“So tell me,” Colin Farrell asks. “What’s it about?”
When The Lobster premiered in Cannes in 2015, the 39-year-old Irish actor was forthright about not understanding what, exactly, was going on in Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’ sci-fi fable, set in a world where single adults who fail to find a suitable romantic partner within 40 days, or risk being turned into animals. A year later, as it opens in New York and Los Angeles today (and goes into wide release on May 27th), he’s still not sure — but he has a few ideas.
“I don’t think it’s trying to put forth any philosophy on the ideology or the structure of the dating game, or even how impersonal our lives have become,” Farrell says. “For me, a lot of it is about loneliness. I think a lot of our lives, in ways that seemingly are unrelated or obscure, are lived through the lens of trying to avoid loneliness at all costs. People stay in relationships longer than they should because they just can’t stand the thought of being alone. We can’t control everything, but we have more of an ability to have a say in our destiny, and in our happiness, than a lot of us explore.”
Farrell speaks at a ferocious cadence, the sentences spilling out without apparent mediation — an impulse that often got him in trouble when he was learning the ropes of movie stardom in the early aughts. He moved quickly from a breakthrough part in 2000’s Tigerland to big-budget movies like Minority Report, Daredevil, and S.W.A.T., but his offscreen antics often generated more interest than his roles. He enjoyed the privileges of stardom well enough, with the tabloids linking him to Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie, among many others, but crafting the persona at the heart of a star’s public image never interested him much. “Personality gets tiring,” he says now. “Anything that you have to maintain gets tiring.”
That may be why David appealed so much to Farrell, given he was a character that he initially saw as “something of a blank canvas.” On the surface, there’s little common ground between Farrell and David, the sluggish divorcé he plays in The Lobster. The sad-sack character is soft-spoken and methodical; Farrell is famously brash and impulsive, although less so since getting sober in 2008. David was married for 12 years; the movie star was hitched for barely 12 months, which is about as long as any of the star’s romantic relationships have lasted. They don’t even look that much alike, since Farrell packed on 45 additional pounds for the part. But you could argue that David spends the majority of the movie learning what the actor already knows: There are worse things than being alone.