In the film, a burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.
In this exclusive interview, Colin Farrell reveals the clumsiness behind his co-star's beauty, working with Russell Crowe for the first time, and what the most important relationship in the film turns out to be...
QUESTION: What can you tell me about A New York Winter’s Tale, particularly about the love story at the heart of it between Peter and Beverly?
COLIN FARRELL: When I read the script, I thought it was beautifully written and a very moving story. In many ways, it’s a quintessentially story about the forces of light versus the forces of darkness among the lives of the characters in the film. It’s not angels and demons, or God vs. the Devil, but it’s got some very fantastical elements to it.
And the success of the story—both in the telling of it and for the audience viewing the film—is contingent on there being an understanding, a sensitivity and a trust between Peter and Beverly, that neither of them have ever experienced anything like this in their lives before meeting each other.
QUESTION: What it was like working with Jessica Brown Findlay, who plays Beverly?
COLIN FARRELL: Working with Jessica was so easy because she’s an incredibly sweet person—truly, genuinely—and not enamored by fame and celebrity. If anything, she has a healthy disdain for the above. Really lovely to be around. A wonderful dance partner, literally and figuratively. I was honored to have her as my partner in the film.
And she’s funny as hell. Yeah, she’s goofy. She’ll tell you herself she’s not as graceful as she looks and she is such a picture of grace and beauty. She’s extraordinarily beautiful, but she just knocks stuff over.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about your character, Peter Lake?
COLIN FARRELL: He’s an orphan and a thief. He grew up on the streets and was taken under the wing of Russell Crowe’s character, Pearly Soames. Peter has a real gift for figuring out the machinations of things, so Pearly puts him to use picking locks, cracking safes and picking pockets too. But then he reaches a stage where he no longer wants to live this life of crime and violence. He’s a decent person who has come from a place of fracture or uncertainty and is just trying to find his way in the world.
QUESTION: What was it like working with Russell Crowe?
COLIN FARRELL: I loved working with Russell. I’ve been a huge fan of his since Romper Stomper, and have been watching his work for the last 15 years or so, so it was really cool to finally get to work with him. He’s a wonderful actor and very serious about what he does. I would have liked to do more with him, in fact. Our storylines parallel each other for most of the film and then they intersect a couple of times, but he was amazing to watch.
QUESTION: A New York Winter’s Tale presents such an interesting, complex universe. It has its own laws and spiritual design.
COLIN FARRELL: Yes, absolutely. It doesn’t apologize for them or sugarcoat them. It really defies the rules and structures by which we exist every day in this quotidian physical world. In some ways, it’s a treatise or a love letter to the idea that love itself is transcendent and ephemeral. It’s doesn’t live within the strict restraints of linear time, but transcends time as we know it. And that’s really the crux of the whole film, really.
QUESTION: What’s interesting about it is that it is a fantasy and a love story, but it’s different than either of those.
COLIN FARRELL: Yeah, you could say there is a resolution at the end, but the resolution isn’t so much about the reunification of the lovers as it is to Peter going home. So it’s not really about the important thing being what person loves what person, but more the important thing being two people experiencing love together. It is about Peter and Beverly and the combative nature of love—how love is the true representation of light in this physical world.
QUESTION: What do you think will surprise audiences about this movie?
COLIN FARRELL: I don’t know. I’d have to know what they’re expecting to know what would surprise them. It’s an extremely fantastical tale. It really is. Audiences will have to—and I wish they would and I hope they do—take a leap of faith into admitting whatever the story presents to them as real. There are fantastical elements that are very sweet and possibly demand that if there is a child inside, that child will be allowed out for a couple of hours.
QUESTION: I wondered if anything in the story spoke to your own sense of spirituality, the idea of the universe being a great clock or Eva Marie Saint’s character, Willa, saying every once in a while we get a glimpse of the workings of it.
COLIN FARRELL: Yes, absolutely. Did you ever see that Twilight Zone episode? I remember seeing it years ago when I was a kid, where literally every moment has to be constructed and deconstructed, every day has to be deconstructed and reconstructed. There are entities working behind the scenes and none of them has complete control—hence the levels of rage, and the levels of love.
There are constant battles between these two forces to try to gain control or maybe maintain some balance that is at times uplifting and at times painful. It’s kind of what the film puts forth. My spirituality, I just find magic in as many places as I can.
QUESTION: I wanted to also ask about Peter’s relationship with Virginia, played by Jennifer Connelly?
COLIN FARRELL: Yes, it’s as essential or possibly more essential than his relationship with Beverly. In many ways, Peter’s relationship with Beverly is the conduit to a greater cause, which reveals itself to be his relationship with Willa. Willa is so incredibly important because she brings Peter back to the truth of who he was. And then Virginia and her daughter, Abby, play such a significant role in the undoing of these particular events.
These are human beings seeing some kind of tenderness in each other. It could be romantic or platonic or whatever, but that relationship is very important and through Virginia’s daughter, Abby, it allows Peter to express the continuation of the cycle that began when he met Beverly. And it allows Peter to finish his story.
'A New York Winter's Tale' is in UK cinemas from today. Watch the trailer below...