By Karen Butler
Colin Farrell says he wanted to work with Steven Spielberg so badly, he agreed to appear in the director’s futuristic thriller “Minority Report” before he even read the script.
“[Actress] Samantha [Morton] was the same,” the 26-year-old Dublin native said last week, just ays before the film’s release nationwide last weekend. “It was a case of such top secret ‘you’re not reading the script until you say you’re going to do it.’ Of course, I was going to do it!”
Asked if he went through a lengthy audition process in order to land the role, he said: “No. I met Steven and he said, ‘Will you do it?’ and I said, ‘Are you joking me?’ and he said, ‘No,’ and I said, “You’re right I’ll do it.”
The “Saving Private Ryan” and “Jurassic Park” director offered Farrell the role after Boston actor Matt Damon bowed out because of scheduling conflicts with his own thriller, “The Bourne Identity.”
“Thank God,” Farrell said of the lucky break. “I’ve been so lucky to be given the chance to work with [great directors.]”
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In “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise (“Mission Impossible,” “Top Gun”) plays John Anderton, head of the Justice Department’s elite Pre-Crime Unit, which catches and punishes people before they commit crimes, based on the predictions of a trio of psychic beings known as Pre-Cogs. The drama unfolds as the Pre-Cogs foretell that Anderton will murder a complete stranger in less than 36 hours. Farrell plays Danny Witwer, the rival who hunts Anderton down as Anderton dodges the very system he helped create and attempts to prove the Pre-Cogs wrong.
“I was just blown away by the whole script,” Farrell said of Scott Frank’s screenplay. “It was one of the two or three best scripts I’ve ever read. . . . It was such a cool read.”
Although the star of “Hart’s War” and “Tigerland” admitted he is not a huge science fiction fan, he said he loved all the technological advances and futuristic gadgets created for “Minority Report,” which is set in 2054 in Washington, D.C. Farrell’s character, however, is a bit on the serious side and so doesn’t get as many gizmos to play with as superstar Cruise does.
Remembering how he lobbied for Spielberg to give his character more toys, Farrell said, “I was going to him, ‘Give me something to do!’ ”
Describing Danny as “cocky and smug,” the actor who often has to have his various tattoos spray painted over with makeup on the set, noted: “He’s there to infiltrate Anderton’s department by pretending he’s one of the lads. He’ll step on anyone to get to the next step of the ladder because he wants to get to the top.”
Among the highlights for Farrell was his fistfight scene with Cruise. “It wasn’t as long as it seemed on-screen,” he said. “I think they doubled up on a couple of punches just to make [the scene seem] longer, but it was good fun. Tom likes to get physical and get in there and mess around.”
“Minority Report” also gave Farrell the opportunity to work with acting great Max Von Sydow, someone the younger thespian says he has always admired.
“Tom is just the biggest star in the world and someone who I think is, by and large, fairly underestimated as an actor, as well, and to work with Von Sydow, he is just such a legend,” Farrell said. ” ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ and ‘The Exorcist,’ it goes on. It was lovely. He’s such a great actor, he clears his throat and you think it means something and he’s just clearing his phlegm.”
Farrell mentioned that performing opposite well-respected actors like Von Sydow in “Minority Report” and Al Pacino in the upcoming James Foley film, “The Farm,” has reinforced his belief that there is no single technique to follow when it comes to acting.
“Max Von Sydow is an amazing actor, Al Pacino is an amazing actor, but they both have different styles, so no style is right,” he said. “You should never try to emulate some other actor or mimic somebody. Just find your own path and your own truth, take the words and say it like you mean it.
“Watching Al, one thing I learned was every take he does is different and it is so subtle, the change and the nuance and it’s just because he’s trying to find it all the time, and it’s so rich as a result,” Farrell said.
“I don’t take myself seriously, but I do take my work very seriously and I love it and I work as hard as I can on it.”
Farrell admits that he is quite critical of his own performances.
“I’m never happy,” he said. “I’m doing a job, chasing something I’ll never really own with this job. That’s fine. That’s part of it. I’m OK,” he said.
“Bullseye” role for fun
At the moment, Farrell is filming “Daredevil,” a big-screen adaptation of the popular comic book, which stars Ben Affleck as the titular hero. To prepare for the role of Bullseye, a villain with impeccable aim, studded eyebrows and an Irish accent, Farrell said he immersed himself in comic books.
“I did it because I wanted to learn the expression — it sounds silly, but the expression on the character’s face and just the way they move,” he said. “Bullseye is such a showman and he’s so over the top that you do draw from [the comic books]. It’s not exactly a character where you can do any method acting. What am I going to do, go around New York killing people with paper clips?”
Farrell said he opted to take the role because it was a brief reprieve from the more somber parts he has played over the last few years.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “I have like 12 days on the film total. I have seven scenes in it. I have a really small part, which is a load of fun. I don’t know if I’ve done a good job or whatever, but I seem to play characters that are subtle, but whatever they’re going through, they’re based in reality. Whether it was the World War II film, I did the POW film, the Viet Nam ‘Tigerland’ . . . and this was just a chance to go for the fantastic and check your subtlety at the door and just be as camp and out there as possible.”
So, does Farrell relate to this villain on a personal level?
“I don’t really,” he said. “He’s just a lunatic. He’s just a kind of over-the-top comic book assassin, who just enjoys the kill, enjoys the chase.”
The actor then remarked that if he could have Bullseye’s accuracy or Danny’s ability to see into the future, he would have to take the villain’s aim.
“I have no interest in seeing my future,” he declared. “Because I want to find it. I want to create it.”
Farrell can be seen later this year in the thriller “Phone Booth,” which reunites him with “Tigerland” director Joel Schumacher. He will also appear in the Shumacher drama “Veronica Guerin,” which is due out next year and stars Cate Blanchett as the murdered Irish journalist.
Not surprisingly, Farrell says he has a strong relationship with Schumacher. “I love the man,” he said. “He makes me laugh. I’m very comfortable with him and I kind of understand him. He’s an interesting man. . . . He has a lot of stuff going on in his head, you know? When I said I understand him, there are things I’ll never know, but I love being around him. I have very little fear around him.”