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Movies & TV

08th Aug 2023

20 years ago today, Colin Farrell’s biggest hit happened almost by accident

Rory Cashin

SWAT

For a while, it seemed like all of Hollywood was actively avoiding this movie.

Colin Farrell has been a part of some huge blockbusters throughout his career. Movies like The Batman, the first Fantastic Beasts, Minority Report, and Dumbo have all made some serious bank at the box office, but none of them have been what you might fairly call ‘a Colin Farrell movie’, more ‘a movie that happens to have Colin Farrell in it’.

While his career has pivoted recently to smaller, more interesting movies that you could safely call ‘a Colin Farrell movie’ – e.g. The Banshees of Inisherin, Thirteen Lives, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lobster, etc. – they haven’t exactly set the box office alight.

Back in the mid-00s, when Hollywood still wasn’t sure what to do with his fun mix of handsome and weird, they kept dropping him into action thrillers, hoping to make him the next Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. And so we got movies like Hart’s War, The Recruit, Daredevil, Miami Vice, Pride and Glory… none of them great, none of them big money makers.

Farrell’s biggest leading man box office hit to date has been the 2012 remake of Total Recall, which made $212 million worldwide, but it was off the back of a hefty $125 million budget, so when all was said and done with additional promotional costs, it is likely that movie still ended up making a bit of a loss.

So when it actually comes to Colin Farrell, as a leading man, and his biggest box office success, that movie is 2003’s SWAT, an action thriller that seemed to be put together almost by accident…

SWAT was going on here…

Based on the 1975 TV series of the same name, and then inspiring the 2017 TV series of the same name, the original casting set-up for SWAT was practically a Fast and Furious re-union.

Michelle Rodriguez was set to be joined by Paul Walker as Jim Street and Vin Diesel as Deacon Kaye, with the movie to be directed by Rob Cohen, the director of the first Fast and Furious movie.

However, clashing schedules forced most of these out, with Walker going off to make 2 Fast 2 Furious, Diesel bailing to focus on The Chronicles of Riddick, and Cohen re-aiming towards Stealth.

Mark Wahlberg was offered the role of Jim Street, but he passed on it to make the remake of The Italian Job instead, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the role of Hondo, but he made Terminator 3 instead, and the role went to Samuel L. Jackson.

LL Cool J eventually signed on to the role of Deacon Kaye, and producers settled on Colin Farrell for Jim Street, but then came the problem of finding the right director. With the script in place by the guys behind Training Day and American History X, the SWAT producers seemingly went through every major action director working in Hollywood at the time, who all seemingly had other projects they chose instead.

Michael Bay made Bad Boys II, Antoine Fuqua made Tears of the Sun, Michael Mann made Collateral, Joel Schumacher made Vernonica Guerin, Tony Scott made Man On Fire, Zack Snyder made Dawn of the Dead, and John Woo made Paycheque, before they eventually gave the job to Clark Johnson, best known for his TV work on The West Wing and The Wire.

The movie arrived in cinemas on 8 August 2003, with the $70 million production budget banking over $207 million worldwide, even if critics reacted with a big shrug of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But it didn’t really matter, because the final product solidified Colin Farrell’s placement in Hollywood, even if he wouldn’t really land in his most natural genre for another decade or so. And even if all the pieces only seem to fall into place entirely by accident, there are actually much worse ways to spend 117 minutes.

SWAT is available to watch on Netflix right now.

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