It's a slow 10 p.m. at a Pasadena, Calif., hotel cocktail lounge, but Colin Farrell and a few companions are giving it a go anyway.
"All I need is a bar with beer and some good company," he says. "I don't need a scene."
But the scene is needing Farrell. An Irish-born actor with thick black eyebrows and matinee-idol face, Farrell is earning oodles of attention for his colorful lifestyle and his precise acting chops.
He is a marquee staple this winter, with three movies out, including last Friday's opening of Daredevil.
He takes his craft seriously. He takes his pleasures voraciously. No, he did not date Britney Spears, but there have been many others.
"I'm not here for shock value," Farrell says the next morning. "But I'm 26, and I'm not gonna have a good time with girls? ... I'm not in a relationship. The whole world at 26 is doing it, but of course, I'm an actor, and it gets a spotlight on it."
The spotlight is intensifying. Rave notices in the little-seen Tigerland (2000) and last summer's hit Minority Report have set him up for heavy exposure in the coming weeks. He steals many a frame as the projectile-throwing Bullseye, who torments Ben Affleck's superhero in the comic-book fantasy Daredevil. Farrell and Al Pacino won the box-office race as CIA protege and mentor in The Recruit. And coming soon, Farrell appears as an oily press agent caught in the crosshairs of a sniper in Phone Booth. The movie's release was delayed because of shootings that placed Washington and its suburbs under siege for three weeks in October.
Director Joel Schumacher plucked Farrell from three years of obscurity in the Dublin, Ireland, theater scene and cast him in the lead role as a boot-camp provocateur in Tigerland. Schumacher was so impressed that he took a chance on him in the higher-profile Phone Booth. Farrell said his ascent has been a case of grabbing every opportunity.
"I'm getting the distinct feeling that I'm chasing something that I'll never catch," he says.
Farrell straddles the worlds of pub culture and celebrity with the dexterity of his father, Eamon Farrell, a soccer star. The young Farrell's itinerant life has left him wondering where he is some mornings. But he always feels centered with a tap running and the clink of glasses.
"Me sitting in a pub over a few pints with a couple of mates, talking trash; that's meditation for me," he says.
Farrell has mastered Yankee and Texas accents. He has conquered drama. Now he chews up scenery as Bullseye, a motorcycle-riding psychopath with a shaved head and bull's-eye etched in his forehead. Bullseye is a much-needed complement to Affleck's subdued superhero.
Farrell will soon ascend to epic scale as Alexander the Great for Oliver Stone. But first he plays a man who competes with a gay college chum for the love of an older woman in A Home at the End of the World.
All the projects will keep his suitcase packed. But Farrell's cottage in Dublin is the one place he calls home. It is the only place where he keeps books and CDs. It also is right near Clark's, a beloved pub. He is one of the locals there, although one regular recently wanted to buy him a pint. She wanted, she told Farrell, to brag to everyone that she "bought the superstar a round."
"I'm just a normal fella living in very abnormal circumstances," he says.