Colin Farrell - Hollywood rebel bares his teeth

With critical acclaim outweighing the gossip column inches, Colin Farrell has new balance in his life, he tells Gill Pringle

Colin Farrell needed little preparation when it came to embodying the seductive qualities of a vampire. "That part was easy for me," he laughs, glimpsing down at his unbuttoned shirt revealing a muscled tattooed torso. Just when Twilight's Robert Pattinson has made vampires sweet and sensitive, Farrell is here to remind us why they should never be trusted. All sex and swagger, he exudes malevolence.

His turn in a remake of the 1985 horror comedy Fright Night presented fresh challenges for the 35-year old actor whose previous roles include country rocker, criminal, cop, bi-sexual and Alexander the Great. "You approach it like Richard III, really, as silly as that sounds, and you go into the back story. This guy has no emotional life. He's just a single-minded predator and a survivalist and doesn't have any feelings or regrets. He's been on this planet for 400 years and he's just bored, which is why he acts the way he does."

The Dublin native and son of footballer has lived in LA for over a decade. After his 1999 performance in Ballykissangel caught the attention of the studios, he made his film debut a year later in Tim Roth's drama The War Zone. His breakout role came when he played Private Roland Bozz in Tigerland in 2000 and two years later, he reached a wider audience playing a cop chasing Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Since then he's earned a Golden Globe for his portrayal of a hit man in In Bruges and won acclaim for mixing up flashy lead roles with character studies – such as his hilariously creepy overweight sleazeball in last month's Horrible Bosses.

His volatile private life has often threatened to overshadow his accomplishments. As well as enjoying a close friendship with the late Elizabeth Taylor, Farrell has also made headlines for a steamy sex tape, crazy stalkers and drug addiction that led him to rehab. A notorious ladies' man, he was married to the British actress Amelia Warner for four months in 2001, before fathering two sons by two mothers – eight-year-old James with US model Kim Bordenave and 22-month-old Henry with Mexican actress Alicja Bachleda.

His eldest son suffers from Angelman Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, which was diagnosed four years ago when he began having seizures. "He didn't walk until he was four years old and his speech development was also slow, but he's a really happy boy", says Farrell. "It's great being a dad."

Famously stalked by a woman who recorded a song entitled "Colin Farrell is My Bitch", today Farrell is neither prey or predator. "I make my living in a town that might at times like a certain sincerity, might at times be more superficial than a lot of places you would see or feel. But I don't really live there. Hollywood is a state of mind. When I shot five days of Horrible Bosses in L.A. it was the first time in seven years I'd shot anywhere near Hollywood since Minority Report. I've shot in Albuquerque, Morocco, Toronto now, London and twice in Dublin in the last few years. But Hollywood? Hardly ever.

This place has been good to me, though. I'll say that. It's been tricky to navigate through but I think I've survived. I'm here and I'm talking to you."

He has no regrets about any of his artistic decisions, including his role in Oliver Stone's ridiculed Alexander. "It was just magic to be part of that film, although it wasn't so magic when it was released, the way things went down. But the experience of doing the film was glorious. To have one of those in your life, one of those epic, almost David Lean-like experiences, was a great gift."

For his recent role in Horrible Bosses he put ego aside to make a transformation so complete he's almost beyond recognition. "I just had a very clear idea of this guy that was obsessed with all things Asian, loved karaoke and drove a Firebird – and the bald cap and the comb-over," he recalls. "I was also going through a period where I was going down to the 24-hour spas in Koreatown, where you'd go in at 2am and have a steam or a sauna and get a really hard accu-pressure massage. It's a very weird sub-culture and I thought maybe Bobby Pellitt would do this. I was totally creeped out when I first saw myself like that but it was also very liberating."

Today he tries to pace film projects. "It's important for me to have a life outside of film. I did the whole living-in-hotels thing for seven years and that was a very specific chapter of my life. Now I aim for more balance."

He's currently in Toronto working on a re-make of Total Recall, taking the role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Next up he joins Mickey Rourke and Christopher Walken for the unlikely sounding dog-napping comedy, Seven Psychopaths. "I really enjoy doing comedy even though I'm not usually the first choice. I also like to watch comedy. The Hangover made me laugh. The Hangover Part II made me laugh as well. People were like, 'it's the exact same as Part 1'. Of course it was. What did they expect?"

For all this, neither of his sons is particularly impressed by his profession. "They've both been on set but they're only into the peanut-butter-jelly sandwiches and all the fixes of craft services. If I was Buzz Lightyear, they'd be over the moon, but I'm not. I don't do stuff that gets them."

'Fright Night 3D' opens today

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