Fame Audit: Colin Farrell

NAME: Colin James Farrell

AUDIT DATE: August 7, 2003

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Actor, bon viveur

EXPERIENCE: 14 movies and 2 TV series since 1996


Last summer, Colin Farrell was the subject of the traditional midsummer Vanity Fair Career Kiss of Death — you know, that thing Vanity Fair does where it puts some A-/B+ list pretty-boy on its cover before he’s really done all that much to deserve it, gambling that by the same time a year later, said cover subject will be wildly famous and VF will be credited with the foresight to have recognized it first. The only problem is that the last few stars on which they’ve bestowed the honor — Gretchen Mol, Heath Ledger, Josh Hartnett — haven’t really gone on to cover themselves with glory. Last summer, on the occasion of Colin Farrell’s turn getting the VF kiss of death, we wrote, “Farrell’s had several opportunities to fulfill the potential we keep being told he has; none of them has panned out so far… Phone Booth and The Recruit will be the real tests as to whether Farrell will ever land another VF cover; at this stage, it seems likely he won’t.”

A year later, Phone Booth and The Recruit have both come and gone, and another Colin Farrell movie — S.W.A.T. — is poised to take its turn as Colin Farrell’s latest attempt to convince us that all his effort failing upward has been worth it and that our indulgence in letting him take his time trying to learn how to be a bankable star has been justified. Maybe it will; maybe S.W.A.T. will prove to be a serviceable action movie, sort of smart and sort of success in the way that, say, The Negotiator was. (No one, we figure, expects it to do much more than that, given its rather late release date, insulated as it is from the Bruce Almighty and Finding Nemos that have already gobbled up so much of our money this summer.) And maybe it won’t, but if it doesn’t, will it actually make any difference to Colin Farrell’s career?

Because as far as we can tell, Farrell has been coasting for quite some time. Except, maybe “coasting” isn’t even the right word for what he’s been doing. Like, you can “coast” on your bike, but only after you really pedal like crazy to build up a lot of momentum, or only after you struggle to the top of a hill and then glide down it effortlessly. But Colin Farrell hasn’t done either of those things, on the bike of his career, if you follow us. He didn’t work very hard for a long period of time and then start chilling after he had achieved a certain profile; he had only been working for four years, mostly in movies and series made for British TV, when he was cast as the lead in Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland. Nor has Farrell at any point found himself in a movie that, by some fluke, has been a huge, runaway hit that he could use as the proof that he’s a verifiable box-office champ, allowing his next several movies to founder. Colin Farrell has made nine movies in the past four years, and — with the exception of Minority Report and Daredevil, neither of which is exactly “a Colin Farrell movie,” since he plays supporting baddies in both — none of them has made more than $52 million.

This is not to say it isn’t possible for Colin Farrell — or anyone else — to be a respectable artist if the public doesn’t embrace his work. However, we would argue that Farrell knew what he was making when he starred in movies like Phone Booth and American Outlaws…and it wasn’t “art.” It was money (for himself, mind you, and not for the studios). Because Farrell now has on his résumé a string of movies that, in addition to being not especially successful, are not especially good. Are affirmatively bad, in fact. Are in many cases awful. But they’re all either helmed by big-name directors and/or stocked with big-name castmates.

Since Tigerland, has Farrell chosen his projects in order to grow as an actor and hone his craft? And before you answer, let us remind you: Phone Booth. Ninety minutes of a guy yelling into a phone to a disembodied voice. Okay? Because the answer is no-no, Colin Farrell didn’t do these movies to test the limits of his acting skills: he did them to get more famous and make a lot of money.

Now, we must be clear: that’s not a dis. We are staunch advocates of selling out. If we haven’t utterly sold out yet, it’s not because we’re lousy with integrity or anything; we just haven’t had the opportunity yet. (If any highly placed executives at media conglomerates are reading this — call us!) But we digress. The point is that there’s nothing really wrong, in our view, with the dogged pursuit of fame for its own sake — particularly if the person doggedly pursuing it is upfront about his intentions. As far as we can tell, Farrell has been completely unapologetic in his quest to become a movie star; why else would he so cheerfully pick up so many other actors’ sloppy seconds, taking over the roles they’d signed on for and then ditched (Matt Damon in Minority Report, Jim Carrey in Phone Booth, Edward Norton in Hart’s War)?

Speaking of movies, have you checked out the reviews on the latest and greatest Hollywood films right now over at Hollywood Insider yet? Well, get to it! How else are you going to know which of Colin Farrell’s movies are worth watching?

Aside from his movies, Farrell has also done everything in his power to get our attention offscreen as well. He made the canny move of taking a page out of the Russell Crowe playbook — he goes out! He gets drunk and kind of obnoxious! He kisses ladies! He has an accent! — and tweaked it for his own purposes, adding attributes like playfulness and the capacity for joy, and subtracting the pretentious-ass sideline fronting a crappy band. In fact, Farrell’s offscreen antics — chronicled in detail in the pages of Us Weekly, and related by himself in his periodic talk-show appearances — now attract so much attention that they threaten to eclipse his professional body of work (which, given the quality of said work, is probably just as well; though we don’t claim to know Farrell’s mind, we tend to doubt that he spends much time at home bemoaning the fact that the world hasn’t sufficiently recognized his fine performance in American Outlaws. Or that he spends much time at home, full stop).

In the span of three short years, Colin Farrell has transformed himself from a virtually unknown quantity in the U.S. to a single-name superstar, and he’s done it without carrying a single hit movie. We like him fine onscreen, and we like him even better offscreen, but he is absolutely bloated with unearned fame right now and could do with a good fame enema.


  • Come on. So cute.
  • Could teach his erstwhile co-star Tom Cruise a thing or five about cheerfully accepting and embracing his gay fan base, and shrugging off rumors of his own homosexuality
  • Doesn’t mind going full frontal
  • Seems genuinely excited about being a father


  • In no way is he even close to the 5’10” he claims to be
  • Allegedly performed sexual favors on Joel Schumacher to get his role in Tigerland
  • According to his own brother, plays up his Irishness past the point of authenticity
  • Already has a five-month marriage behind him

Fame Barometer

The current approximate level of fame: Matt Damon

Deserved approximate level of fame: Jared Leto

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