A Star Implodes: What to Do About Colin Farrell?

Colin Farrell

I misspoke.  In a piece earlier this summer about films I would be seeing based on their trailers, I said that I would be one of the first in line to see Total Recall.  I won’t be seeing it after all, unless there is nothing to watch on a non-stop Emirates flight from L.A. to Dubai at some point.  Truth be known, I wanted so hard to like what I was seeing in the trailer that I was psyching myself up for the film itself.  And this is entirely because there are few actors I wish well as much as I do Colin Farrell.

I don’t believe I’m alone.  Farrell is not only hot, he is also talented, hard working, and not a little fascinating as a person.  His is the best of the “leaked” celeb sex tapes; from what I’ve seen of it, he’s my kind of man: louche, unapologetic, hard partying, a filthy talker in bed.  Now it appears all of that has changed: the bad boy has given way to the responsible man, the coke-addled chronic masturbator and womanizer has wiped himself off and become a sober father of two.


It is hard for me to picture Farrell as the twelve-stepper type as portrayed in recent profiles because that isn’t my take on him, although I have never had the pleasure of getting to know him, as hard as I have tried to make that happen.  I am a little skeptical because he probably has to present that AA-disciple image publicly if he wants to reboot his chances at becoming an A-list star; however, he strikes me as too European to get involved with what is basically an American fundamentalist religious cult.  Quibble about it as much as you want, but surrendering yourself to a “higher power,” praying serenely at meetings, following the tenets of a founder named Bill, and many other hallmarks, qualify Alcoholics Anonymous as a cult.  That this cult has so permeated our society as to become institutionalized in our government—i.e., a court will likely order you to attend what are basically religious meetings if you are caught drinking and driving—shows how deeply entrenched it is in American culture and the film industry itself.

Colin FarrellAll of this leads me to believe that Farrell is just playing along.  My guess is the upper-middle-class rich kid from Dublin has simply toned down the bad-boy act, dialed back the partying considerably because it gets boring after a while, but otherwise he’s having none of that American religious repentance bollocks.

After last weekend’s cataclysmic disaster at the box office with Total Recall, rebooting Farrell’s career is going to be harder than ever to accomplish.  At thirty-six, he is still being described on the IMDb, in his own bio, which he controls, as “a rising star.”  In his review of Total Recall, AO Scott referred to him as “would-be movie star.”  But the Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood, Nikke Finke, went one step further in her assessment of him while reporting on Sunday that Total Recall had made only twenty-six million at the box office against a production budget of one hundred and fifty million:

“I don’t know why Hollywood keeps thinking Colin Farrell can carry a movie.  He’s just not box office, and this pic proves that again.”

A film must make back three times its production budget to start making a profit, so this is basically Sony’s John Carter.  The director, Len Wiseman, will take a lot of the blame, as he should; according to the grumblings of my industry-wallahs on Facebook and elsewhere, he’s something of a hack.  I wouldn’t know, never heard of him before last weekend; I have tried to watch the Underworld series he created, but couldn’t get past more than a few minutes.  But who cares?  I’m not the target audience.

Farrell will shoulder the brunt of it, as will his agency, CAA.  The Total Recall debacle is the equivalent of aiming all of the nuclear bombs on Earth at the sun in the hopes of keeping it from dying, and having that not only not work, but now it is dying at a faster rate than before.

The problem with Farrell isn’t just that he’s a great actor, as performances like the one in the Golden Globe-winning In Bruges have shown, or that he’s so sexy, but that he’s so fucking famous.  In theory, he is a star.  But he’s also not because he can’t seem to carry a movie.  That’s a major dilemma.

In a way this article is the companion piece to my earlier one about Channing Tatum, an equally hard-working, hard-partying stud, who has somehow managed to make the crap in Hollywood work for him without letting it stick, and emerged this year as a bona fide star, no “would be” or “rising” before it.  Farrell, on the other hand, has done everything he can to make quality films alongside the crap, but somehow he’s become overwhelmed by the latter and is drowning in it.

Note that I haven’t said “has drowned in it” because it ain’t over yet.  The fat lady is far from even getting ready to sing—Farrell is still too good and too fucking famous.

Colin Farrell

At issue here are a few factors.  Most prominent is the current state of Hollywood and theatrical filmed content worldwide: the crap is getting crappier, or it is more exclusively crap than it ever was, and there is less choice of major film roles that CAA will let you take and still make your annual quota.  The smaller films are barely paying enough to cover the nanny’s salary for a year (not that Farrell needs it, apparently, but rumors of his family’s wealth might be exaggerated), and the mid-sized ones that could have covered at least fifty percent of his purported two-million-dollar-per-film salary are almost non-existent these days.  Only a sales agent would know what Farrell’s attachment to a film might be worth in terms of selling that movie to worldwide territories, but my guess is it’s still pretty healthy.  Again, those mid-level films that would be partly financed through pre-sales are not closing because the markets are still so shitty, and the future of how filmed content is delivered is still so uncertain—DVDs, for instance, are as good as dead, and that greatly diminishes a film’s potential future earnings after it has left the theaters.

Another factor is choice. An actor should have control over his career and what he chooses to make, and I don’t doubt that Farrell has had considerable say in what he is offered, but I don’t think CAA is the right place for his unique brand of feral, lusty talent.  He’d be better at a smaller boutique-ish place like UTA, which handles the likes of Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum, and does it brilliantly.  CAA is too much of the cold, cynical American machine, which works for some: they turned Robert Downey Jr. around like nobody’s business, I mean, to the extent nobody remembers that Downey used to be a meth head who liked it up the ass from guys, a lot of guys.  (Am I supposed to put “allegedly liked it up the ass from guys” in here?  Okay, I’m putting in allegedly.  But it’s an allegedly with a lascivious, knowing smirk.)  But that CAA magic doesn’t work for Farrell, for some reason.

Colin Farrell PoolAnother factor is luck.  Personally, had I been Farrell, I would have taken one look at those Underworld movies and said, “No fucking way” to Total Recall.   But times are tough, pickings are slim, and they have been pretty desperate over at CAA to launch those nuclear warheads at Farrell’s dying star.  So he took a punt on it, hoped the reboot of a well-loved classic would work, but it failed miserably.  And everyone wanted it to work because nobody wants this particular sun to die just yet.

Total Recall will probably do better overseas where they have a greater appetite for mindless, badly scripted American dreck than we do, for the time being.  As long as it’s reasonably well made, they feel they’ve had a bang for their ruble or yuan.  And the average cinema-goer anywhere isn’t going to give a tinker’s damn what Nikki Finke thinks—Farrell will still be a recognizable face and have some appeal.

Rather than dwell on past mistakes, let’s look at what he has coming up:

—Next is Saving Mr. Banks, described as “a behind-the-scenes look at how the popular Disney film “Mary Poppins” came to be,” directed by John Lee Hancock and also starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.  This appears to be another CAA-packaged project.  Also has Emma Thompson and Paul Giamatti in it.  Ho hum.

—October will see the release of Seven Psychopaths, in which “a struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.”  Ensemble cast there including Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits, directed by Martin McDonagh.  Apparently yet another CAA package.  This is so much of a bigger ho hum they haven’t even released the trailer yet.

—He goes immediately from the Mary Poppins project onto Oscar-winning scribe Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut, Winter’s Tale, co-starring Will Smith.  Both Smith and Goldsman are repped by… you guessed it, CAA.  This film is, “a fantasy story set in 19th Century and present-day Manhattan and revolves around a thief, a dying girl, and a flying white horse.”

Deck the halls with boughs of ho hums, falalalala-lalalala!

Colin, dude, I loves ya.  I will always go to bat for you.  I am not one to tell you what to do with your career, but if this next round of shoveling CAA crap doesn’t work, ditch ‘em.  Our world is changing rapidly, nobody knows where we are going, but you are clearly better off with something else, anything else, than following that old-school Hollywood path; it’s vanishing before our very eyes.  Whatever Nikki Finke and AO Scott say, and while you might not be able to open a film (but does anyone really these days?), you are still a star.  A bit dimmed, sure.  But there is a way to make that shine brightly again, and my feeling is it’s not by staying locked in the dark with the status quo.


Comments: 17

  • Cliffhanger August 7, 20126:11 pm

    CAA didn’t turn Robert Downey Jr. around.  The amazing Alan Nierob did.  And as for the bisexual rumors you so cutely refer to here, they stem from a joking comment Downey made at an early point in his career, when he called himself an “eccentric bisexual.”  He’s since said that was a stupid attempt to try to get media attention at a time when he needed media attention.  Who can say whether someone ever experimented, of course, but ask any woman who’s been with RDJ and she’ll tell you he ain’t bisexual, not by a LONG shot.  So to speak. 

    • jkillough August 7, 20126:45 pm

       @Cliffhanger Is that where the “rumors” stem from? Gosh, I am indeed glad I put “allegedly.” 
      For all my years in the business, I had no idea that publicists were also responsible for selecting material for their actors.  I certainly never dealt with Nierob when we put in an offer for RDJ on a film back in 2003 (oh, right, but that’s because it has to go to an agent) but had to withdraw it 48 hours later when we found out that insuring him would cost one quarter the budget. However, I do credit Nierob with doing a stellar job scrubbing that image, if all of those episodes—and they are myriad and legendary—are now relegated to “a joking comment Downey made at an early point in his career, when he called himself an “eccentric bisexual.””  That isn’t a publicist, that’s a restoration specialist worthy of the Metropolitan Museum. Even if, as a gay man, I find whitewashing the truth morally dubious, RDJ is a valuable product and as such needs to be protected as best as possible.
      Thanks for reading.  And for commenting.

  • JamesTuttle August 7, 20129:06 pm

    I liked the upcoming film about the struggling screenwriter getting tangled up with the mob… until I read the title.  Ugh.  It’s going to be horrible.

    • jkillough August 7, 20129:13 pm

       @JamesTuttle How could it be horrible with Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits as co-psychopaths? (Something tells me Our Colin isn’t playing the screenwriter.)  You just liked the idea because the Shih Tzu reminds you of my mother. Surely this Elmore Leonard/Get Shorty kind of film has been made before? Maybe Get Shorty was a hit.

      • Frieda August 8, 20126:22 am

        Colin Farrell does play the screenwriter.

  • Frieda August 8, 20126:21 am

    It disturbs me when someone mourns when a celebrity cleans up  his act.  I’ve seen this so often when it comes to Colin Farrell.  It’s as if you are thinking “Shoot, Colin Farrell grew up, so I guess I have to, too.”  Yes, he’s stopped drinking; big deal.
    I can’t believe you are making your decisions on what movies to see by paying attention to the critics.  Don’t you have a mind of your own?  You can’t afford 2 hours and $10 to see Total Recall for yourself?  It’s a very enjoyable film.
    With fans like you, Colin Farrell doesn’t need enemies.

    • jkillough August 8, 20129:26 am

      It only disturbs you because I’m not “mourning” Colin “cleaning up his act” it at all.  That is your interpretation because that’s what you want to read. Saying “dialed back the partying considerably because it gets boring after a while,” is the way I perceive Colin as having handled his partying, but he clearly needs to seem that he has repented and is flogging himself or he won’t be believed by the sort of people who live in places where they only have to pay $10 per ticket.  I am very much slamming AA and other American religious cults, which is the true point of that passage in the article. And, no, the good twelve-step programs do does not justify means.  It can be done other ways.Thanks for reading, and for commenting, although something tells me you’re not coming back soon.

  • Cliffhanger August 8, 20127:09 pm

    Hmm – well, I know RDJ through Alan, and all I know of him is that he’s a really nice and lovely guy and has been very (overly, actually) forthcoming about his past to the media.
    But frankly, if the alleged rumors are in the least true, speaking as a straight woman, wow, that just makes RDJ even hotter!  (LOL)  He can do no wrong.
    And dear Alan IS something of a restoration specialist. I guess we’ll see what he can do with Mel now…oh dear.

    • jkillough August 8, 20128:04 pm

       @Cliffhanger I was very keen to work with RDJ, despite my colleagues’ experiences when he was using heavily.  I was crushed that I finally had the money to make him a firm offer on a great role he would have killed, which may well have put him back on top earlier, but… it was an unrepentant, omni-sexual meth head, an exaggerated version of myself.  The insurance guy was giggling at my naivete on the other end of the phone after he read the script.  Thank God he was British and polite about it.
      If it’s any consolation, there are plenty of women who have tried to see my sexuality as being more on the straight side of the Kinsey Scale than it is, my ex-wife included.  But the reality remains what it is.

  • Ghis August 12, 20126:19 am

    I wait eagerly for “seven psychopaths” because of the cast and Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) but it could surprise the audience and it is “R” rated. A very black comedy from what I read and a awesome performance of Walken. The movie has been selected to Midnight Madness at TIFF.
    Surprised you didn’t talk about “Dead Man Down” coming in next April directed by Oplev (Millennium) and with Noomi Rapace (who is repped by UTA lol!).
    He has also another project a irish-turkish production “Famine” shooting soon supposedly directed by James Cameron.
    And I am really happy that he dropped “Lancelot” from WB. This one didn’t look good …

    • jkillough August 12, 201210:08 am

      To be honest, Ghis, I’m not a big fan of the “Seven Psychopaths” genre. Personal preference aside, my concern is with ensemble-cast films as they relate to the subject of the article, which is what to do about Coli as a star, but I’m glad to know he is the screenwriter and therefore the hero of the piece.  I just picked three films he was working on soon, so I could wrap up the article with a bit of unsolicited avuncular advice for him (“Son, if I were you…”). The thing I love best about articles online is that readers can contribute to a piece themselves.  Thank you very much for the information, and of course for reading.

      • running October 12, 20123:50 pm

        @jkillough I think you like the online format because you don’t do enough research yourself, and you listen to, and apparently believe, all the gossip that crosses your path.

  • sundayrose777 December 30, 20121:09 pm

    Hello James, This is Bijoya and I am from Bangladesh. You are a very articulate person. I like your writing. Your intelligence shines through your written words.
    I have watched Colin Farrell’s movies. He is a very talented actor. No matter how different types of roles the other actors get or end up doing, many of their performance and looks are same in all of their movies. No differences. People who watched Mr. Farrell’s movies before totally admitted the fact that he has such a great capacity of bringing differences in the roles he plays with his great acting ability. I mean I am talking about the people who i know and who watch his movies. His acting was magnificent In Bruges and did fantastic work in Triage, Ondine,Tigerland, Phone booth, In New World, Ask The Dust , A Home At The End Of The World and  Miami Vice. Yes I loved his work in Miami Vice as well. Farrell’s tremendous and outstanding performance make him so different in each of his movies that while watching Triage, Horrible Bosses, A Home At The End Of The World or Fright Night , it was pretty surprising for me to figure out the fact whether this guy is the same guy I watched in Bruges. It is not only his hair, beard or outfits but also his magnificent intelligence that contributes significantly to his performance. His eyes are so expressive. He is full of surprises.  A great human being  and a loving father. The way he cleaned up his acts and gave up booze and drugs which I believe is the hardest things to do and difficult changes to make as these are very addictive and old habits die hard. He surely loves his sons. Many many people keep living their life in a very dangerous way and despite the severe negative consequences  they hardly think about their children and family. 
    By the way, what did make you say that he used to be a chronic masturbator?  Would you elaborate please? Out of curiousity,I have googled it but I did not find any authentic sources of information. Did you run out of adjectives? This is not the nice term to be put to defy a person.  It makes me feel like watching a hardcore porno. So what if he used to be? I don’t understand why it has become such a common trend nowadays to paint someone’s character with personal things that they prefer to do. I mean no one deserves that. I mean there is still a generous way to point out the  negative human traits.

    • jkillough December 30, 20123:29 pm

      @sundayrose777 Hello, Sundayrose—
      Thank you for this lovely, detailed comment.  I also appreciate your notes.  A lot of my writing assumes you’ve been following me for a while.  And people who have followed me for while know that calling someone a “chronic masturbator” is a positive thing.  Also, perhaps you should see Colin’s sex tape.  I mean, as long as you feel like watching hardcore porno.  Just a suggestion.
      Again, thanks for reading and commenting.

      • sundayrose777 December 31, 20124:39 am

        @jkillough Hey James, Thanks for the reply. Thanks for the compliments.
        Sorry, I got you wrong. Many thanks for your clarification. I am going to read your another work on Bardem ” I Wish I Were  a Sociopath.” I liked him in No country for old man, Goya’s Ghost, Vicky Christina Barcelona and Skyfall. A very talented actor indeed.
        Wishing you a very Happy New Year, James.

  • MauriceSlater February 6, 201412:52 pm

    Hey how you doing James. Why on earth dose this tryer get so
    much press and for what, 30 odd movies and the only one that’s credible are In
    Brudge and mainly because of his Co-star Brendan Gleeson. Also this hell-raiser
    part is again a load of crap, come on if you’re a hell-raiser be a hell-raiser don’t
    go booking yourself in to a rehab, for me Colm is going through the well-worn Hollywood
    footpath of I really need to get my head together and to get some Press.no colm
    what you really need to is make a decent movie, and don’t be known as the twat
    who tried to nail a 70 year old, are how cool it was to be have an
    unconsummated affair with Liz Taylor, are a convenient sex
    tape, and then to be on hand to present an actor with a golden globe, as you
    put it the upper-middle-class rich kid from Dublin who also likes to portray that he hung around with kids
    from the poorer part of Dublin because he had more in common with them then the
    upper middle-class kids, that’s all pure bollix, there not many inner-city kids
    in Dublin that I know went line dancing also there has been no-one from the inner-city
    holding their hands up saying yeah colm was a friend of Ares, as I should know
    as I’m from Dublin city and still live here, and it was an insult to those hard
    working people of Dublin for Colm to be butting on a inner-city accent and portraying
    how Dublin he is. Get a Job Colm.

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