"I didn't know from Hamburger Hill and Full Metal Jacket," joked Irish actor Colin Farrell recently about his cinematic (and historical) inexperience before he was cast in Joel Schumacher's new Vietnam-era drama, Tigerland.
But what the 24-year-old did know was that he wanted the role badly enough to pay his own way from Dublin, Ireland, to the London audition.
And his instincts were dead on.
Not only did he nail the lead in the low-budget film, thanks to a spot-on American accent and some beer-inspired courage, but his role as Roland Bozz, a Steve McQueen-like, anti-authoritarian ringleader, has also ended his days of being an unknown. Likened by Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum to George Clooney and Russell Crowe, Farrell has beefcake charms that are currently on display on the cover of the October issue of Interview magazine.
And just this week, Farrell landed two high-profile gigs: reteaming with director Schumacher on Phone Booth (in which Jim Carrey was initially slated to star) and waltzing into Hart's War in the place of Edward Norton.
So, who is this brash young actor who's suddenly the talk of Hollywood?
A high-school dropout, the Dublin native first took up acting in Sydney, Australia, where he spent a year waiting tables and doing a little bit of theater acting. When he returned home, he began his career in earnest with a continuing role in the BBC series Ballykissangel, which was also broadcast in the United States on PBS.
For Tigerland — which takes place during the final week of boot camp before the troops are shipped overseas to 'Nam — Farrell and his castmates endured a mock-Marine boot camp like the one Dale Dye ran for Saving Private Ryan.
"It was pretty physical and I'm a fairly lazy bastard, don't work out too much," Farrell remembers of the camp, which was run by Vietnam vet Michael Stokey.
"We learned to clean guns and learned formations and maneuvering and then every night we'd go into Stokey's 'bar' in our army gear and have a few cigarettes and he'd tell us stories … Horrible s--t! That was the best part of boot camp."
As for his first nude scene, which involves Bozz's buddy and two prostitutes, Farrell shrugs again. "We're not calling it 'love.' In the script it's described as the type of f--king that happens when you're going to war in six weeks.
"It was a laugh; there was a crew of four or five and the two girls were amazing, so cool and up for it. A lot of giggles and nothing happening downstairs, of course."
Farrell's already filming his follow-up film, in which he plays Jesse James in the tentatively titled American Outlaw, with Scott Caan and Ali Larter.
"I started drinking to learn how to horse-ride for Jesse James and I haven't stopped yet," he says, showing that he may be a rising star, but he hasn't lost his touch for the blarney.