Colin Farrell talks Seven Psychopaths

Colin Farrell’s meditative, cerebral crime drama In Bruges (2008) marked mature, new professional territory for him.  It gave him the chance to create a character emotionally hobbled, introspective and filled with self-loathing following a hit gone wrong.  

It was a chance to work with his friend, writer director Martin McDonagh on his first feature; it won raves.  Fellow Brits Farrell and McDonagh are happily reunited in the crime comedy Seven Psychopaths. 

This time, Farrell plays an aspiring screenwriter intrigued by the ideas a casual acquaintance named Billy (Sam Rockwell) pitches to him to write the perfect crime screenplay. 

But the kidnapping of a Shitzu dog unleashes a tidal wave of danger, excitement and violent nutjobs in a Los Angeles we’ve not seen before.  I spoke with Farrell at the Toronto International Film Festival where Seven Psychopaths made its world premiere.

M&C: People from abroad seeing the LA culture the way Angelenos don’t and I am wondering if that comes to bear here.  A psychological LA.

CF: There is a relationship between the power of will and the power of ambition that both characters have in varying measures.  Billy (Sam Rockwell) has it, the ability to will into being what takes place in the story that is barely prevalent especially in certain parts of Hollywood.  Of course there is an incredible amount of drive and probably nowhere in the world per capita where there is more energy put into the world of dreaming. 

That’s pretty powerful force. That’s kind of the two characters are known for that there.  You can kind of reinvent yourself very easily there as well. There are many different social pockets and fads and rockers, surfers, economists, yogis, it’s hilarious. 

There are all these archetypes and it’s a fascinating place. Bruges was so cool God, I was so present there, such a history and a story but Bruges  would find it hard to change because there is so much that makes it  real and so dense and medical.  It wouldn’t change its course. Los Angeles seems like it’s constantly in flux.  Like it was never that well architecturally designed the streets, the desert but it’s a fascinating place.  I lived there six years.

There are so many different aspects to it.  The least fascinating part of it I think is the producers’ offices.  That’s kind of what you see is what you get.  The Player or LA Story you get the idea. Entourage isn’t that far from what goes on.  The nature in LA is so beautiful, the hills around it.  Astonishing!  I was going there six or seven years before I even knew there were hills. 

See those letters up there?  (Laughs) So many homeless, it’s really shocking.  If you have to be homeless it might be the place to be.  And kids as well, you drive down Hollywood Blvd. at night 2 or 3 in the morning; there are loads of kids in combat gear, on skateboards, f***ing drinking, and smoking.  It’s a bizarre place.  But the world’s a bizarre place.

M&C: Seven Psychopaths is a film of meta-fiction (i.e. a story about someone writing a story). How did that impact you, a screenwriter trying to write a screenplay?

CF: The meta-fictional aspect to the story is really more to do with how the writer or director sees it through his creative lens.  For me as an actor in the film, my story felt incredibly linear. I was aware having read the script of the kind of tangential aspects of the story, and I’ve never done a film that explored as many genres as well as eras, looks, scenes, seasons, because it has a winter fall feel in LA and summer. 

For me it was straightforward.  It’s odd when you’re writing a story and your friend is feeding you with dramatic concepts that you thin are surprisingly genius for your friend who is not known as a genius and therefore gives birth to the surprise. When in fact he’s the one who has been killing the people he’s been telling the stories about. 

That’s a little bizarre and gets a bit obscure, the whole thing, the centrifugal force of normality is all this chaos and madness that revolves around me and another character singularly.  It was the kind of calm that hits the storm.  It was interesting because it was a role that was significantly about observing and very reactive. 

Ray was reactive in In Bruges but he was also pro-active, very violent, and incredibly un-PC so it was different. It was nice to exist in a similar world with Martin but in a different vein and style and the character had a very different tone and face to him

M&C: Clearly you enjoy working with Martin. Will we see more?

CF: Yes it’s really easy to be honest with him.  We both have consummate love for the work and storytelling and going as deep as it needs to go and having fun and keeping self-seriousness at bay. It’s called for sometimes but at times it just seems easy, you know. 

There’s shorthand between us.  Martin and I knew each other four or five years before In Bruges.  His work makes sense to me, the dichotomy of tragic things and emotion and elements that exist in his work, makes the horror of the violence and the comedy a cocktail that makes sense to me.

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