Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant on the Entertainment Industry

December 10, 2016

Is entertaining large audiences or winning awards in little-known films more important for an actor?

“Do you think acting is a kind of goal in itself, and almost a quasi-religious experience, and it’s like therapy and you’re trying to please your fellow actors? Or do you think it’s just a tool for entertaining people?” Hugh Grant recently posed this question to Colin Farrell. The two actors spoke at length during a one-on-one interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors and towards the end, Grant asked this “penetrating question.”

Farrell responded, “I think all of the above. I think it can be quite often a different thing for the actor than it is for the audience. But I think if there’s an experiential symbiosis between what the actor is experiencing in their own lives and internally, and what the audience is experiencing in purveying the work that the actor presents, I think that’s a state of grace.”

Grant, who is famous for his roles in romantic comedies, box-office hits like Notting Hill, and is regarded as an international heartthrob, agreed with Farrell’s assessment. But, he then presented this line of questioning in more practical terms; that is, delving into how an actor is likely to make decisions throughout his or her career. Grant asked: “If you had two scripts on your desk, and one was almost certain to be a big smash hit because people would really be entertained by it. But the part is kind of 8 out of 10. Then you have one where you know no one’s going to see this outside the San Sebastian Film Festival, but the part is 10 out of 10. Which do you choose?”

Irish actor, Colin Farrell’s career reflects a wide range of roles. He portrays the powerful magician Percival Graves in the box-office smash Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But just before that, he starred in the science-fiction drama The Lobster, which garnered a small overall audience but which has received several nominations and awards.

So when considering which kind of scripts he gravitates to, Farrell revealed that although he has a “really healthy appreciation for the nature of commerce of the film business,” and he loves doing action films, he tends to favor the the “smaller, more intimate stuff.” He likes roles in lower-budget films, “because the characters don’t have to find such a big audience, the characters have a greater sense of specificity to them and maybe a greater internal struggle that can find avenues of emotion or intellectual exploration that the hundred million, hundred-fifty million films don’t afford.”

On the other hand, Hugh Grant expressed concern that actors can take things too seriously. He said, “I sometimes think we are in slight danger of disappearing up our own a**es–actors–and really we should be there to entertain people. We shouldn’t forget that. It’s an entertainment business.”

How about you? When you dream of your optimal career as an actor, which category of scripts and roles do you yearn for more? How important is the quality of the work in comparison the the size of the audience a project garners?