On the phone with IndieWire the day after the 2023 Screen Actors Guild Awards, there was not an ounce of cynicism in Colin Farrell’s voice. “I’d never been to the SAGs before. I’d never been nominated, I’d never been there as a presenter, I’ve never been in the room,” said “The Banshees of Inisherin” star, who was up for Best Actor and Best Ensemble that night. “I’ve been doing this [for] 25, 26 years or whatever, acting, so to find myself in the room last night, it’s really cool.”
One of the beauties of this particular Oscar season is how there are so many first-time nominees (to be exact, 16 of the 20 acting nominees are newcomers). Farrell himself is part of the only group of Best Actor nominees since 1935 to all have received their first Oscar nod, despite the Irish actor having been in multiple Academy Award-nominated films throughout the years, including “Minority Report” (2002), “Crazy Heart” (2009), “Saving Mr. Banks” (2013), and “The Lobster” (2015). Though he described being part of an awards campaign as “something of a juggernaut that I’m not used to,” Farrell’s enthusiasm for every event has been infectious.
“Listen, Ariana DeBose came and did her thing at the BAFTAs, and people got a bit mean online, and all that shit. I was bopping away,” said the actor, with a laugh. “I almost went viral because I’m the only dude, like an asshole, fucking bopping away, tapping me knees, or me hands. I’m just trying to have fun with this.”
It helps that Farrell is able to share this journey with his “Banshees” crew, including writer-director Martin McDonagh, and his co-stars of the Searchlight Pictures release, Brendan Gleason, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan, who are all also currently nominated for an Oscar. “We don’t see each other that much, we live in different countries, so to be around them as much as I have has been fucking magic. It’s been such a balm for the soul,” said the actor. “And then also, honest to God, to be at the forefront of celebrating the work of others has been really, really enjoyable. . . The sense of community has been extraordinary.”
Farrell has especially enjoyed some of the events geared toward below the line talent, having recently gone to the Society of Camera Operators Awards, where he was given the 2023 SOC Lifetime Achievement Awards’ Governors Award. “There were a few awards being given, but there wasn’t the same kind of competition that you feel at the big ones. The big award shows are so audacious, there’s so much money behind them. There’s producers everywhere. There is a razor’s edge. You can feel the tension in the air and all that. It’s a bit gladiatorial,” said the actor.
“But in the Society of Camera Operators room, it was just a love of cinema, and a sense of camaraderie, and support. And that’s what I get when I talk to Austin [Butler], or when I see Paul [Mescal], or when I worked with Brendan, Kerry, Barry, and the rest of the cast on the island shooting ‘Inisherin,’” he said. “So it’s that kind of thing that has tickled me really. It’s a very supportive community. It really is.”
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While Farrell has been very appreciative of the praise for his soulful performance as the simple, perseverant Pádraic Súilleabháin, in McDonagh’s tale of a sudden friendship breakup that spins out into heartrending results, he said the joy of acting comes from “collaborating with other people and bringing stories to life.”
At the notion that his recent success could be attributed to becoming more of a character actor, opening himself up to more meaty supporting roles after going through well-documented ups and downs the first decade of his career as a leading man, Farrell pushed back. “I honestly feel like every actor is a supporting actor. If you’re not a supporting actor as a lead, you’re not fucking serving the story. If you’re not supporting the other actors, if you’re not supporting the story, you’re not doing your job,” said the star.
“Some of the best times I’ve had have been going in and doing a week on ‘The Gentleman,’ or ‘Horrible Bosses’ years ago,” he added. “And then some of the most meaningful times, there’s a little bit more emotional investment, a little bit more time, whether it’s ‘Banshees’ or ‘Lobster,’ or whatever. For me, I just wanted every experience to be a little bit different. It’s just fun that way. It keeps me turned on.”
Again, he emphasized that at his core, this experience has reminded him of how lucky he is to continue to make money doing something he loves.
“At times I still pinch myself that I get to do what I do for a living. And I know it’s not curing cancer and I know it’s not splitting the atom, but films have played a really important part of my life as a boy, as a young man. They do today as a man. They play an important part of my life as a father. Myself, my two kids, films are a real cornerstone of our relationships,” said Farrell.
Discussing his experience at this year’s Oscar Nominees Luncheon, he said, “I enter that space as a fan. Yes, I entered it as a nominee, and I’m giddy as a nominee, but I’m giddy as a nominee because I’m a fan, and because I’ve watched [other] nominees’ work since I was a child.”
Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
One of Farrell’s vivid memories as a teenager is watching Daniel Day-Lewis win his first Oscar for “My Left Foot,” so of course he would love to follow suit. “[The] desire is there. If you’re nominated, you do want to hear your name called out and all, and one should be aware of that, own it, but also have a healthy modicum of suspicion as to where it comes from, and what it means, and how much you want it and all that stuff,” said the actor. “So I’ve been really just present in enjoying it, knowing that I’m very privileged, number one, to be working as an actor. There are so many actors and so few jobs on stage, television, and film. So just to be a working actor is brilliant. And then to have the privilege of the last few months has been an extraordinary thing.”
“Life is brief. It’s very fucking short. And where one can have a good time, and treat one’s environment and situation with a bit of light, I would recommend it where possible,” added Farrell. “Having said that, I’m ready for it to come to an end.” Though, to clarify, he is really excited about the Oscars. “There’s not a fucking shred of expectation in me, and I’ve drilled it into myself now to just go and have a laugh, and enjoy the moment,” said the nominee. “My youngest fellow will be my plus one. So the two of us are wearing the same tuxedos and we’re looking forward to it.”
As for what’s next for Farrell, he is already shooting “The Penguin,” HBO Max’s eight episode TV spin-off of box office hit “The Batman,” also nominated for several Academy Awards this year. “The scripts are so tasty, they’re so tasty,” he teased. “I have to be careful making comparisons, but it feels like ’70s New York City, you know. It feels a little bit like ‘The French Connection,’” Farrell said.
He is also eager to hopefully work with filmmaker Kogonada again later this year, having starred in his Independent Spirit Award-nominated A24 film “After Yang” (“I love working with writer-directors”). And, of course, Farrell will always make room in his busy schedule to do another film with McDonagh, who he has steadily worked with since “In Bruges” (2008), another Oscar-nominated film that he considers as a career turning point. “The creative process is a very deep and very rich one with Martin. It’s wonderful. And it only gets deeper and richer the older he gets,” said the actor. “I love Martin, I love Brendan. I love the whole ‘Banshees’ crew. So I hope we get to do something again.”
“The Banshees of Inisherin,” from Searchlight Pictures, is now streaming on HBO Max.
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