Colin Farrell knows as well as anyone that you didn't want a Fright Night remake. The actor who's shown himself to be fearless in his movie roles, playing everything from Alexander the Great to an Irish fisherman in love with a mermaid, says he had to "silence that voice" in his head that reminded him how people usually react to a remake. Turns out, he didn't have much to worry about-- his take on Jerry, the next-door-neighbor vampire hunted down by a teenage kid, is distinct and very different from the version played by Chris Sarandon in the original, yet another example of Farrell's versatile acting chops. And even though Fright Night is a comedy, his taken on the character is genuinely frightening-- you'd think twice before trying to put a stake through this guy's heart.
During San Diego Comic Con I sat in on a roundtable interview with Farrell, who was accompanied by the film's director Craig Gillespie. We'll have my one-on-one video interview with Gillespie later this week, and in the meantime you can read the highlights of Farrell's part, in which he talks about why he took the role, why he thinks people are so fascinated by vampires, and the similarities he sees between his character Jerry and Tom Cruise's Lestat from Interview with the Vampire. Fright Night opens this Friday.
How did you wind up involved in this film?
I was looking for something that was a bit lighter, a bit expansive, maybe wasn't so emotional or psychologically grounded as what I had done previously. I enjoyed them all creatively, but I was just looking for the change. I had been a lover of the original. As Craig [Gillespie] said, [the script] was a really fast read. I had seen Lars [and the Real Girl], and loved it. He was a storyteller that has an understanding of film tone, and strikes some kind of harmonious balance between tones that don't seem like they should exist on the same canvas. There were some really funny bits in Lars that were never played for laughs, and some really tragic bits but you never felt bogged down. We met and I really liked him and we went to work.
Everyone's always trying to figure out why we have so many vampire movies right now. Do you guys get into all the deep psychology around that?
It's just an entertaining, gripping kind of context in which to place a film. I think there is a fascination with vampires and the life we think they may lead and how glamorous it may be, and the idea of eternal youth. People are always trying to bend time to suit their favor and hold on to beauty. Trying to stop the clock, the clock which inevitably defeats us all. Getting the sweetness out of life and continuing to live. Vampires are that way, so they are very exotic creatures, and very sensual creatures. Then inevitably there is a great sense of danger and threat around them. And allegorically you can project anything you want on them. Like the original is accused of--and I don't even know if this was Tom Holland's intent--but it was said that it was an allegory for the Cold War and neighborhood suspicions and McCarthyism.
Do you feel like that's in this at all?
That's the great thing about film. Whether it's just for entertainment purposes or made to put a light on societal ills, people should be able to derive from it whatever they need to personally. Whether it's a more superficial experience or a deeper experienced. But this is just made to entertain. This film was really made to entertain. I don't know where I went with that.
Did you do any research with other vampire movies?
No, I'd seen a lot of them, so they were in the back of my mind. On reflection, not to compare myself to Tom's performance, but the intent of the characters--Jerry that I play, and Tom Cruise's Lestat in Interview of the Vampire-- were the same in their propensity for cruelty. Just how much they enjoyed it. It wasn't just a means for survival like it is for Edward Cullen, or Louis, Brad Pitt's vampire in the same film. It was an enjoyment of the omnipotence, enjoyment of the fear that can be instilled in a human being when the power is revealed. And Jerry is very much like that in our version. I watched a lot of vampire films, but didn't really consciously draw on any that I had seen.
Was it hard to reimagine a film that was already there?
Just to get over my fear of judgment. I know the consensus is that remakes are indicative of a lack of originality in Hollywood, so you'd be afraid of that judgment, and afraid of fans of the original film hating this before they even see it. "Bullshit casting! This person playing that person? Fuck that!" You try and just silence that voice. We weren't really treating it as a remake or reimagining, we were treating it as an original script and an original experience you're having for the first time. Of course it is a remake, or a reimagining, or whatever term you want to use. There are some times when you consciously are tipping your hat to the original. A couple of lines stay in. But apart from that you're going on a journey of discovery like you always do. You're not trying to emulate, but hopefully not trying to sell short the idea of the original.