Colin Farrell is a juggernaut of not only Irish cinema but cinema in general. He first started working over two decades ago and has gone on to appear in some of the biggest films in the world.
So when we sat down with him ahead of the premiere of The Banshees of Inisherin, we were shocked to learn how nervous he was for the film to come out into the world.
Playing Pádraic in the film, a sweet and harmless farmer who lives on the island, he confesses when he first read the script he wasn’t sure if he was going to take it.
“I was nervous when I read it and I said to Brendan, ‘F**k, am I just going to be a gobs***e in this?’ and that was my prejudice,” he tells us as we chat.
“I knew I was stepping onto shaky ground anyway. I was more nervous getting on the plane for this job because there was so much at stake. I love Brendan and I love Martin. There was so much familiarity, I was going home. I was very excited. But because of the part and you never know what it’s going to be like, I knew it was going to go into us and I knew it was painful.”
He admits that he was nervous about the “bullying” aspect of playing the part as many characters in the film tease Pádraic to his face and behind his back.
“It was the bullying that was the f**king thing that got me. That’s what I was suspicious about. I know it’s make-believe. But I thought I was going to be the punchline and how long can I sustain that? And when does being the punchline become being the punchline as Colin?”
In fact, his anxiousness surrounding the role reached its peak at the Irish premiere of the film on Friday.
“We had the premiere here on Friday. Me and Brendan had said we would stay and watch it, and I had fully intended to. But about 25 minutes in I realised it wasn’t happening. And I realised that I don’t want to revisit it. I never had that experience before.
“Now I’ve never been overly comfortable watching my s**t before. But I never had the experience where I honest to God went, ‘Oh f**k there’s something coming up inside that feels really unpleasant.’ I was scared. I was threatened. It was my people for the first time. I was in Dublin, these are my people.
“Dublin is the city where any bullying that happened to me or I may have partaken in, it’s all been experienced in Dublin. My childhood was in Dublin, all the deep lines of experience which were cut into my noggin were cut into my noggin here. It was very powerful.”
His good pal Brendan Gleeson and his co-star, whose character just so happens to do most of the bullying, was on hand to help.
He tells us: “The same thing happened to me when I was making Calvary, I was playing a priest and Aidan Gillen said something to me during filming. I didn’t [the director] John [Michael McDonagh] had told him to do it, to poke the bear. And I had been having it every single day, every scene. And I was like, ‘Is that Aidan getting smart? Because I’ll f**king bury him if he is.’ I got affected by the constant thing.”
Colin echoes the sentiment, explaining: “I remember someone made a joke towards the end [of filming] and I was like, ‘One more word and I swear to f**king God…’ You reminded me of Calvary and I felt better. We love to make a mockery of people. We hide our own perceived ignorance in what we accuse others of being ignorant about. We do it all the time.”
Despite his fears for the film, when he talks about his character, there is nothing but love there: “For some people, there’s no doubt, he could be an awful eejit. Martin’s not didactic in his writing he leaves so much space for the audience to have an interpretation. People have asked us who they’re supposed to support.
“That’s the thing, when you’re talking about the civil war, just how close the factions were in relation to the perspective that they have and their joint history before the separation. There is no right or wrong. There’s no right side you’re supposed to align yourself with. It’s just the experience that is being presented in front of you and the experience each individual audience member had, so they’ll lean into one or the other. Then the allegiance will change.”
The film is set during the Irish Civil War, which reflects the falling out of the two men on the secluded island away from the bloodshed of the mainland.
And of course, Brendan is there just as well, to champion Colin’s acting and his character: “To me, he’s the light of the island, he’s the most integrated, the most natural. He doesn’t need a filter or an explanation for his place in the world. He has had terrible tragedy in the world and he’s managed to achieve a lightness and optimism that is the light force for me.
“Being a nice man is important to him and he acts nice because he is nice. And somebody changes nice into dull and all of a sudden the prism is changed and he’s being told he’s dull. And to me that’s not an eejit, that’s glory. When you go into the Garden of Eden and destroy the innocence in it you can’t buy it back. That’s what happened in this movie. There’s an Eden around the place, Pádraic is who he is and I love who is.”
The Banshees of Inisherin is out in cinemas on October 21st