"Inevitably it ends up back on the drugs and booze," he says. "It's such an energetic part of where I came from. It was part of my brand, and it's hard for me to talk about the last 20 years and not have fame and addiction be a part of it. But it kind of does get old . . . "

Contra Fitzgerald, there are second acts in American life—you just have to spend them rehashing every fucked-up thing you ever did for the press. Better to talk about what's changed. For one thing, if he tells me it's going to get hotter but I'll get used to the heat, then I have to believe him now, because Farrell exudes a sincerity that is as irrepressible as his serial lying once was.

"Oh, I wouldn't tell a truth all day," he says flatly. "If I'd had chicken and beans for dinner, I'd tell you I had steak and potatoes. No purpose, just habit. The amount of energy you have to put in and the amount of lies you have to tell to keep a drug habit alive, it's fairly significant. Your whole life is a lie."

Being honest with yourself is another answer to the riddle of what to do with the extra hours in your day. Part of that is embracing the unknowns. "Not knowing what the fuck I'm doing as a dad is huge," he says happily. "I don't know what I'm doing, and that's a very liberating thing. You just go, 'Oh look, there's shit on the floor.' There's actually shit on the floor—I have a picture of it on my phone. So what do you do? You clean it up, put a diaper on his ass, and that's that. It's just about being present for these guys."

That presence is something new that's mentioned over and over again by his recent colleagues. Jessica Biel, Farrell's costar in this summer's Total Recall redo, calls him a doll and more fun and playful than she'd imagined him but reserves her greatest praise for his on-set focus: "His performances were different every take and surprising and exciting. He just has the ability to be trying different things all the time."

And acting opposite those eyebrows? "Those eyebrows pretty much live in their own ZIP code," Biel says. "He's got a good sense of humor about those things."

Farrell puts the eyebrows and rakish humor to good use as Marty, the beleaguered straight man in Seven Psychopaths, with Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken. Martin McDonagh's sharply written, energetically loopy story revolves around Marty, a struggling screenwriter (and possible alcoholic) caught up in a bloody showdown of his own making. "It's very hard to get a film star who's open to looking weak or sad or hurt or broken," says McDonagh, who also directed Farrell in the 2008 black comedy In Bruges. "It takes a lot of integrity to go there, to explore a character's weakness and not be worried about box office or hurting one's image."

Rockwell watched In Bruges repeatedly before pairing up with Farrell on Psychopaths. "I got an idea of what his gift is as an actor," he says. "It's his vulnerability. He's got a powerful emotional instrument. I think he's really coming into his own. He's going to be a serious leading man. He could become like a Sean Connery for us."

Rockwell and Farrell had hung out a few times at the Chateau Marmont back in the day. "He had a shaved head then," Rockwell says. "He's a different guy now. Older and wiser. More focused and accessible. One of the most generous—I'm kind of in love with him. I have a man crush on Colin for sure."

• • •

"Life is change, life is evolution, growth . . . " Farrell is saying. We were talking about love and the impermanence of everything, and this has set him off on one of his verbal flights, in which the words tumble out quickly and he seems to be performing a speech he's writing in his mind as he goes. "Life is apogee, apex, decline, life is death—and everything else is open to discussion."