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The Shadow of Colin Farrell


Colin Farrell is regarded as a Hollywood bad boy, something that's followed him like a shadow. Who knows what would have happened if the Irish actor's failed audition for Boyzone didn't eventually lead to him being cast in BBC drama, Ballykissangel?

When it came to film his rise to fame was on the back of The War Zone directed by Tim Roth in 1999. While not a war movie itself, it was war films such as Tigerland and Hart's War that helped establish the actor along with solid turns in Ordinary Decent Criminal and playing Jesse James in American Outlaws. While many of these films were box office flops, it was a supporting role in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report that truly put Farrell in the big league.

shadow of colin farrell

Re-teaming with Joel Schumacher after Tigerland, Farrell continued into the single location film Phonebooth, which centred quite heavily on his performance and further cemented the star as a serious contender and "new kid on the block" in Tinseltown. While Farrell delivered the goods in the taut thriller Phonebooth, his career has been characterised as a supporting actor, possibly an overhang from Minority Report and several early high profile co-starring roles opposite Bruce Willis in Hart's War and Al Pacino in The Recruit.

While infrequent, Farrell has commanded leading roles in several films such as Ask the Dust, Ondine, Alexander, After Yang and the Total Recall reboot. Playing a writer opposite Salma Hayek in the Robert Towne romance drama, Ask the Dust, it seems as though Farrell is more of a second or third choice leading actor. Ask the Dust originally had Johnny Depp attached, after its earliest iterations had Al Pacino interested, decades before Farrell stepped up to the typewriter. Neil Jordan's little known Ondine romance fantasy drama must have been Farrell's all along, playing in his home country opposite real-life partner, Alicja Bachelda.

In Oliver Stone's Alexander, the leading role was initially primed for Heath Ledger, who Farrell substitutes for along with Depp in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. After Yang saw him lead a critically-acclaimed and low-key AI sci-fi drama opposite Queen and Slim co-star Jodie Turner-Smith. Going for a sleeker leading man in a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the reboot of Total Recall was heralded by Farrell in his second Philip K. Dick adaptation after Minority Report. This was after Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender were considered for the role of Quinn.

Whether Farrell's legacy was set in stone from his earliest roles or his dark edge has made him a great inbetweener, able to play heroes and villains, it seems as though he's better served with a co-star or as a heavy-hitting supporting actor. Farrell's name carries enough weight to make some of his supporting performances come across as a would-be lead in movies like Fright Night but if his filmography serves as an accurate reflection, he seems to perform better as part of a broader team with In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and S.W.A.T. listed as his best known film performances on IMDb.

Based on his most in form performances, you could say that having a director with a similar temperament seems to work best for the nuggety Irish actor. He's pulled back some star power and artistic credibility with the help of writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer showing once again just how versatile he is but as well-known as he is... just seems more comfortable stage left. In Bruges is probably still his best outing, given top billing in a Martin McDonagh film that allowed the actor to showcase his adaptability to the multi-genre crime caper. Playing opposite Brendan Gleeson, another versatile actor, this gritty mix was where Farrell seems most comfortable and in his element - something that probably prompted McDonagh to cast him in Seven Psychopaths too.

Having wowed audiences with his transformative performance as the Penguin with some help from facial prosthetics in the reimagining of The Batman by Matt Reeves, you could say he's found another strong actor-director collaboration. Already attached to an as yet untitled spin-off TV series in the world of Gotham City, you could say Farrell's shadowy career is catching up with him... in a good way.