PHONE BOOTH - Q&A with COLIN FARRELL
Colin Farrell would be the first to tell you that making PHONE BOOTH was physically demanding and emotionally draining.
"Oh, yeah. I must have smoked about a 100 cigarettes a day," he recalls. "And I was stuck in virtually the same spot the whole time - just me and that bloody phone booth and that was it. It was hard work, it really was - long hours and a lot of dialogue. I don't think there's a second when I'm not on screen."
But he would also be the last to complain about it and it would be wrong to suggest that Farrell has turned into an actor forever whining about his lot. Far from it, this immensely likable, down to earth Dublin born 27 year-old has no time for "bitching" as he puts it.
"I'm good," he smiles. "Having a laugh, you know? I could sit here all day and bitch about it but what's the ******* point? I know how lucky I am and I just try and get on with it."
PHONE BOOTH sees Farrell reunited with Joel Schumacher, the director he first worked with on the highly acclaimed TIGERLAND, a film that established his already growing reputation as an actor going places. He obviously rates Schumacher the director very highly indeed but equally as importantly he considers him a friend and a mentor.
"I can't say enough about that man, he's just great and a real straight shooter. He's been fantastic to me."
In PHONE BOOTH, Farrell plays Stu Shepherd, a low level publicist and hustler who survives by cutting deals and spinning the truth and has few scruples. He's married but is trying to seduce a young actress and "would sell his best mate down the river to make a few quid" says Farrell.
But for Sheperd life is about to change in the most terrifying way. As he walks down a busy Manhattan street, he hears a phone ringing in a public booth and picks it up, and at the other end of the line is a man who will hold his life in the microscopic sights of a high powered rifle. The sniper (played by Kiefer Sutherland) tells Shepherd that if he hangs up, he's dead. And he demonstrates his lethal intent by killing an innocent passer by, leaving Shepherd under no illusions that he could very well be next. As police arrive at the scene - convinced that Shepherd is the killer - he has to do exactly what the sniper says at the same time as trying to convince the officers of his dire situation. His wife, would be lover, television crews and on lookers gather to watch the drama unfold, unaware that they are all at risk from the unseen sniper.
As a child growing up in Dublin, Colin wanted to follow his father, Eamon, and become a professional footballer. He was a good player, too, although perhaps not as dedicated as he could have been.
"I kind of fancied that I wanted to do it," he recalls. "In my head there was one season when it was serious. I'd train on my own, knock the ball up against a wall for hours and hours on my own. I'd go to bed early on Saturday night and get up early to clean my boots ready to play on a Sunday morning. But you know, in the end, I never wanted it as much as you need to."
At sixteen, encouraged by his family, he took acting classes and after a year touring Australia, enrolled at the Gaiety School of Drama in Dublin. But after a year he left ("I didn't really like it," he says) and within weeks had landed his first role, in the popular BBC series BALLYKISSANGEL. He made his film debut in Tim Roth's THE WAR ZONE and appeared on stage at the Donmar Theatre in London in A LITTLE WORLD OF OUR OWN. Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey was in the audience one night and promptly recommended him for a part in his latest film, ORDINARY DECENT CRIMINAL. Joel Schumacher saw him in that and cast him in TIGERLAND and since then, he's hardly stopped. He appeared in the highly acclaimed Steven Spielberg thriller MINORITY REPORT, with Tom Cruise, HART'S WAR, with Bruce Willis and Daredevil with Ben Affleck. He will also be seen alongside Al Pacino in THE RECRUIT.
How are you?
I'm good. I'm good. Having a laugh, you know. I could sit here all day and bitch about it but what's the ******* point? I know how lucky I am and I just try and get on with it.
Are you pleased with the film?
I like it, yeah. I do. I'm always a bit weird about watching myself. But did you like it? You did. That's cool.
The character you play in PHONE BOOTH is a bit of a chancer, to put it mildly. Did you base him on anyone you had met?
I've met a lot of those kind of people in my life and they haven't all been publicists by any means, in fact most of them haven't, actually probably less than half but I haven't met that many publicists, I have my own of course. I've met a lot of producers and directors and actors and agents that just believe in their own hype too much and just take themselves far too seriously so I had a lot to draw on. But you meet assholes like that everywhere, they work in a bank, they work at Burger King, they are everywhere in the world, so there wasn't one single person that I singled out. But I'm glad if people think he rings true.
You obviously get along very well with Joel Schumacher. What is it that you like about him so much?
I love him. I ******* do. He's as ******* honest as they come. And what a life he's lived, he really has to do a biography.
How important is he to you?
Oh very important, he's very much a friend and a mentor to me, you know. He's someone I know that if I didn't see him for ten years and I was in a bit of trouble, stuck in a back alley with a syringe in me arm I could call him and he would go 'come on over babe, it will be OK' and you don't come by people that are like that very often. I should come up with some deep and profound answer but I just get on really well with Joel, really well with him. He is a cool, cool man and a straight shooter and so cool and generous. I really couldn't say enough good things about him. I actually love the man very much, not in that Hollywood way, and thank God I got the second chance to work with him on PHONE BOOTH. It's because TIGERLAND got good enough reviews and people at Fox said 'OK, you can cast the kid again if you want.' And he asked me to do it and I didn't think twice and I would work with him again in a second.
Stu Shepherd is quite a complex character in a way and obviously he's placed in an extraordinary situation...
Yeah he is. It's a thriller but there's more to it than that really. I mean, he's in a life and death situation but the guy has to re-examine his whole life and all the bad things he has done, to his wife and things like that, so it's complex. I just loved the script the first time I read it and with Joel directing there was no decision to make, really.
Joel says that it was a very demanding shoot. How was it for you?
It was ******* hard. You know, you are on camera the whole time and there's a lot of dialogue, which is great, but it's a lot to do. And we shot it really fast. So every day, for like ten hours a day I would be in that phone box. Man, I smoked a lot of cigarettes between takes I can tell you.
And how did you get on with the rest of the cast?
Oh man, they were sweet, really sweet. No problems there. Nice people, you know.
You were filming back in Dublin recently. How was it being back home?
Yeah I just finished a gig recently, a thing called INTERMISSION, it was fucking great fun, it really was. Low budget, four million dollars I'd say, and a bunch of Irish actors and Irish crew that I'd worked with on television and stuff back home so crazy to see all of them again. It was the first time I'd worked at home since ORDINARY DECENT CRIMINAL which was four years ago so it was great to be back home, great to be back in Ireland, great piece. A bunch of good Irish actors. It's a real, what do you call it, ensemble piece, you know contemporary set in Dublin about a bunch of different characters, some are looking for love, some are looking for the last hit as a petty criminal.
In PHONE BOOTH you do another American accent and you've done that in most of your films of late. Is it hard getting it right?
Doing the accents is good fun. And it helps when you get a good dialect coach, I mean, I can still hear bits and pieces when I see anything that I do. But I enjoy doing it, I really do. But I had a great dialect coach on PHONE BOOTH and he was in my ear between every ****** take, pissing me off, saying, "your Rs are too heavy..." (Laughs). He's great though.
What are the benefits of the success you are experiencing now?
The fact that I have the scope to choose what I want to do and what I don't want to do. I still find it insane but the fact is it's true. I can pick stuff that I think is good.
How do you decide?
I go for what I like. What affects me, it's that simple. Like with PHONE BOOTH, it's a page-turner of a script and I was right in there immediately. But you can never know whether something is going to work or be a hit, there are far too many factors involved about what is going to make a good film or a beautiful film, but you can decide what you like and what affects you.
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