Colin Farrell has come a long way after his stellar roles in movies like Minority Report and In Bruges. The Irish actor, who was last seen as mob boss supervillain Penguin in the superhero film The Batman, will now portray famed cave-diver John Volenthen in the survival drama Thirteen Lives. It is clear that the actor is itching to experiment. In an exclusive conversation with Hindustan Times, Colin talks about playing Thirteen Lives, Penguin and being ‘middle-aged’. Read also: Colin Farrell Calls The Batman Script ‘Dark, Moving, Gorgeous’
Thirteen Lives, directed by Ron Howard, is based on the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue, where a junior football team and their coach were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand after being trapped for 18 days. In addition to the efforts of the local people and the Thai government, a key role was played in the rescue by British and Australian cave divers played by Colin, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton and Tom Bateman in the film. The film is releasing on Amazon Prime Video on August 5.
Talking about coming under the skin of British diver John Volenthen for the film, Colin says, “It was Covid so I never met John. We’ve been talking for a few years and we’ve been meaning to bring Diet Coke together forever but that hasn’t happened. But he made himself available through Facetime where we chatted for hours. His humility and decency impressed me.”
Playing a real person in a film based on a real event, an actor can play the role in two ways – stick to the script or do your own research about the episode. Colin says that he mixed the two in Thirteen Lives. “I don’t know if I have a preference, but I think we figured out both the avenues and processes, where we had the script and we also had Rick Stanton and Jason Mallinson during the shoot. They’re obviously incredible resources.” Were because it was straight from the horse’s mouth. In the end, this is not a documentary and you are telling a story so some assumptions are made. What I know is that Ron loves real events and the human spirit And he was keen to be as accurate as possible. And we also had several representatives from Thailand who stayed on top of us and made sure things were culturally appropriate and respectful,” he says.
Colin spends most of his screen time filming underwater, a lengthy question for someone who can’t even swim. And he admits it was hard. Recalling the experience, he says, “We had safety divers, don’t get me wrong. We took health and safety very seriously. We used to have meetings every morning but at the end of the day you’re working with water. I asked the security divers what was the most dangerous movie they’ve worked on and they gestured: ‘This one!'”
In fact, he admits that he almost had panic attacks while underwater several times. Colin recalls, “At times I freaked out, just holding on to things and you try to calm yourself down. One time I remember that was terrible. It wasn’t so dramatic. We were almost in this big pool.” Swim 20 feet down and you’ll swim into a hole in the wall to get into the cave. We’d get into position and wait for the camera crew to arrive. Usually we got it done in 60 seconds, but once, 2-3 Nothing happened for a minute, and my head went crazy. I felt nervous.”
If he spent most of Thirteen Lives in scuba gear, his final release was a different challenge to The Batman. In the Robert Pattinson-starrer, Colin played Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin, an iconic comic villain. And to look like a scorched, overweight penguin, Colin was doused in a pile of makeup and prosthetics. Which is a big challenge to talk about, says Colin, “Ultimately you want to be able to suspend your disbelief. As an actor, that’s what you want to do – make your character look real. With that in mind, cave-diving was a bit of a stretch because I can never say that I was completely comfortable doing it. Whereas, I was comfortable doing penguins under prosthetics. I was buried, with nowhere to be found and no threat of danger or death, the way Thirteen had in life. So of course Penguin was easy. ,
Between Thirteen Lives, The Batman, and his upcoming film The Banshees of Inishrin, Colin is now almost exclusively playing non-glamorous middle-aged men. This is a far cry from the heartthrobs he was known for playing till a few years back. Ask him if this is a conscious move and the 46-year-old replied with a laugh, “This is the limit that the calendar imposes on me. This is not my choice. I would love to play the heartthrob.”
He recalls that the first time he was asked to play an ‘old role’ he almost resented. “I remember the first time I got a script I was playing the father of someone who was 20 and I thought, ‘F*** you.’ I realized that was absolutely inappropriate. There was an offer.” But Colin has no complaints about aging as a person and as an actor. “I’m enjoying this phase of my life. I’m having fun in my 40s as a man, a father, and an actor. I’d like to slow down the s*** a little bit if I could.” I don’t want any years ago though,” he says, signing off.