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Miami Vice - Colin Farrell interview

Colin Farrell in Miami Vice

Interview by Rob Carnevale

COLIN Farrell talks about his preparation for the role of Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice – as well as a particularly embarrassing incident involving the undercover cops he was training with…

Q. Is it true that you got conned by the undercover cops who were supposed to be training you? How embarrassing was it to be stitched up?
A. I’ll never forget it. Michael [Mann] arranged for us to spend a lot of time with some undercover cops doing research. We had a week of running scenarios that had been set up and I thought I’d formulated a lot of trust with these guys. But there was one particular day that came along when they were buying 40 kilos of cocaine from a bunch of Columbians that they’d established a relationship with. These were working undercover cops and after the week had gone so swimmingly they said that I could come along and have a look if I wanted. They added that nothing bad would happen because they had formed a relationship with these guys. So I went along and to cut a long story short, the shit hit the fan – guns were pulled and I nearly had an accident in my pants because I was so scared.

But I did get the real sensation and the real emotional effect of what it would be like to be in that environment when something goes awry. I thought it was real and found out the next day that it was a set-up and I felt like a plonker. But it was probably more useful than I maybe give it credit for.

Q. How comfortable were you with the weapons you were using by the end of the film? Were you proficient in their use?
A. We had a lot of trigger time. We spent hours and hours on the range, using live ammo, which helped us all as actors because you begin to trust each other really quick when you’re shooting live rounds down range and you’re crossing behind each other with your gun fully loaded, ready to go. By the time we got to the final shoot-out at the end we were really pretty comfortable.

But it’s also another avenue into the character. Anything that’s different from your own realm of experience as a human being, whether it’s driving a car, a boat or using guns, anything that separates you from yourself and leads you more towards this character’s existence is a big help.

Q. Did you have to squeeze in a few dance lessons in between all the gun training? And was the hair choice a nod to Don Johnson in the original?
A. Did he have a mullet? I missed that. They organised a dancing instructor for myself and Gong Li in Los Angeles and then in Miami. But it’s pretty tragic seeing an Irishman trying to salsa dance! We did it for two or three months a few times a week and finally got whatever we needed.

Q. Gong Li is not a native English speaker. How did you make sure you communicated and how did you feel about Gong Li as an actress before you met her?
A. Michael Mann gave me a copy of Raise The Red Lantern and I was blown away by it. But Michael had wanted to work with her for a long time and it was just obvious from the reading that even though her English wasn’t very good she hit the books hard four months before filming. She had just such an enigmatic character and presence about her. She was so wonderful and so honest that it was obvious from the first meeting in Michael’s production office that she was getting the part. I actually got a bit nervous about working with her.

Q. Were you surprised by the amount of technology that’s available to both the police and the drugs traffickers when you were doing your research?
A. Absolutely. There’s that one scene where Jamie and myself are driving towards a meeting and our signals are blocked and Tubbs says: “This is the kind of stuff that happens over the sky in Baghdad, what’s it doing on a dope deal?” It’s amazing the amount of surveillance and counter-surveillance that they have – anything that’s available for law enforcement is there for the bad guys as well, for the right price. It’s a constant uphill battle.

Q. It was reported that some of your crew members were so annoyed at the amount of press attention you were getting that they started wearing “leave Colin alone” T-shirts. How difficult is it to do your job when you’re faced with that kind of media scrutiny and would you support any legislation that might stop people doing that?
A. [Laughs] You’re scrutinized all through your life – you’re scrutinized by your family, by yourself, by society and your friends in a certain way, shape or form. But with that side of it, the pros far outweigh the cons. Yes, it’s a pain in the arse and have I wanted to punch a paparazzi out? Sure! But the environment we were working in was very secure and safe. There was a lot of trust going around and we had each other’s backs big time. But yes, a girl from the office, who’s mental, did get one of those T-shirts and she wanted me to wear one.

Q. Do you intend to go back to Ireland and shoot a film in the near future?
A. I do intend to go back home and work. I did a thing called Intermission in Ireland about two years ago. I’m very aware of what’s always happening back there and I intend to go back and do something with Jim Sheridan in the not too distant future.

Read our review of the film

Read our interview with Michael Mann

Read our interview with Jamie Foxx

Read our review of the original series

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