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Awards season, baby! I entered it with the fresh, youthful buoyancy of 11-year-old Sophie in the first act of Aftersun, and I’m leaving it feeling like Elvis in the final act of Elvis. But throughout this interminable stretch of movie promotion, one man has consistently kept the energy up. In these trying times of international charisma drought, he’s shown up to every talk show interview, roundtable, and red carpet armed with a great quote, an Irish brogue, an array of headbands, and off-the-charts charm. 

That would be Colin Farrell, awards season MVP. 

For Farrell, it concluded with him losing Best Actor for The Banshees of Inisherin to Brendan Fraser for The Whale. But he still cleaned up in his own way. 

So how did he get here? Much has been made about the tremendous year Farrell had in 2022. His early career found him pegged as a blockbuster star and handsome bad boy—in part because he was in and out of the tabloids, in part because he wore a lot of beanies and v-necks, and in part because he looks like Colin Farrell. This period gave way to sobriety and projects that were increasingly more compelling. Weird, even. There was Farrell in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. And The Lobster. And fiending for mojitos in Miami Vice (which we’ve decided was, in fact, a classic). By last year, he had built a slate of movies that reflected his versatility as a character actor-slash-leading man, whether playing an aspirationally mustachioed dad in the quiet A24 sci-fi After Yang or a British cave diver in the workmanlike survival film Thirteen Lives. Farrell can still hold down a big blockbuster, which he did in The Batman as the Penguin—but it’s telling that he chose to do so under several layers of prosthetics. 

And, of course, there was The Banshees of Inisherin. It was right in the sweet spot for Farrell: funny, dark, interesting as hell. In the movie, which reunited him with his In Bruges team of Martin McDonaugh and Brendan Gleeson, he played Pádraic, a simple and kindhearted farmer whose best friend is a donkey named Jenny. His knitwear was elite. His eyebrows were working overtime. 

Three decades into his career, this was somehow Farrell’s first awards season. (He took home the Best Actor prize at the Golden Globes, the National Society of Film Critics Awards, and several other local film critic awards.) Because of that, we were reminded that Farrell is really, really good at all the extra stuff the job entails.

The press circuit is long. There are only so many answers you can get from each actor about their process and their characters and their co-stars. To Farrell’s credit, he somehow had an original anecdote about Jenny the donkey every single time she came up. 

In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, for example, he revealed that Jenny was the diva on set. “We had a good friendship off-camera as well, up until a point. And then it all fell apart two-thirds of the way through the film,” Farrell said. While doing the requisite Variety Actors on Actors series, he told Jamie Lee Curtis that Jenny had her own emotional support donkey. (And also did this.) He shared with Empire that Jenny once kicked him. 

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