Globally recognized heartthrob Colin Farrell was born in the Castleknock suburb of Dublin on May 31, 1976. The actor’s best known for his roles in Phonebooth, The Lobster and The Recruit, however he’s had a fascinating life full of highs and lows with a few weird bits thrown in for good measure.
Farrell’s father played football for Shamrock Rovers FC and ran a health food shop on the side. Farrell has an older brother called Eamon and two sisters called Claudine and Catherine. Farrell is the only Hollywood star in his family.
An Exclusive Education
Farrell was educated at St Brigid’s National School and then went on to study at Castleknock College which is an exclusive all-boys private school not far from where the actor was born. Clearly, he was interested in fame, because during this period, Farrell auditioned to be part of Boyzone. But the universe had other things in store for Farrell…
Farrell decided to try his hand at acting after he saw E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and was blown away by Henry Thomas’ performance. With encouragement from his older brother, Farrell decided to audition at the Gaiety School of Acting. He soon dropped out, but for a very good reason…
He Was Accused of Attempted Murder
Farrell dropped out of acting school because he landed the role of Danny Byrne in Ballykissangel. This series would launch Farrell’s long and extraordinary career, and firmly plant him in the hearts of most females on the planet. But early in his career, something quite unusual happened…
While traveling Australia at the age of 18, Farrell was accused of attempted murder. The description of the suspect exactly matched that of Farrell’s, and the actor wasn’t able to remember where he was on the night the crime took place because he said he’d blacked out.
Luckily, He Had an Alibi
Luckily for Farrell, his friend knew exactly where he’d been. Farrell’s friend provided an alibi and confirmed that he’d been with Farrell taking MDMA. (That explains the blackout.) The only reason Farrell was able to walk free was because his friend had written his whereabouts in his journal. Now that’s some luck!
This story was revealed years later when Farrell appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He said he was called into the police station for questioning after a man was beaten up and his apartment set on fire. If it wasn’t for his friend’s journal, Farrell believes he may have been convicted.
The Early Stages of Stardom
Farrell’s first feature film was 1999’s The War Zone, a film about child abuse starring Ray Winstone and Tilda Swinton. He then appeared in Decent Criminal alongside Kevin Spacey and was later cast in an unreleased film called Tigerland, directed by Joel Schumacher.
For someone who didn’t complete acting school, the first few years of Farrell’s career were extraordinarily successful. The actor’s magnetic charisma and classic good-looks meant he was cast in the role of love interests early on. However, his talent was undeniable.
The Roles Keep Coming
Around the time Farrell was finding his feet in the world of acting, he was also making a name for himself in the world of dating. In 2001, Farrell starred in American Outlaws, the same year that he met Amelia Warner.
Warner, a young British actor, is the daughter of two actors and best known for her role in the BBC’s Lorna Doone. Warner and Farrell met when she was 19 and he was 24, but the attraction was instant and they fell in love quickly.
A Short Marriage
The pair felt so strongly about each other they got married in July 2001 on a beach in Tahiti. Farrell even got her nickname tattooed on his ring finger. The match got the seal of approval from Warner’s mother, who said, “I love him and it’s a relief for me that Millie’s met someone who looks after her and who she can trust.”
However, the marriage wasn’t going to stand the test of time. In fact, it wasn’t going to stand much time at all. “Too fast, too young,” said Farrell after the pair split four months later. And ten years later, Warner said they never even got married.
She Called it a “Holiday Romance”
Warner said that it was just a whirlwind holiday romance, and the ceremony on the beach was not legal and they knew it at the time. However, Warner also said that Farrell was her first love and their bond was “very intense and passionate.” But sometimes passion just isn’t enough.
However, Warner’s probably not too upset about it. She’s now happily married to Jamie Dornan and has been since 2013 and they have two children together, Dulcie and Elva. Wow, Amelia! Jamie and Colin? Now that’s a pretty impressive portfolio!
Hitting The Big Time
Farrell’s 2002/2003 films firmly put him center-stage of the acting world. He starred in the psychological thriller Phone Booth, as well as The Recruit and S.W.A.T. All of these films won a lot of critical acclaim, earning millions of dollars in the box office each.
At this time, Farrell was in a relationship with Playboy model Nicole Narain. They met at a party in the Playboy Mansion and instantly hit it off. Narain described Farrell as a free spirit, just like she is. They even filmed a sex tape a month after they first met.
A Scandal Ensues
Perhaps it’s no surprise, seeing as this is a Hollywood relationship, but the two parted ways and not long after Farrell sued Narain in order to prevent the sale, distribution or display of the sex tape. The lawsuit didn’t work, however, and the tape was made available on the internet.
Farrell claimed that Narain was not willing to help take the tape out of circulation, so he added her as a codefendant to the case. Narain said she had no intention of circulating the tape, but by then it was too late. The case was settled amicably outside of court eventually.
Both Narain and Farrell have since been to rehab for various addictions, and Narain was featured on the reality TV show Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew. There, she opened up about her former addiction and spoke of the debilitating nature of the issue.
Narain described her addictions as exhausting and all-consuming. She said she wouldn’t eat food because her addictions were her food. “It was scary because it consumed my entire day and I try very hard not to have any triggers around me.”
In 2002, Farrell continued to build his acting legacy with a supporting role in Minority Report and as the villain in Daredevil (2003). Around this time, Farrell met Kim Bordenave, who soon became pregnant with Farrell’s first son, James.
James Padraig was born in Los Angeles in 2003 with a rare genetic disorder called Angelman syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder with symptoms that include intellectual and developmental disability, seizures, jerky and uncontrolled movements and sleep disturbances. The condition also affects the nervous system.
Amicable Split and Conservatorship
The couple split amicably after the pair’s son was born, however in 2021, the couple made the news once again because they filed for co-conservatorship over their son. The petition said James is “nonverbal and has issues with his fine motor skills, making him unable to properly care for his own physical health and well-being and requiring him to need assistance in preparing food, eating, bathing and clothing himself.”
James is now 18 years old, and although he cannot speak his parents believe he would want them to be the ones to handle his life dealings. A co-conservatorship means the parents would have access to James’ confidential records and decide where he lives, his education and his social or sexual relations.
A Dad With His Own Demons
On an episode of The Ellen Show in 2020, Farrell reflected on James’ first steps. “A child taking their first steps is always such a profound experience. Parents are disgusted if they miss it… Tears can flow, and it’s such a huge kind of profound moment in the development of a child’s life and in the relationship between a child and the child’s parents.”
Farrell is a doting father and says that becoming a father helped him deal with a lot of his demons. “I had this little baby who didn’t need a best friend – who needed a dad,” he said. James was 2 years old when Farrell checked himself into rehab, with the hope of becoming a more reliable and present father.
From Independents to Epics
Before we touch on Farrell’s alcoholism and addiction issues, let’s take a look at his cinematic journey from 2003. In late 2003, Farrell starred in Intermission, a dark comedy that was a box office hit and one of the highest-grossing independent Irish films ever.
In 2004, Farrell played the title role in Alexander, a biographical film which portrayed the bisexual conqueror. In the following years, Farrell also appeared in The New World, Pocahontas, and Miami Vice, which grossed $164 million worldwide. There’s no doubt about it, Farrell was becoming one of the world’s most respected and versatile actors.
Skeletons In the Closet
After years living the life as the baddest boy in Hollywood, Farrell eventually sought treatment for alcoholism in 2006. The actor, however, didn’t publicly open up about his alcoholism until 2010 in an interview with Details Magazine ahead of his movie Ondine.
Farrell said that he was often caught in webs of lies as a result of his alcoholism and substance abuse. He said that he would often lie out of habit rather than for any specific purpose. There’s no doubt the lying also helped keep his loved ones in the dark about the extent of his addiction.
Reaching Rock Bottom
“I’m just grateful I’m actually alive,” the actor told the magazine. The interview went into detail of the extent of his issue, and his experiences reaching rock bottom. He said that checking himself into rehab gave him his life back and let him feel like he was back in control.
The actor said rehab has given him 8 hours a day back – 8 hours that he used to spend in a drunken haze. The actor’s alcohol habit started young, and by 2006 he’d been drinking every day for 18 years. The habit also had a negative impact on his career.
In an interview with the UK Mirror, Farrell said that the was once so hungover while filming 2002’s Minority Report with Tom Cruise that it took him 56 takes to say one line. At the time, Farrell felt it was the production’s fault – seeing as they asked him to work the day after his birthday.
“There were a couple of hairy days. I asked them with a great array of arrogance that they not work me the day after my birthday,” Farrell said to the UK Mirror. “I said, ‘Please don’t have me working on June 1st, ¬because my birthday is May 31st.’”
Adding Insult to Injury
The incident reflects the extent of Farrell’s issue with alcohol and his inability to regulate his drinking. To add insult to injury, the actor’s sister was visiting him on set that day. She ended up having to leave the set because it was such a disaster. Oh well – a sibling’s love is unconditional.
Farrell’s opened up many times about his drinking, including about the potential origins of the reason why he drank so much. He remembers Castleknock as being uncultured, and he remembers wishing there were more stories about Ireland and more music in the house.
A Fear of Intimacy
Perhaps to drown out the boredom or just as a way to quiet his unsettled mind, he turned to alcohol as a means to connect. In interviews, Farrell said he found the idea of sober sex terrifying, so perhaps a fear of intimacy was part of the reason alcohol became such a crutch for him.
Farrell credits family and fatherhood as the driving motivator to staying sober, and says sobriety has given him an entirely new outlook on life. Because his alcoholism and his womanizing spirit came hand-in-hand, especially with one particular pop star encounter in 2003…
Hit Me Baby One More Time
Before sobriety, when Farrell wasn’t on a set, he was probably in a club. In fact, the actor probably spent equal amounts of time in both. In 2003, Britney Spears paid a visit to the set of S.W.A.T. Spears, then 22, and Farrell, then 26, appeared together at the premier together for Farrell’s film The Recruit.
However, Farrell made it clear to the public and the camera crew that the pair weren’t dating. “We’re just friends,” he said. But that clearly wasn’t the case, seeing as the pair were caught canoodling at the after party thanks to some detective work from Bryan Ulrich, a collector of celebrity memorabilia.
Tongues Down Each Other’s Throats
Ulrich attended the after party of the premiere, and while he was there, he heard there was another private after-after party in Farrell’s room at the Chateau Marmont hotel. Ulrich and his friends found Colin’s room and managed to get in by giving a secret password.
When they got inside the room, they saw a huge terrace overlooking Sunset Boulevard. There were only 10 or 15 people in the room, and Spears and Farrell were standing on the terrace with their tongues down each other’s throats. Ulrich’s friend took a picture and sold it for a lot of money.
Things Soured Fast
The affair was very short-lived. They dated for about 12 days and the press’ attention definitely put a sour taste in Spears’ mouth. She ended up denying anything had ever happened between them, which clearly bruised the Irish bad boy’s ego.
So much so that Farrell sent Spears an array of gifts. One said, “I slept with Colin Farrell and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,” and also sent a bumper stick that read, “Honk if you’ve slept with Colin Farrell.” Reports from Spears’ friends and confidants said the singer was furious about it.
The Parent Trap
This experience with Spears is a good example of Farrell’s inability to manage or maintain healthy relationships while he was addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, not long after this experience with Spears, Farrell did something very similar with The Parent Trap star Lindsay Lohan.
Although the romance was never confirmed, the Hollywood rumor mill was at full-throttle in 2004, saying the two superstars had been having a secret off-set romance. The rumors were so dominant that Lohan even appeared on Saturday Night Live as part of a skit to make fun of the hearsay.
The Next Significant Relationship
By 2008, Farrell was deep into his recovery and able to maintain happier relationships. Professionally, he was on a roll. In 2008, Farrell won his first Golden Globe Award for In Bruges, which was arguably one of Farrell’s best performances to date.
Shortly after, Farrell appeared in Kicking It, followed by Edward Norton’s Pride and Glory. But perhaps most significant about 2008 for Farrell was the moment he met Alicja Bachleda-Curuś while filming Ondine, a romance about an Irish fisherman and a magical selkie.
Romance On the Down-Low
The pair kept their romance under wraps for close to a year, but in 2009, the couple went public. “We met on the set, and we were very professional and focused on our part and our jobs,” said the Mexican-born, Polish actor Bachleda. The pair welcomed their son, Henry Tadeusz Farrell, in October 2009.
Fatherhood clearly suits Farrell, and he’s hugely committed to the upbringing of both his sons. Henry also has the same genetic disorder as his half-brother James. Sadly, Farrell and Bachleda’s union didn’t last and the pair split ways in 2010, however they still happily co-parent their son.
Committing to the Role
Despite all the upheaval in his personal life, Farrell’s professional life was going from strength to strength. He starred in The Imagination of Doctor Parnassus and starred in the Oscar-winning Triage. For this war-correspondent role, Farrell dropped 30 pounds. Now that’s commitment!
In 2010, Farrell starred alongside Keira Knightley in the crime romance London Boulevard, although this one was panned by critics. Nevertheless, 2011 was going to be huge for Farrell. In 2011, he starred in Horrible Bosses alongside Jennifer Aniston. Say what you want about Farrell –he’s a hard worker!
The Stalker Debacle
Amongst all the mayhem of the mid to late 2000s, Farrell was hit with another huge controversy. The actor was stalked by a telephone sex worker called Dessarae Bradford. The beginnings of their relationship remain hazy, but it seems as though she and the actor may have had some romantic history.
In 2006, Bradford evaded security while Farrell was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, walked on stage, shouted obscenities at Farrell, and threw a self-published book-length exposé of him on Leno’s desk.
What’s In the Book?
The book Bradford threw on the desk is called “Colin Farrell: Dark Twisted Puppy.” No one was hurt in the incident, and when security realized the woman was a threat, they removed her instantly. She was heard to be shouting, “I’ll see you in court,” as she was dragged off stage.
Farrell replied, “You’re crazy.” Bradford then posted the book on her website and filed a lawsuit against Farrell for causing her mental anguish, panic attacks, aggravation and insomnia as a result of “sexually explicit and menacing” messages and phone calls in 2004 and 2005.
The Lie Detector Test Said Otherwise
However, Bradford failed a lie-detector test on PAX TV’s Lie Detector show, and instead of admitting her failings and moving on, she swore at the show’s host Rolanda Watts and said the polygraph machine was rigged.
Much to Farrell’s relief, the lawsuit was dropped a few months later. Bradford enjoyed her 30 minutes of fame though, and even wrote a dance track and another book called “I F***ed Alec Baldwin in his A$$.” You’ve got to give it to her, she’s a pretty committed novelist. Someone get this woman a book deal!
So, what about these abusive messages? Bradford said that the actor inundated her with over 500 text messages that boasted of his sexual conquests as well as indulging in phone sex. Bradford claimed that Farrell’s messages left her feeling degraded.
So, in 2005, Bradford was suing for “breach of contract, return of erotic tape and art, cost of dress, shoes and accessories.” She wanted $4,750 in damages; however the small claims court overturned her case and Farrell wasn’t charged.
The Film Legacy Continues
In 2012, Farrell’s Hollywood legacy continued, with Total Recall and Seven Psychopaths getting critical acclaim all around the world. Seven Psychopaths is a dark, satirical comedy about a struggling writer who dreams of publishing a screen play. Farrell played the lead role, Marty.
Information about Farrell’s love-life during 2012 is limited, and it seems as though his he settled down after the turmoil of the early 2010s. The birth of his second son and the failure of his marriage may well have contributed to the actor keeping his head down – in the tabloids, at least.
A Final Affair With Elizabeth Taylor
However, there’s no doubt Farrell was keeping a few secrets up his sleeve. In 2013, he appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show and revealed he’d had a romantic relationship with Elizabeth Taylor in the final years of her life. The pair met when Taylor was being treated in the same hospital in which Farrell’s son was born.
After bumping into Taylor’s manager, Farrell asked him to pass on his regards, and later asked his publicist to send Taylor flowers, only to discover Taylor had already sent him some orchids. The pair met several times over two years and developed something that Farrell describes as more than friendship.
His Last Unconsummated Love Affair
Farrell told DeGeneres: “It feels like in my head – not her, I’m projecting – the last romantic relationship I had, which was never consummated. I just adored her… She was a spectacular, spectacular woman.” He said they would talk on the phone at night when neither of them could sleep.
When Taylor passed away in 2011, Farrell read the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem The Leaden Echo at her funeral and spoke publicly about how much he missed her. It goes to show that for all his various affairs, Farrell clearly does not have a type – and age does not bother him in the slightest.
Not the First Time
Although his courtship might be surprising to some, this isn’t the first time Farrell has had his head turned by an older woman. In 2006, Farrell filmed Ask the Dust, a film about two dreamers in 1930s LA. But it wasn’t his co-star Salma Hayek who caught Farrell’s eye, but Dame Eileen Atkins.
Atkins played Mrs. Hargraves, who ran the Alta Loma Hotel where many of the characters in the film lived. Farrell, then 28, reportedly propositioned the actor, then 69, while on set. Although Dame Eileen declined his advances, she later said “the offer did me the world of good.”
A Lower Profile
Farrell was a magnet for tabloid gossip as a youngster, often gracing the pages of tabloids and dominating headlines with his dramas and exploits. Nowadays, though, he doesn’t just keep a low profile himself but keeps his love-life out the news, too.
His career continued to go up, with box offices success in the form of Saving Mr. Banks, Winter’s Tale and Miss Julie between 2013 and 2015. The 2015 dark comedy and cult classic The Lobster cemented Farrell as a new name in experimental film, and furthered his reputation as a truly formidable talent.
His Mystery Woman
Despite the low dating profile, it became clear that Farrell was indeed dating someone new and significant in 2016, but no one knew who it was for a very long time. The pair remained tight-lipped about their romance, and the lady gained a nickname in public: “Colin’s Mystery Woman.”
In 2017, Farrell finally opened up about his relationship on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, although he still did not reveal who the mystery woman is. “My girlfriend – she travels a lot as well with work, so oftentimes we’re two ships passing in the night, but we make sure to find a port that we can, you know, rendezvous at,” said the actor.
Later that year, however, Farrell eventually revealed the identity of this mystery woman – Kelly McNamara, a member of U2’s management staff. Farrell and U2 have been friends for decades, and he met McNamara hanging out backstage with the band.
In 2017, an insider told the Irish Mirror “Colin is very happy. They’ve been dating on and off for two years.” The peace and quiet surrounding this relationship couldn’t be further from Farrell’s pre-rehab experiences. You live and you learn!
Never Stop Working
The same year, Farrell continued to wow audiences the world over with his bullet-proof work ethic and diverse roles. The Killing of a Sacred Deer was one of the stand-out performances of Farrell’s career, and his second feature film with left-field director Yorgos Lanthimos.
The film was one of Farrell’s darkest yet, a psychological horror thriller about a cardiac surgeon who befriends a teenage boy who has a connection to his past. When he introduces the boy to his family, however, they begin to fall mysteriously ill. The film has an approval rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Checking Back In
In 2018, newspapers reported that Farrell had checked himself back into rehab as a preemptive measure not to slip over to the dark side again. The actor checked himself into a facility in Arizona, stating he wanted to seek treatment before retreating into a bad place.
A source told the Daily Mail: “Colin has worked so hard to stay sober that the only way he thought he could get it under control was to go back and get some professional help. He has a lot of responsibilities and he thought it best to go away for a while and get help.”
A Successful Second Chapter
Farrell hasn’t just enjoyed a successful second chapter in his love life, but in his career too. He’s come a long way from 56 takes on a set, to being able to focus and excel in some of the most challenging roles available in Hollywood.
Reflecting on his sobriety, Farrell said: “I had just had it, man. I was done. For a long time, I put the brakes on. 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 handbrake.”
The Relationship Continues
Although Farrell and McNamara continue to keep their relationship under wraps and private, it seems as though the pair are still going strong. The hope is that no news is good news, and the couple’s silence on their status is a direct result of their contentment.
Meanwhile, despite COVID bringing the world to a standstill, Farrell hasn’t stopped working for a single minute. In 2019, the actor starred in Tim Burton’s Dumbo, a live action/CGI film that stars Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton and Eva Green, as well as Thandie Newton’s daughter Nico Parker.
Playing Penguin in Batman
Unfortunately, the film didn’t land with critics, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw giving it one star and calling it pointlessly complicated and drawn out. The Daily Telegraph gave it two stars and said “it has to be counted as a failure.” Many said the plot was pointlessly complicated.
Farrell picked up a lot more credit in his performance as The Penguin in Batman. His performance gained attention because the cast didn’t recognize him. The make-up job was so exquisite many of his co-stars had no idea who was behind it. “I had no idea it was him. I just thought he was some rough-looking guy,” said John Turturro.
The Highs and Lows
Phew, it sure has been a wild ride for any Colin Farrell fans out there. Attempted murder, rehab, affairs with superstars from Britney Spears to Elizabeth Taylor. Farrell most certainly has done it all. But perhaps most impressive, was his ability to turn it all around.
Farrell’s impressive career and tireless work ethic has cemented his reputation as one of the most respected and hard-working in the business, and with a steady relationship and two kids, there’s no doubt Farrell is doing a lot better in the 2020’s than he’d ever done before. Long may it continue!