Muggle no more
Colin Farrell's long-awaited role in Harry Potter universe is important to him in more ways than one
Colin Farrell said he had "wizard envy" for a long time as an Irish actor who was not asked to be in the Harry Potter series of films.
"I was waiting for the phone to ring and it never did. I saw fellow countrymen like Richard Harris, who originated Dumbledore, and Brendan Gleeson, who was 'Mad-Eye' Moody."
So when the opportunity arrived for him to play Percival Graves, the Director of Magical Security at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the USA) in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, which is set in the Harry Potter universe, he thought it was "so, so cool".
He did not have to audition for the part.
"I got a call from my agent saying that J.K. (Rowling) had written an original screenplay, and (director) David Yates wanted to speak to me on the phone.
"We spoke for about half an hour, where he basically talked me through the story, what he felt about these new characters, and how excited he was to do it.
"Then I read the script and we got on the phone again. It was a no-brainer for me and I jumped at it."
The world in Fantastic Beasts is "such a beautiful world", said Farrell.
We are at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown New York for the interview, and Farrell - the cool guy with the rowdy reputation, and survivor of tabloid headlines of addiction, rehab, sex tapes, stalkers and even random acts of charity - is in full charm offensive, something that comes naturally to him.
The themes of the film, which opens here tomorrow, are very important to him and they could not have been more timely.
"One of the biggest themes in this film is the idea of otherness. One of our great issues as a race is that we find it hard to celebrate and learn from the differences between people.
"If something doesn't have the same ideology, philosophy, same way of drinking, dressing, feeling... then we just think that it is wrong. So that is a big theme that is explored in this."
Despite the darker and weighty themes explored such as exclusion, intolerance and segregation, Farrell said "there is a light that is around this film and a magic to it".
And although he did not get to meet Rowling, he admires her imagination.
"The power of it ignited mine. There is a sense of play and a sense of expansiveness, which was a blessing to be around," he said.
Farrell admitted that he never wanted to be a wizard growing up.
"I was a big Star Wars fan, so I wanted to be a Jedi. Wizards are kind of Jedi-ish. I didn't think of magic or wizardry, and I am glad at I arrived at it at the ripe old age of 40."
How does he feel about turning 40?
"I hope I am more mature," the father of two said, laughing.
"I am okay with my 20s and 30s being in the rear-view mirror. I drop my kids to school and I go, 'Thank God I don't have to look at 10 more years of school, with uniforms and teachers telling me what to do.'"
Being a father to his sons, James, 13, and Henry, seven, has its challenges, he said.
"They are two very complex and sensitive young boys.
"Henry comes out with things like, Dad, everyone feels anger, don't they? Anger is okay, isn't it? But not everyone feels joy and why doesn't everyone feel joy?
"And you are just going, how do I figure this out? I am still trying to figure out the answers to these questions myself at 40."