Colin Farrell On Sobriety & His 'Garden Variety Tale' Of Addiction

By David Konow 11/06/17

“I had just had it, man. I was done. For a long time I could go mad for three, six months... I couldn’t find the handbreak.”

Colin Farrell

Actor Colin Farrell has opened up about sobriety and his new outlook in a very candid interview with The Independent. When the handsome Irish star of Tigerland and Minority Report first broke through in Hollywood, he was well on his way to a major career. Yet his partying became so notorious, he very easily could have been another casualty before he got help.

As he tells theNew York Times, it was 13 years ago that he starred as Alexander the Great, and when that film flopped, he flew off to Lake Tahoe and went on a binge. In his inebriated state, he thought putting on a ski-mask was a smart maneuver so he wouldn’t be recognized. Today he thinks back, incredulously: “Where can I wear a ski mask and not actually be put against the wall by a bunch of SWAT cops?”

In 2009, Farrell told GQ that after his career began to nosedive with such flops as Alexander and the big-screen version of Miami Vice, “I didn’t want to die. But I didn’t want to live.”

After completing Miami Vice, Farrell checked into a rehab facility at the urging of this family. (He would later tell The Mirror he had no recollection of working on the film: “I couldn’t remember a single frame of doing it.”)

“I had just had it, man,” Farrell told The Independent. “I was done. For a long time I could go mad for three, six months, and then I could pull back for a few months to try to re-enter the atmosphere. I couldn’t find the handbreak.”

Falling into the cliché of a movie star suffering from addiction, Farrell added, “It is certainly not abnormal what I went through, sadly. It is pretty much a garden variety tale of an addict, I suppose. And having an addiction and not knowing as a man what to do in a male-dominated society that puts worth and high value on emotions of alpha behavior and pack mentalities and such.”

Farrell said that not dealing with his fears was “carcinogenic... It results in violence and all sort of madness. So, I had to look back and it was very garden variety stuff and I started dealing with it.” He was also pleased to tell the The Independent that once he got out of rehab, it was “the best sleep [my mother] had in 15 years.”

When asked if sobriety has made him a better parent, Farrell said emphatically, "Oh God, yeah. I can't imagine! I have yet to meet a person whose sobriety has made their life worse. I have yet to. But I am open to it. If you find someone please get in touch with me because I would love to have a chat with them and ask them a couple of questions. I have yet to meet a person whose sobriety didn't make a better father, a better friend..." 

In his new critically acclaimed art house movie The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the 41-year-old actor plays a surgeon who is three years sober but in real life, Farrell is in his 10th year of sobriety and he is taking nothing for granted.

Nowadays, when he's not shooting movies, he spends more time exercising and being with his children. “I just live. I just live it without being poison the way I was poison for years.” 

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.