Still-sober Farrell plays a dirty cop in ‘Pride and Glory'

Colin Farrell was hot from the moment he arrived in Hollywood from Ireland. Talented, affable, uncensored.

He turned heads with a number of modest movies (“Tigerland,” “Phone Booth” and “The Recruit”).

He had big hits (“S.W.A.T.” and Steven Spielberg's “Minority Report,” playing Tom Cruise's tormentor). But then a series of star vehicles (Oliver Stone's “Alexander,” Terrence Malick's “The New World,” Michael Mann's “Miami Vice”) underperformed.

Farrell's heavy partying, though evidently never affecting his work, was spiraling out of control. Farrell has been keeping a low profile since entering rehab in late 2005. He doesn't discuss his love life anymore (he's been linked to English novelist Emma Forrest recently). And he's enjoyed critical acclaim for two crime films, “Cassandra's Dream” and “In Bruges.”

His latest movie, “Pride and Glory,” is another performance-based crime piece, in which he plays a dirty cop who marries into a family of New York police officers.

It's no surprise that he's a more serious, thoughtful bloke than the happy high-timer we used to know.

Q: This is the first time we've talked to you since you went into rehab. Nice to see you without a drink in your hand – though you were always a lot of fun back then.

I mean … well, y'know, big life change. And a life change that is not an uncommon one. A lot of people who have my malady wouldn't have been picked apart the way I have, but also a lot of people wouldn't get the public pat on the back that at times I get as well. So there's a kind of a balance within the imbalance of how my life is seen from the outside. And it's been good, yeah. It's a life change that I've been lucky enough to be able to make, so far.

Q: I presume your 5-year-old son, James, was a major motivation for sobering up.

Always. It was one area of my life that I'd been as fully present in as I possibly could when I was living the way I was living. But there's no doubt I'm much more present in his life now, that's the huge thing.

Q: James has the rare genetic disorder Angelman syndrome. Its symptoms include developmental delays but also a really positive personality. Difficult to deal with?

Yeah. Kinda difficult, kinda not. I mean, thank whatever the power that is, he's not in pain and his life isn't in danger. And he's a really happy boy, so if anything, I see him as having not any type of affliction.

Q: Jimmy Egan, your crooked cop character in “Pride and Glory,” does something so heinous…

I don't feel the violence in the film is gratuitous. Gratuitous is violence without any cost, without seeing the weight of it and how it affects people negatively, if it's there solely for kicks and entertainment purposes. With this in mind, we have a scene that stretches the realms of responsibility vs. irresponsibility in film, it was that egregious. But I felt it was essential to show the level of desperation this character had got at, and what he would do.

Q: You play American football in the film's opening scenes. How does a son and nephew of professional Irish soccer players feel about the sport?

Out of all of your sports, American football is me favorite. I still, of course, take slight umbrage to the idea that it's called football when the only two people who use their feet are the punt kicker and the field goal kicker! But apart from what's in a name, I've been watching Super Bowls since I was 10.

Every year since then, religiously, I'd stay up and watch the Super Bowl. It'd be on at 3 o'clock in the morning, and even if I had school the next day, I'd get dispensation from me mother. I'd have chocolate chip cookies and milk, my notion of Americanism.

Q: Do you still call Dublin home?

I live in L.A. the majority of the time because me boy is here in school. That's how it's been for about two years. I've made a home here, man. But I keep an apartment in Dublin, and it's back and forth between there.