After the box office disappointment of "Total Recall," it's nice to see Colin Farrell re-team with his "In Bruges" director Martin McDonagh so quickly. "Seven Psychopaths" -- a black comedy that's a bit difficult to describe in a quick introduction -- played to rambunctious midnight crowds at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. The plot focuses on Marty (Farrell), a screenwriter working on a script called "Seven Psychopaths," while, at the same time, many of the events that he's depicting are also happening around him in reality.
I met Farrell and McDonagh at their Toronto hotel to talk about the new film and discuss why they seem to make such a nice team. Also, Farrell laments the disappointment of "Total Recall" and explains why he decided to not read the reviews.
There's a line in "Seven Psychopaths" that states the woman always gets shot, but they never kill the dog. Immediately after this, I saw "Cloud Atlas." And there's a scene where Hugo Weaving is pointing a gun at a woman, and a little dog runs out and he just shoots the dog and then runs off.
Farrell: Oh, really? [laughs]
McDonagh: That's not going to be a big hit then.
Farrell: Exactly. That was kind of a fortuitous, almost gift, that didn't have an obvious ribbon on it, but was presented to you. Because, originally, the dog did die and financing/producing was kind of like, "It can't happen." Meanwhile, they were okay with killing the woman. Not a word about killing the women or killing the men in the script. That really fit it in to the same kind of sensibility and criticism of certain Hollywood hypocrisies. Literally what happened was he went, "OK, you can't -- I'll just put that in. Fuck you, CBS."
Christopher Walken has a meta monologue in which he states, "This is a terrible movie for women." Do you think that's true with a lot of movies?
McDonagh: God, yeah. I'd hate to be an actress when you're just getting girlfriend parts or wife parts. It's awful. And you almost feel guilty as a writer not trying to help out. But, in my early plays I used to have strong women parts. And my next film's got a very strong, older woman central character.
Farrell: No, well there are not as many interesting and challenging parts for women as there are for men. And certainly not the same sized parts for women as there are for men, for sure. And it's just an obvious reflection of most societies around the world to be patriarchal. And to greater or lesser degrees, that still exists. Lesser degrees in the Western world. But I would hope it's improving. Obviously, not in his fucking films [laughs] -- but the next one a 55-year-old woman is the central role in his next film. And she's strong.
With this film, how meta can you go? Where's the line of "that's too wonky"?
McDonagh: I don't know, You search that line without ‑‑ you know, there aren't any rules or boundaries. You push it as far as you can go. You know when it's smug.
Farrell: That's the one thing that you avoid, absolutely.
Was it always meant to be so meta?
McDonagh: I think it was always a guy writing a script, but I didn't really know which way. I think I had a couple of the stories that he writes -- or thinks he writes -- in it like the Quaker psychopath and the serial killer killer story ... but I didn't know how to get to that place. But then I was thinking, Well, who writes a story like the Quaker psychopath but doesn't want to write about violence anymore? Where do we go from there? So that's kind of how it started.
I feel like you should be in his next movie. You guys are a good team.
McDonagh: Well, he'd need to be a woman, I think.
Farrell: I was going to say, I've never played female before [laughs]. Do I have to be 55? I'll wear the dress, but do I have to wear the prosthetics? No, I know -- but, yeah, I'd do anything he does.
Was that the plan after "In Bruges"? To do another one together?
Farrell: What's amazing is that we don't seem to live in a world of plans. I mean, I've never been able to answer with a straight face and from a bed of former consideration what films I want to do next or are there directors I want to work with. I've really never had a plan. I've just kind of, not tripped through this, but I've stepped through, gingerly, at my own pace in the last 15 years. So after "In Bruges," -- then he fucked off for a couple of years and went traveling. And then about two years later, he said, "I'm thinking of doing a couple of the scripts." And we kind of looked them over and then he continued to fuck off for another year and a half. And then he called and he said, "I think I'll do that now; do you want to meet up and have a chat?" And he came up to the house and we honestly picked up on a conversation that was lightly punctuated at the end of "In Bruges." It just felt like the same kind of thing. And his work just speaks to me; it makes sense. The dialogue makes sense and the situations make sense.
McDonagh: I think our own sensibilities are kind of the same, too.
Farrell: They are kind of similar. Yeah, absolutely. And like, we're both slightly sarcastic without ever intending any meanness with it and that's the one thing that surprised me about seeing the film, because I only saw it two nights ago for the first time -- with the audience. And as kind of grotesquely violent and chaotic and anarchic and profane as it is, it's a really sweet film. There's a sweetness to it that is undeniable and that was the thing that kind of stayed with me.
Even though they all do bad things, all of the characters are strangely likable.
Farrell: Yeah, I know! And it's as much about friendship and trying to lay all ghosts to rest and lust and the ideas of revenge. And violence begets violence and all those thoughts. I mean, those strains of ideology are consistently through it, too.
Do you like doing this type of movie better? A movie like "Total Recall" has to be kind of disappointing. It looked like a lot of work went into that movie and then it just kind of came and went.
Farrell: A lot of work. Yeah, it is disappointing. Genuinely, it is. Because the argument, "Oh, sure, you got the money." Absolutely, of course. But it's really disappointing when a bunch of people -- 150 or 200 people -- work on something for six months and it doesn't find the audience that it's designed to find. But I think, personally, I identify less with the results of films than I used to, which is a good thing.
Why is that?
Farrell: I think I just have more of a life outside of film than I used to have. My identification with being an actor has been diluted with my identification of being aware of being a friend and being aware of being a brother and being aware of being a lover or being aware of being a dad. And all those other things. So it's just a case of dilution -- because I still do, a little bit, as an actor. But not a lot. I didn't read the reviews for "Total Recall" -- and not reading them was a huge thing. And it didn't take much effort. I just didn't end up reading them, which means I didn't need to, which means I don't identify with it that much. But it was disappointing that it didn't work out. I mean, ideally, you know, this isn't writing poetry for yourself or painting a picture that you have no intention of anyone ever seeing and just doing it because you like the exercise. These stories are made to be shared, whether it's "Total Recall" for $150 million or this, for whatever it cost -- $12 million or $14 million.
McDonagh: It was $13 million.
Farrell: $13 million?
Farrell: It's amazing you got that for $13 million. You know, you're making it to find an audience. But I note them all -- like really big, small. And I love none more than I love working on his material, just because it's so unique
McDonagh: It's also a question of "successful film," because when "In Bruges" came out, the reviews were pretty mixed. And it didn't do very well at the box office. And not in America, at all. But it's only been since then -- like, if it was like two days after it came, you'd say that was a disaster. I mean, in the three years or four years since then, it's developed some kind of respect.
Farrell: I think there's an inherent success when a film is made. It's such a crazy endeavor and there are so many different factors that need to come together in some form of cogent way to bring a film to realization, even if it's the biggest piece of shit ever. To write a script, I have to take my hat off -- and I written some shit scripts and I still have respect for the endeavor.
I'm curious what you thought of Colin in "Horrible Bosses."
McDonagh: I haven't seen it.
Well, so much for that question. Anyway, he's great.
Farrell: I mean, I just want to do as many things as possible. And that was really different. But it's fun to mix it up. Honest to God, there's such an opportunity to have fun doing what I do for a living that to not explore that opportunity in the most refined way that I can would be a gifthorse-mouth, long stare.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.