Seven Psychopaths: Colin Farrell, Psycho No. 1


In a role that fits him like a silk glove, the handsome and gifted Colin Farrell plays Marty, a guy who reads a lot of scripts. “Every now and then, writing jumps off the page. This one does that. It slaps you in the face, gives you a kick in the arse, and takes you on a wonderful ride.  So, yeah, I was delighted to be working with Martin again.”

“He has a particular way of stringing words together that has an insane effect on the imagination,” notes Farrell. “There’s an emotional core to everything he writes – the humor, the chaos, the violence, the quick wittedness of dialogue. The scenes, the scenarios, and the characters are so operatic. But I find beneath it all there’s an element of truth concealed. The characters are inspired by a truth – love of a pet, need to help a friend, the wish that a lover was closer, ambition.  There are some voices in cinema that write very nuanced, really specific, incredibly character-driven material. If you close your eyes and just listen to the dialogue, you know it’s Martin.”

For an actor the challenge, he says, is finding the tricky balance between humor and drama. “If you play up for laughs it’ll fall flat on its face. All comedy grows from the fertile ground of truth. Martin’s stuff is so heightened…if you come up to match how heightened it is, well, it can really become over the top so sometimes you have to underplay it.”

When McDonagh broached Farrell about the role, he asked him to keep his Irish accent. “I thought there’s no reason why a screenwriter based in Hollywood couldn’t be Irish,” remarks McDonagh. “And it was a no brainer to have Colin in the lead – he’s fantastic.”

Farrell is into mining backstory. “I think it’s important to understand where Marty is coming from,” says Farrell. “He’s fallen in love with this title but he hasn’t come up with any psychopaths. Marty is renowned for writing good dialogue and violent scenarios but he’s trying to take that violence and somehow render a story that is in essence about peace and love.”

“Marty’s friend Billy thinks Marty is not living up to his creative potential and will go to any lengths to make sure he succeeds,” says Farrell. “He thinks Marty is one of the best writers of his generation. But Billy wants to be a part of the writing process as well, which is kind of a problem. The means by which he goes about trying to help him is just a little bit extreme.”

When Farrell first read the script, he was drawn to the role of Billy played by Sam Rockwell. “He’s got some killer lines. Familiarity had me lean in that direction `cause he’s more like Ray, the character I played in In Bruges. Marty is more the observer, the only one that’s sane really. Billy is out to lunch; the rest are kind of nuts too.  They’re all mad!”