From acclaimed Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and screenwriter J.H. Wyman (Fringe), the crime drama Dead Man Down tells the story of two strangers who are bound together by their mutual obsession with revenge. Victor (Colin Farrell) is a mysterious man who has infiltrated the crime empire run by ruthless kingpin Alphonse (Terrence Howard) for his own very definite reasons, while his neighbor Beatrice (Noomi Rapace) wants Victor’s help to carry out her own plans for retribution.
At the film’s press day, actor Colin Farrell talked about relating to his character, the environment on set, how much he enjoyed working with Noomi Rapace, chatting about work on their shared hotel balcony the night before they would shoot, and how he got cleaner than he’s ever been to play this character. He also talked about his roles in the upcoming films Saving Mr. Banks and Winter’s Tale, as well as voicing a character for his first animated feature, Epic. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
COLIN FARRELL: I have no idea, man. I’ve never been good at answering “what ifs.” I think it’s horseshit. I don’t think of us have an iota of how we would really respond to most situations.
This film makes you wonder though, “What would I do?”
FARRELL: That’s great! Absolutely! That’s maybe one of the differences between being in a film and watching a film, which I love. I go to the cinema two or three times a week. I just love films. But, you have a certain objectivity, as a member of the audience, and you can come away maybe being provoked into a certain discourse or a certain arena of questioning, regarding how you would deal with things that your character has to deal with. Whereas when you’re doing a film, once you start asking, “What would I do?,” you’re getting the distance greater between yourself and the character, or you’re bringing the character to you, which I think is self-serving, in the wrong way. The idea is to bring yourself to the character.
Was it easy to relate to this character?
FARRELL: Well, it’s fiction. An actor said recently that, unless you’re a parent, you shouldn’t play a parent in a film. I don’t know who said it, but I disagree. I understand that maybe there are aspects that you don’t understand, or maybe this actor or actress had a really strong recent experience with having their first or second or third born child. I don’t know. As a dad, I get that. I get that there is no love like it. But, at the same time, love is love. And I know there are different degrees of love, and the Greeks had many names for it, they classified it so clinically. But, even though there are different names and classifications of love, there’s still one fundamental bedrock that is this all-consuming thing. Not that we’re all in love, but that goes for whatever relationships you have in your lives that represent love. So, sure, I’m a dad and I could go, “What would I do?,” but I don’t even have to do that. It’s in you already. You just treat the fiction as the reality, but not ‘til you’re mad. Ideally, you’ll read a script so often and you think about the context of the scene so much that you begin to dream. You’re in pretty good shape, if you begin to dream, not in character, but certain conventions of the story. Noomi [Rapace] started having earlier dreams than I did, the bitch. I was like, “Aw, you’re having character dreams, you bitch! You’re there already? Fuck!”
FARRELL: It’s funny because I remember two very, very separate experiences of doing the film, and one was that we shot it in Philadelphia. We shot a lot of it on a navy yard, so there was this big warehouse and a car park in front of it and it was right on the water. It was closed off. There was nobody around. It was just the film crew, and we had the trailers. My trailer was parked opposite Noomi’s and there was about 20 yards between both trailers. In the middle, we had a fire pit and there would be music playing. Her son was visiting and my kids were visiting, and it was like summer holidays. It was really beautiful. But then, once the camera was ready and you walked to the warehouse and you opened the big metal door, and you walked from the two in the afternoon sunlight into the darkness of the warehouse, the story didn’t lend itself to having a good time. You don’t have to be laughing to have creative fulfillment, so it was happy enough. It was unhappy themes, and Victor is not a happy man. He’s suppressed a lot of his emotional life and he’s profoundly lonely, although he doesn’t sit there and go, “Oh, god, I’m profoundly lonely.” His life is one of a monk. It’s a very monastic existence that he lives in. His life is geared entirely toward the death of others, which can’t be a great place to be.
How are you doing now?
FARRELL: I was doing good. I’m fairly healthy. Sometimes you come home from work and you’re just tired and you don’t want to see anyone and you just be on your own, like anyone. But, I was doing good. You consciously look after yourself, whatever that may be to you, whether it’s going out for a few drinks and a bit of dinner, or just hitting the couch and watching TV, or going to the gym or yoga class. Just being aware that there’s a potential for you to be in it and respecting wherever you find yourself is good enough. So, I was fine.
The revenge plot is a classic in Hollywood. When you were approaching this project what did you want to bring to this idea and character that was new?
FARRELL: Nothing that I can recall that I made a definite decision about. I think that when you try to do something new, for the sake of being new, you might get yourself in a bit of a hole. From my experience, the only thing you can do is take what’s written on the page and try, through your own curiosity and investigation, to make it your own and honor what the original intent was. As far as originality goes, I felt that, in reading the relationship between Noomi’s character and my character, that was the thing that made the film significantly unique rather than the usual. There’s a certain tenderness in the relationship. It’s not rushed. They never fuck. It’s two really, really wounded, broken human beings, coming together and finding, in each other, some sense of salvation that neither saw coming and both had given up on the hope of. So, I thought that was cool. And then, just the device of them being in the apartments across from each other, felt like there was an element of Hitchockian nature to it. That made it feel a little bit different than your average.
Beauty and what is beautiful is another theme of this film. What do you see beauty as?
FARRELL: I really don’t know. I think beauty is undefinable in language. It’s something that you see when you see it, or you feel when you feel it, or you hear when you hear it. It usually encompasses all five of the senses. It can’t exist without it being a somehow sensorial experience. But, I don’t think it’s quantifiable. Nothing is really quantifiable. Nothing is certain in love and friendship. We all try to understand these things.
Did you feel a sense of security, knowing that you were working with such great actors?
FARRELL: No. I’ve worked with great actors and the films haven’t worked. You never know, man. In the immediate and present, yes. You’re excited to go to the set. You know that you’re going to be working with people that are going to raise your game or be there fully with you or challenge you, and that’s cool. That’s a lot of fun. I loved working with Noomi. She was so brilliant and so present and so imaginative, and she just really cares about it, a lot. You know that it keeps her up at night, and I think that translates. It’s just an integral understanding of the character she’s playing, whatever that may be. I felt like I had a great dancing partner.
Did the chemistry come naturally, or did it take time to build a connection?
FARRELL: I like her. I think she’s cool, smart, kind and talented. Our hotel rooms were beside each other, so there was a really nice, watered down reflection of the dynamic in the film. We shared a balcony, so I’d text Noomi or she’d text me at 10 pm saying, “Do you want to have a cup of coffee on the balcony and chat about tomorrow’s work?” It was the same balcony, but there was just a pole between us, so she’d sit on her side and I’d sit on my side. It was on the 10th floor, over a street in Philly, so you could hear the traffic beneath us. We’d have coffee and maybe share a sneaky cigarette, and talk about the next day’s work. That was really cool. It was a really sweet time. That doesn’t always work out that way, but that was cool.
Did you get in shape for this film because you had a shirtless scene?
FARRELL: Sure, it’s always easier to take your shirt off, if you’re in shape, I suppose. Victor is somebody that lives a monastic existence and he’s shunned the pleasures that a lot of us can experience in life, like pleasures of the flesh, or getting drunk, or buying food based on taste. That’s not where he lives. It’s a very sterile world of deprivation that he lives in. Having said that, it’s a world where he’s not to the point of emaciation, but to the point of having a really clean body. I just decided that he’s a really clean man with a really clean body. He worked out and was very fit. I got as clean as I’ve ever been. I didn’t have sugar for four months, and very little pizza.
Was that your choice?
FARRELL: Yeah. Most of the time it is, unless it’s written about in the script. I did a thing, years ago, called Triage and, in the book, he came back from Kurdistan and was in bad shape. He was emaciated and, in the book, there were details about his eyes hanging out of his head and shit. And even then, the director was, “You don’t have to do that.”
What role did you play in Saving Mr. Banks?
FARRELL: I play Travers Goff, the father of P.L. Travers, when she was six, in flashback. P.L. Travers is the writer who wrote the “Mary Poppins” series of books, and Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers as a woman. I play Emma Thompson’s dad in flashback, in Australia in 1906. It was cool, man. That was a beautiful script. It was such a magical script, really. I just have bits in it. I had about two weeks on it, maybe.
And you did a voice in Epic?
FARRELL: Yeah, I did. That was fun.
Had you ever done a voice for an animated feature before?
FARRELL: No, never.
And you’re working on Winter’s Tale?
FARRELL: I’ll finish Winter’s Tale tomorrow. I have one day in Los Angeles. We just shot in New York for about four or five months.
What’s the role?
FARRELL: I play a petty criminal, named Peter Lake, who falls upon the image of a young woman in a house that he’s breaking into, early in the film, and falls in love with her. And all sorts of stuff happens.
Dead Man Down opens in theaters on March 8th.