With recent film outings such as The Banshees of Inisherin and The Batman and his upcoming leading role in the Max original miniseries The Penguin, it certainly seems like Colin Farrell is having a moment in the spotlight. Though the beloved Irish-born actor has amassed over 60 credited appearances on his IMDb page, the star has many excellent films within his catalog that have gone widely overlooked. One such film, 2003’s Phone Booth, is currently available to stream on Hulu.
Colin Farrell manages to make the strange thriller, Phone Booth, work, and it’s now streaming on Hulu.
As one of Colin Farrell’s first roles as a leading man, Phone Booth centers on his performance almost entirely held in a single location. Though the premise seems easy to stretch thin, the film manages to maintain its high-intensity thrills through its entire runtime.
Screenwriter Larry Cohen had originally conceptualized the idea of making a film entirely set in a phone booth to Alfred Hitchcock back in the mid-1960s. However, the pair never managed to nail down a well-crafted script to match the concept.
Cohen eventually teamed with Batman and Robin filmmaker Joel Schumacher to co-write Phone Booth, settling on the high-intensity thriller angle that makes the film function so well. Phone Booth stars Colin Farrell alongside Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes, Paula Jai Parker, Arian Ash, and Richard T. Jones. The film was written and directed by Schumacher, with Larry Cohen attached as co-writer and producer.
Before Colin Farrell officially committed to the role, a number of other high-profile Hollywood stars expressed interest in the leading role. Possible leads included Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Mark Wahlberg, and even Mel Gibson. Apparently, Farrell received the role after impressing producers by showing them his work on Joel Schumacher’s previous film, Tigerland.
One of the best performances in Phone Booth comes from Keifer Sutherland, using only his voice, as the gunman on the other end of the phone.
The film centers on Colin Farrell’s perpetually dishonest New York City publicist, Stuart Shephard, who uses a public pay phone to contact a woman with whom he is having an affair. After concluding his call, he receives an incoming call to the booth from a mysterious man who threatens to reveal his web of lies to his wife. The caller then demonstrates the severity of his threat by firing a sniper rifle near Stuart with pinpoint accuracy.
As the caller continues to boss Colin Farrell’s character around, other New York residents attempt to utilize the phone booth, insisting that Stuart leave. Stuart is informed that any attempt to deviate from the caller’s plan could result in himself or others being killed, causing him to become extremely combative with the general public. Before long, the shooter kills a man near the phone booth, causing the police to arrive on the scene along with members of the press.
Stars considered for the lead role in Phone Booth included Mel Gibson, Will Smith, and Jim Carrey.
Forrest Whitaker, playing NYPD Captain Ed Ramey, grounds the heightened tension of Phone Booth and acts as the perfect sounding board for Colin Farrell’s increasingly manic performance. Yet, one of the best performances comes from Keifer Sutherland, using only his voice as the diabolical gunman on the other end of the phone. Few films are able to sustain an entire runtime in one location as this one can, making it stand out as unique even 20 years later.
Phone Booth was originally slated to premiere in November of 2002, though complications with a real-life gunman caused distribution issues with the film, as the studio wanted to avoid being insensitive to the plight of the victims.
The incident in question revolved around the case of the DC Sniper, who terrorized the Washington metropolitan area, consisting of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia over the course of three grueling weeks. When the film finally premiered in April 2003, it launched Colin Farrell’s career into a new era, paving the path toward a number of high-profile Hollywood placements.
Phone Booth was a massive critical and commercial success, bringing in just shy of $100 million at the global box office against an incredibly modest production budget of only $13 million. The film was praised for Colin Farrell’s leading performance and its high-intensity direction, receiving a 72 percent score from critics on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Phone Booth is available to stream on Hulu now.