Interview: Colin Farrell gets his teeth into fun fright role

Colin Farrell sinks his teeth into his new role as a vampire in the remake of Fright Night, which opens in cinemas tomorrow. The Irish star talks to Shereen Low about making his character more brutal than the original, and what fans can expect from the Total Recall remake.

Vampires have had more than their fair share of screen time in recent years, with the popularity of the Twilight Saga and TV shows like True Blood and The Vampire Diaries doing little to abate the trend.

So it’s understandable that Colin Farrell – the newest and sexiest bloodsucker on the block – had his doubts before donning a set of fangs.

The Irish star got the opportunity to give his take on menacing neighbour Jerry Dandridge in Craig Gillespie’s 3D remake of the 1985 movie Fright Night.

“I really was dubious about the idea of loads of things – remakes, vampire films, 3D,” he says, ticking off each reason on his fingers.

“It’s not exactly the most original choice. So the ego kind of takes a hit and you think: ‘Is that what I should be doing?’”

Colin, 35, was especially sceptical because he held the original horror comedy, which was followed by a sequel in 1988, in high regard.

“I was 11 or 12 the first time I saw Fright Night. I loved it and I kind of had a little boy crush on Chris Sarandon – who played Jerry – as well. I don’t want to say it’s sacrosanct, but in a way it is and it’s kind of perfect in its own form,” he says.

With a twinkle in his chocolate-brown eyes, he continues: “So I was frustrated when I read Marti Noxon’s script, because it was so good I really wanted to do it!

“Just like the original, it seemed to straddle the line between horror and a kind of sweet tongue-in-cheek comedy.”

Before agreeing to this project, the Dublin-born actor had found himself in intense films such as Triage, Ondine and The Way Back.

“I was just looking for something lighter to do than some of the dramatic stuff I’d done the previous years, and the script was so much fun,” he admits.

“Psychologically, Triage was a tough film and I lost a lot of weight for the role. In Ondine, which I loved, there was a lot of emotion involved in telling the story of a fisherman and a water nymph. And for The Way Back, set in Siberia, it was a tough environment to shoot in.”

Fright Night marks Colin’s horror debut and it’s also a vast contrast to his most recent screen role in Horrible Bosses, where he makes audiences laugh as cocaine addict Bobby, complete with dodgy comb-over hairstyle and pot belly.

“I was given complete licence to act as pathologically screwed up as possible,” he recalls.

Although they may be worlds apart, there is one thing his latest screen alter egos have in common – they both love women.

Ruthless and predatory, Fright Night’s Jerry terrorises the neighbourhood, using his charm and sexuality to lure his victims to their fates.

He also attempts to romance Amy (Imogen Poots) and steal her away from her boyfriend Charley (Anton Yelchin).

David Tennant, best known as the tenth Doctor Who, joins the cast as the magician who conjures up help for Charley, while Kick-Ass’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse is Charley’s friend Evil Ed.

“Sarandon’s Jerry in the original did seem to keep residual characteristics from when he was human. His Jerry was so debonair and elegant and charismatic,” says Colin, resting his chin on his hand.

“He seemed to have some kind of compassion, he had a desire to love and be loved, he was searching the world for his romantic counterpart, very much like the Dracula character before he finds Madame Mina.

“And his relationship with Amy is much more about that obsessive kind of vampiric love we’ve read about in vampire lore.”

But that’s where the similarities between his version and Sarandon’s ends, as Farrell gives his vampire a more intimidating spin.

“I think he’s a lot more brutal. This guy is just a survivalist, more predatorial,” he continues.

“He really has no characteristics that were dragged over from the days he was human. If anything, just a propensity towards cruelty, but he’s just a really brutal character with no kind of emotional or psychological weight that could be seen as human. He’s a hunter, a scavenger.”

Farrell admits to feeling some pressure to live up to the original, but tries to brush off the concerns.

“I felt that Marti designed a different enough kind of tone when she wrote Jerry in this version that I didn’t feel I was so much in the shadow of Chris Sarandon,” he reveals.

“You hope the fans of the original like the film – and there’s nothing you can do if they don’t. But we’ll see how that goes.”

It may be a while before the former wild child, now a proud father of two, dips his toes back into the horror genre. He has been filming the Total Recall remake in Canada, in which he promises a thrilling catfight between Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale.

“It’s back to Toronto tomorrow to finish a thing I started – Total Recall,” he says with a grin.

“There is a really good fight between them, very beautifully choreographed and very aggressive. There will be fanboys all over the world getting rather uncomfortable if they go see the film with their girlfriends during that fight.”

After that, Colin is set to reunite with In Bruges director-writer Martin McDonagh on Seven Psychopaths.

He is also in talks to appear in In Bruges co-star Brendan Gleeson’s film adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s cult novel, At Swim-Two-Birds – commonly held to be a book that cannot be filmed.

“That’s it for now. I’m enjoying it, doing different stuff, you know,” he says, with a twinkle.