Entertainment & Arts

Colin Farrell makes crime pay in London Boulevard

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Media captionColin Farrell leads a star-studded cast including Keira Knightley and Ray Winstone

Irish actor Colin Farrell discusses gangsters, vampires and the paparazzi as he promotes his new crime thriller, London Boulevard.

There is an endearing moment at the beginning of our interview with Colin Farrell, in London to hawk his latest project.

"Hi, I'm Colin!" he says in response to our greeting, following that with an introduction to his sister (and personal assistant) Claudine and an offer of a cup of tea.

Seeing as we have been waiting 40 minutes to meet him and that a poster bearing his visage stands outside in the hallway, such pleasantries might seem superfluous.

Yet it is refreshing to find a decade in the limelight has not robbed the one-time Ballykissangel star of his manners, or the air of genial humility that has endeared him to audiences even when his films left them cold.

A chilly fate may await London Boulevard, a muddled thriller set in an overly familiar world of Cockney hoodlums and violent ne'er-do-wells.

The film, written and directed by William Monahan, casts Farrell as Mitchel, a criminal fresh out of prison who gets drawn back into his former life while working as a bodyguard to a camera-shy movie star.

Farrell admits he has been acquainted in the past with certain individuals who have grappled with the same dilemmas his character does, some with more success than others.

'Brotherhood'

"I've met many people through the years who have a plethora of experiences that I could draw from," he tells the BBC News website.

"For this film I spent a little time with a couple of lads in London who had their beefs with the law back in the day.

"The one thing I saw was the level of brotherhood in this criminal world," the 34-year-old continues.

Colin Farrell in London Boulevard
Image caption Keira Knightley (pictured on wall) plays the reclusive actress he is hired to protect

"There's a great sense of unity and community - a real sense of location and belonging."

We have been told personal questions are off the table, which means we must tread gingerly around Farrell's much-reported past as a hard-drinking hell-raiser.

Equally frowned upon would be enquiries into the recent break-up of his relationship with Alicja Bachleda, a Polish actress whom he met while making 2009 romance Ondine.

However, the scene in London Boulevard in which he kicks a pair of insolent paparazzo down a flight of stairs does invite some mild probing into his off-screen life.

Given his own occasionally fractious dealings with the fourth estate, was this a particularly satisfying sequence to shoot?

'Retribution'

"In reading that, I thought I would have more fun - that more of a sense of weak, diluted, personal justice would be felt," he concedes.

"I've had my run-ins with the good boys with the cameras over the years, so it made me laugh.

"I know I enjoyed the concept of somebody getting physical retribution in that way," he goes on. "But in doing it, it just became another scene.

"I was invested enough in Mitch that I didn't have my own personal relationship to it any more."

Farrell has clearly given a lot of thought to his London Boulevard character, a man "who finds himself at odds with the life he has created".

Image caption Farrell (r) played Danny Byrne in the BBC's Ballykissangel

"He's trying to extricate himself from the binds of his own internal empire," he muses. "He was born with a rage that took him down a particular path.

"His whole struggle in the story is trying to create a different trajectory for himself," adds an actor not unfamiliar with morally ambivalent roles.

Yet it is not all brooding introspection in the Farrell camp. His next movie, for example - a remake of 1985 horror comedy Fright Night - sees him get his teeth into a vampire.

"I wanted to have a bit of fun," he says of a film in which he shares the screen with former Doctor Who David Tennant.

"There was a levity to it, a lack of emotional involvement in a way. There wasn't so much weight or emotional turbulence."

Also in the pipeline is a reunion with his In Bruges co-star (and fellow Dubliner) Brendan Gleeson, set to direct him in a film version of the anarchic Flann O'Brien novel At Swim-Two-Birds.

"He's adapted the book beautifully and it's ready to go," he says. "Now it's just a matter of getting the finance in place."

London Boulevard is out in the UK on 24 November.

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