‘We’re going to die and make big mistakes’: Colin Farrell and Jamie Lee Curtis confront their legacy of acting and sobriety

Jamie Lee Curtis and Colin Farrell are two of the most charismatic characters in Hollywood — and for both actors, magnetism can sometimes mask contemplative depths. Curtis, who played a ruthless IRS inspector opposite Michelle Yeoh in “Everything and Everywhere at Once” and Farrell, who performs an acting duet as an Irish farmer who has a falling out with his best friend (Brendan Gleeson) in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Talk about the complex roles they’ve taken on this year. Either way, it’s the deep introspection, and lessons learned in recovery, that inspire their work.

Jamie Lee Curtis: Ireland is a very friendly country.

Colin Farrell: something amazing. I’ve lived here in Los Angeles for 16 or 17 years now. I raise my two children here. Los Angeles means more to me than I ever thought this city would. But when I get home, it makes sense to me in a way that working anywhere else doesn’t make sense to me. If I’m in L.A. and I say, “I’m going home,” I drop it about two octaves. This place is deeper inside of me.

Curtis: And you dropped him in this movie. You have to go home.

Pharrell: Yes, I did. I come home about once every three years to do a movie there. Where were you born?

Curtis: I was born and raised here in the City of Angels. I went to a boarding school once. Connecticut. One year. Error.

Alexi Lubomirsky for Diversity

Pharrell: I studied at a boarding school for a year and a half. Wrong, wrong. You were half a year smarter than me.

Curtis: I used to play Joni Mitchell’s “California” in my room and cry. Because when you’re from somewhere, it’s you.

Pharrell: It’s like there’s a lot of energy I have left there. Place shaped me and sent me into the world.

Curtis: The movie is very much about Ireland. It’s an Irish movie. It is very deep and wonderful.

Pharrell: The movie was about disagreements between two friends. Literally one boy says to another boy, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.” Today’s culture, don’t bother texting — I think kids call it “ghosting” — you just cut the person off. Hard to do on an island where there is only one pub and one church.

I understood my character, Pádraic, and where he was coming from. But I felt deep sympathy for the struggles of Brendan’s character and for the lengths he had to go to find that peace, this solitude, to be able to reckon with his own mortality.

Curtis: you are younger than me. I am now in that place where time is much shorter than I have left on Earth. It’s just shorter. And the resonance of that was very deep. Because, in the end, you have to say to some people, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore.”

Pharrell: Anyway, enough of my stuff – talk to me about yours.

Curtis: no no no no. I want to talk about this

Pharrell: You’re the boss – we set it up today. I must be lying down. Can we get a chaise longue here?

Curtis: You and I have been doing this for a long time. And we were both so focused on us sometimes. And then focusing too much on other parts of us sometimes. And then a lot of time away and not playing the game. lo and behold he is Game. I don’t care, but here we go.

Why are we sitting here today? Because you did the job in this movie. I did this work on the movie with Daniels. And I don’t know how a movie made two years ago in Simi Valley, California, in 38 days, in an abandoned office building, landed me in this chair across from you, than you would run away and make a movie that’s so deeply Irish, it’s a beautiful movie, so quiet, A dialogue about human feelings…

Pharrell: Well, what’s going on around you is the exact same thing: perceiving the ticking of a clock. As long as the watch has enough breath to go from 11 to 12, there is a possibility to reverse course.

Curtis: So there is redemption. And reconciliation. And the
healing.

Pharrell: she is very beautiful. Because the only two things I know for certain are that we will die and we will make terrible mistakes. Whether we atone for our mistakes.

Curtis: Did you know that before you corrected?

Pharrell: no. I had doubts, before I was corrected, about how painful life could be. But I didn’t have the power to take it without being self-destructive and without living through it. I don’t live in that now. I feel for these things we talk about, sometimes. And I consider life to be a lot sometimes. Other times, I’m just as petty as I was when I was six on a good day.

I want to know a little bit about what your film means to you.

Alexi Lubomirsky for Diversity

Curtis: Daniel Kwan spoke about the origins of the film. And speaking of our phones and the society we live in, the digital portal: In one second, we’re witnessing the nightclub shooting debacle last night. And then with one swipe of our finger, it’s a cat video. And one swipe of our fingers, it’s politics and Twitter. Then how much information we as humans now process, demand from our brains…

Pharrell: They conveyed that chaos, that kind of momentary impulse…

Curtis: …and found the center. It is love, kindness, family, forgiveness and regret. We all live with regret.

Pharrell: I thought it was one of the best written and performed scenes. Two small moving plasticine rocks talking to each other.

Curtis: I don’t think they were cartoons, my friend.

Pharrell: Were they playing duh?

Curtis: I think it was rocks.

Pharrell: But then, in the end, the pressure heard was finally one of simplicity, one of redemption, one of forgiveness. To overcome remorse, I suppose, you have to forgive yourself; But if you live in it too long, it can almost become a sin against oneself, depending on how you express it. Everyone got a second chance.

Curtis: These two films are about the human condition. And here we are, sitting in velvet chairs in a faux mid-century coffee lounge somewhere, talking to each other. And there are actors walking around Hollywood Boulevard, near here, just trying to get a gig.

Pharrell: Three Spider-Man. Ninety-nine percent of us are unemployed.

Curtis: I am out of work today. I like to tell people that I’m an independent actor, which means I’m an unemployed actor.

Pharrell: If someone says, “I have a script,” I go, “I’m around.”

Curtis: But won’t you play the penguin?

Pharrell: yes.

Curtis: Well, here’s a job.

Pharrell: I did it in a movie. I hope to do it for TV in February or March. So I will be an employee.

Curtis: I do not work. I have nothing.

Alexi Lubomirsky for Diversity

Pharrell: Are you even thinking about legacy? What does legacy mean to you on your journey?

Curtis: I think about it a lot. Being sober is sure to be a legacy. Because I stop what was a generational issue in my biological family. It would be the greatest thing to do, if I could stay sober. Because generations of people have had their lives ruled and destroyed by alcohol and drug addiction. For me, sobriety comes first. Always.

Pharrell: The whole reason art exists is that it is an expression of the human condition. Whatever the blessings
I have or what wealth I experience in my life, I no longer have
or less of the human condition than the man who lives without a roof over his head. We are in the exact same place internally.

Curtis: And this is the gift that sobriety gives you, that the rules apply just as well to you as they do to other people. That’s the legacy: making friends and loving people really well. And bring art here. I’ve seen Tarr. And though she’s a full-on character, Lydia Tarr, the music she communicates through was written long ago and still is. . .

Pharrell: . . . echo.

Curtis: . . . It moves us. This is the beauty of art.

Pharrell: But strange as it may be, life is great art, isn’t it? I love my children with the heart of an artist—an open heart, unafraid of its own pain, aspiring to reach for joy—not with a clenched fist, not with white knuckles, but with an open hand. No one can tell another person what is art and what is not. Some critics do, and this is their way. Good luck to them. But art is everywhere.

Curtis: Aren’t we lucky?

Pharrell: Mad luck.

Curtis: Are you an intellectual representative?

Pharrell: no. I don’t like to talk much about it.

Curtis: And you just do the work yourself.

Pharrell: I do the work myself, I do my work in the hotel room and in my bed at night, and I take a walk and think and find a piece of music that turns me on. And then I listen to that for the movie.

Curtis: Tell me a piece of music for this movie.

Pharrell: This is beautiful. It was by chance that he was an Irish composer. Patrick Cassidy is his name. There is an acceptance of grief—not just having grief, not acknowledging grief, but accepting it as a part of our lives. I’ve listened to that for a bit. But sometimes you listen to something so much, you can feel it starting to lose its voice inside. So you have to stop.

Curtis: I didn’t have music. I know many women like Deirdre Beaubeirdre.

Pharrell: who are they? How do they present themselves?

Curtis: I met them in recovery. People who exercise power in their jobs as a substitute for any real human contact or any love or affection. No one recognizes them anywhere other than in their position of power. This is the only thing they have spent their lives nurturing.

So this is what saves them, is that power. Then what happens to them at the end of the day when they go home and sit alone in their apartment? It’s very sad. Ninety-five percent of my work on that film was shot in the first two days in the office building in Simi Valley.

Pharrell: Did the movie hurt you?

Curtis: What surprised me was when we did Hot Dog World, because both movies involve fingers and hands. But when Michelle and I met, and the Daniels family talked about the world of hot dogs, I didn’t get it. I did not understand the movie. And I was trying to figure that out. Then we went to the set and what happened, which was so beautiful, it was Michelle and I just found this great emotional place with each other.

Pharrell: liquidity.

Curtis: It was just a nice dance with her. And this is that level of finding reality within the universe that seems so strange, yet is not so strange at all. In the end, you believe everything about him.

Pharrell: Because it gives shape and form to irony. And silliness is something we all deal with. Life is so ridiculous. I don’t know why or how to be on the right side, yet, from the wrong. The world is unfair and imperfect. I don’t know why we got to where we are now. But some of the absurdities in the world are exhilarating.

Curtis: By the way, if you are going to write a book, this is the title. “The right side of the wrong.”


Design mode by Jack Flanagan


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