Farrell revealed that the 2004 film “Alexander,” which starred Angelina Jolie and Val Kilmer as his royal parents, made him question his ability as an actor.
“Expectation is a dangerous thing,” Farrell said during a Hollywood Reporter actors’ roundtable. “‘Alexander’ was a story that Oliver Stone had dreamed of since he was in college. So, as grand as it was, as global as it was, as political as it was, as thrilling as it was, as violent as it was, and as sensual as it was, it was really personal — to Oliver and to me.”
Production for the historical epic about the ancient Macedonian general and king Alexander the Great took six months to film across three continents. The “incredible” production left the cast of “Alexander” with expectations for Oscar nominations. Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, and Christopher Plummer also starred in the film.
“When I say ‘expectation,’ we all had our tuxedos ready [for awards shows]. I’m not even joking,” Farrell continued. “We were all like, ‘Right, lads, we’re off to the Oscars. This is a sure thing.’ And then it came out. The reviews came out, and I remember someone going, ‘Oh God, it’s not good.’ And my publicist going, ‘It’s really not good.’ I was like, ‘Well, what do you mean “not good”?'”
He added, “There wasn’t any Rotten Tomatoes then, so they had all the printed reviews, and one after another was telling me to pack my bags, I’d been found out: ‘Alexander the Dull,’ ‘Alexander the Boring,’ ‘Alexander the Inarticulate,’ ‘Alexander the Weak.’ I was like, ‘Holy shit.’ I thought, ‘What can I do?’ I felt so much shame. I found myself in a place where with everyone I met I wanted to say, ‘Have you seen “Alexander”? If you have, I’m really sorry.’ I’m not even joking. I wasn’t going to give them their $20 million back, but…”
Farrell escaped to a Lake Tahoe ski resort for three days to unplug.
“And then after that, yeah, I did question. I went, ‘I’m just shite at it. I’m a crap actor. I’ve been found out,'” the “Banshees of Inisherin” star said. “I came blazing onto the scene with a bit of moxie and a bit of Irish this and that — ‘Fuck, I don’t give a shit about it!’ I was 23. When you’re 23 and you actually care a lot, and you don’t know how to articulate that or have a relationship with that care, the easiest thing to do is to say you ‘don’t give a shit.’ This is not to apologize — I was a young man — but ‘Alexander’ really made me go, ‘I don’t know.'”
Farrell continued, “And what I had to do was plug back into the Colin that went into an acting class when he was 17. And not only the fellow that went in the first time, but more importantly the fellow that went back for the second workshop. I had lost that. I was shot out of the cannon, as you said. I was given so much opportunity. It was insane how much money I was given, the keys to this, the keys to that. And that’s why, when I heard years ago that Justin Bieber threw eggs at his neighbor, I was like, ‘He deserves a medal if that’s all he’s doing.’ He raced a car on Ocean Drive? I’m like, ‘If that’s all he’s doing, that kid is trying the best he can to be a good human being.’ So anyway, it’s been an interesting trip. And I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to reconnect with the simplicity that should never leave the core of what we do.”
Director Stone went on to release multiple recuts of “Alexander,” including “The Ultimate Cut” in 2014.