video. Farrell settled out of court with Narain, while continuing his pursuit against Schmidt and his company Internet Commerce Group (ICG) for damages. Returning to the public eye in 2006, Farrell did the usual promotion for "Miami Vice" after his stint in rehab, but ran into further trouble while on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1992-2014), when telephone sex worker Dessarae Bradford stormed on set, confronted Farrell and threw her self-published book, Colin Farrell: A Dark Twisted Puppy onto Leno's desk. Previously, Bradford filed two unsuccessful lawsuits against Farrell, accusing him of sexual harassment, and recorded the song, "Colin Farrell is my Bitch." Farrell credited Bradford as being his first stalker.
In 2007, Farrell was back in the headlines again, but for a much different and more endearing reason. While at the Toronto Film Festival, the actor found a homeless man who went by the street name Stress and took him on a shopping spree, buying him clothes and food. Farrell then paid a year's worth of rent for the homeless man on condition that he remain clean and sober, which he did. Meanwhile, Farrell starred in "Cassandra's Dream" (2008), a Woody Allen comedy about two brothers (Farrell and Ewan McGregor) with serious financial troubles who are approached by a third party to commit a crime that goes bad and eventually turns them into bitter enemies. After playing an Irish contract killer in the action comedy "In Bruges" (2008), Farrell starred in "Pride and Glory" (2008), a crime drama about the intertwining personal and professional lives of three generations of New York police officers, one of whom may be orchestrating a series of crimes. For his winning performance as the conscious-stricken hit man in "In Bruges," Farrell received a Golden Globe win for Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, the first such honor of his career.
Fresh off collecting his Golden Globe for "In Bruges," Farrell joined Johnny Depp and Jude Law in playing Heath Ledger's role in Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (2009), following Ledger's stunning death from an overdose in 2008. Farrell, Depp and Law portrayed different transformations of Ledger's character as he traveled through a dream world in the director's innovative morality tale. He next played a tough Russian inmate in a Siberian gulag during World War II who is part of a daring escape in Peter Weir's "The Way Back" (2010), and followed that with an hilarious supporting turn as an egotistical, incompetent, and cocaine-addicted head of an accounting firm in the surprise hit comedy, "Horrible Bosses" (2011). Farrell completely transformed his appearance, adding a comb-over and pot-belly to portray one of three said horrible bosses - the other two played by Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey - targeted for murder by their three put-upon employees (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis). From there, Farrell starred "Fright Night" (2011) as a vampire secretly terrorizing suburban Las Vegas, only to be challenged by a neighboring teenager (Anton Yelchin) with self-esteem issues. He next took over the Arnold Schwarzenegger role in the remake of "Total Recall" (2012), a less-than-faithful adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," which among other omissions lacked his character's ambition of traveling to Mars. Meanwhile, Farrell was noted in the entertainment press for his surprising friendship with Hollywood icon, Elizabeth Taylor, with whom he had grown close during her final years. In fact, Farrell was one of few outsiders allowed to attend her funeral in 2011, and was handpicked by Taylor herself to recite at poem at the service.
Farrell next starred in "Seven Psychopaths" (2012), a dark Hollywood comedy by Martin McDonagh, and the action thriller "Dead Man Down" (2013). A voice role in the animated "Epic" (2013) was followed by a supporting role in the Disney biopic "Saving Mr. Banks" (2013). A leading role in Akiva Goldsman's fantasy "Winter's Tale" was followed by the male lead in Liv Ullmann's staged filming of August Strindberg's classic "Miss Julie" (2014). In September 2014, it was announced that Farrell would co-star opposite Vince Vaughn in the second season of the hit series "True Detective" (HBO 2014- ).
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made feature acting debut in "Drinking Crude"; premiered at the Dublin Film Festival
Acted in the British miniseries "Falling for a Dancer"; aired in the U.S. on Romance Classics
Made London stage acting debut at the Donmar Warehouse, playing a semi-autistic teenager in "In a Little World of Our Own"
Landed regular role of Danny Byrne on popular Irish TV series "Ballykissangel" (billed as Colin Farrel)
Breakthrough screen role, the cocky recruit Bozz in Joel Schumacher's "Tigerland"
Portrayed Jesse James in "American Outlaws"
Cast as a WWII soldier captured by the Germans who must defend a fellow prisoner accused of murder in "Hart's War"
Acted with Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report"
Cast as the villain Bullseye opposite Ben Affleck in "Daredevil"
Along with Samuel L. Jackson, co-starred in the action feature "S.W.A.T."
Reteamed with Schumacher for "Phone Booth"
Co-starred with Al Pacino in "The Recruit"
Cast as a work obsessed thug in the feature "Intermission"
Co-starred with Robin Wright Penn in "A Home at the End of the World," based on the novel by Michael Cunningham
Cast as Alexander the Great opposite Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone's epic "Alexander"
Starred in Terrence Malick's "The New World" as English explorer John Smith
Portrayed Det. James "Sonny" Crockett opposite Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann's "Miami Vice," a feature based on the popular 1980s cop show
Co-starred with Salma Hayek in the Robert Towne directed "Ask the Dust"
Co-starred with Ewan McGregor as down-on-their-luck brothers in Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream"
Played an Irish contract killer opposite Brendan Gleeson in Martin McDonagh directed "In Bruges"
Replaced the deceased Heath Ledger, portraying transformations of Ledger's character in Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
Starred as an Irish fisherman who discovers a woman in his fishing net who he believes to be a mermaid in Neil Jordan's fantasy drama "Ondine"
Played a tough Russian inmate in Peter Weir's "The Way Back"
Played a vampire in the remake of "Fright Night"
Co-starred as Jason Sudeikis' boss in the comedy "Horrible Bosses"
Starred in Len Wiseman's remake of the sci-fi classic "Total Recall"
Cast in ensemble crime comedy "Seven Psychopaths," directed by Martin McDonagh
Starred in neo-noir crime thriller "Dead Man Down"
Co-starred in the animated fantasy "Epic"
Co-starred in the comedy-drama "Saving Mr. Banks," about the filming of "Mary Poppins"
Starred in Akiva Goldsman's fantasy "Winter's Tale"
Starred opposite Jessica Chastain in Liv Ullman's "Miss Julie"
Co-starred on the second season of HBO's police drama "True Detective"
Played a man looking for love in Yorgos Lanthimos' surreal drama "The Lobster"
Played a man with a secret in "Harry Potter" prequel "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"
Was featured opposite Denzel Washington and Carmen Ejogo Dan Gilroy's "Roman J. Israel, Esq."
Re-teamed with Lanthimos for "The Killing of a Sacred Deer"
Co-starred in Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled"
Was the narrator for the series "Legend of Cambria"
Cast as Tom Mulligan in Steve McQueen's "Widows"