Colin Farrell on his special-needs son taking his first steps: ‘It was pretty amazing’

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Colin Farrell has paired again with director Yorgos Lanthimos for The Killing of a Sacred Deer (their first film was The Lobster.) The movie is a thriller with dark comedic undertones, it sounds like. It’s getting pretty good reviews. Colin along with co-star Nicole Kidman and Yorgos are at TIFF to show the film. While being interviewed by PEOPLE, they were asked to share joyful stories of their lives as parents, which is kind of funny considering their film is about a possibly demonic child. Anyway, Colin is father to two boys, Henry (seven) and James (13). James has Angelman Syndrome, a developmental delay that is often mistaken for cerebral palsy or autism. Since Colin and his ex, James’ mother Kim Bordenave, decided to start speaking about James’ disorder, Colin has spoken of it often and responsibly. Having a son with special needs propelled him to become a huge advocate for not only Anglelman Syndrome but special needs children and sick kids in general. So when it came time for Colin to share his ‘joyous’ story, he spoke in more detail about watching James’ first steps.

Colin Farrell is opening up about one of the most special moments of his life.

Farrell, who plays a father given a terrible choice in the movie, shared a joyful story from his real life as a dad. “When James took his first steps a couple weeks short of his fourth birthday, it was pretty amazing and humbling to see,” Farrell says.

Farrell says that while any child taking their first steps is a momentous occasion, it meant even to him knowing his son worked hard to reach that milestone.

“People talk about the children taking the first step, it’s obviously a monumental moment and it’s been represented in film,” Farrell says. “But to be told your child may never take the first step and then see those first steps is just kind of a different sport all together.”

[From People]

I didn’t realize that Colin had been told James would never walk. My son is also classified as special needs. I say “classified” only to acknowledge that his issues are nowhere near the challenges of Angelman Syndrome. However, I understand what Colin is talking about. Eventually, as Colin has said before, you forget your child has special needs until he/she is around other children. But there are times I remind myself that for certain tasks or milestones, it was harder for him to get there. I’ve always liked how Colin discusses James’ challenges. He obviously loves and is proud of both his sons but he always contends that the Angelman’s is a part of who James is, an in, if he didn’t have Angelman’s, he wouldn’t be the same kid. I really appreciate the notion that a person’s disorder is a part of who they are, not the totality of who they are.

However, Colin is still a puckish Irishman at heart. Following his heartfelt story about James and overcoming his diagnosis to take those first steps, he turned to Nicole and said, “beat that.” Fortunately for Nicole, her children have forbidden her from telling stories about them publicly so she was able to take the fifth.

This is a photo of Nicole and Colin at the film’s premier in Toronto. I didn’t devote much space to it because I thought Nicole looked amazing at the Cannes premiere so this is kind of a let down for me.

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Oh – oh my *fans self*

Photo credit: WENN Photos and Getty Images

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41 Responses to “Colin Farrell on his special-needs son taking his first steps: ‘It was pretty amazing’”

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  1. Crowdhood says:

    Late to the big little lies game but I watched it in its entirety this weekend and was mesmerized by Nicole Kidman’s beauty. If I were here I would just morph her character’s style from that into my real life style.

  2. M. says:

    My husband has a cousin with angelmans syndrome. He turned 35 this year! His family never gave up on him and he is included in everything. He’s always smiling and happy. He can walk and communicate very well, he can’t say any words but he gets his point across. His mother is one of the most amazing mothers I know!

  3. sb says:

    are you going to do a post about Armie Hammer/Call Me By Your Name at TIFF?

  4. HelloSunshine says:

    I always appreciate people talking about their experiences with those who have special needs. We still live in a society that treats them as though their special needs make them who they are, rather than being a piece of them, and it helps to have someone who is such a public figure talk about it! I had never heard of Angelman Syndrome until he started talking about it and I appreciated the opportunity to look into and learn about it.

  5. Larelyn says:

    As a special needs parent (fragile x syndrome, average severity), it means a lot to have celebrity parents speak about their special kids and their “normal”. It validates the struggle. Heck, it doesn’t have to be real – the show Speechless hits the nail on the head so many times, my family loves to watch it together.

    I would never wish fxs on anyone (autism with a dose of intellectual disabilities, carriers with their own issues), but the angelman community are so fortunate to have such a visible advocate. Many, many more people have become familiar to angelman’s through his celebrity. The fxs community would benefit having someone of his stature as an advocate.

    Which makes me rant about celebrities who hide or are in denial about their children’s disabilities (huge glare at the Travoltas!) There is no shame in having a child with special needs. If your social circles burden you with that stigma, then find new circles, cough, cough, “religions”.

    Finally, I understand what he means about his kid being someone else if he didn’t have angelman’s. Disorders that affect brain development, like fxs and angelman’s, often comes with behavioral symptoms that are shared by a majority of the population. How much of his personality is from the syndrome, and which parts are truly him?

    Here’s a wish for cures to more rare diseases!

    • woodstock_schulz says:

      @Larelyn – my son has FX and ASD as well. He didn’t walk independently until he was 2, but it was so great to see and now he runs everywhere, lol. I agree that many special needs communities could do with more visible advocates like Colin.

    • Aims says:

      I have two kids with Autism , one more extreme then the other. Autism has gotten a lot of attention lately, which is great. However , it was very isolating when they were babies . It’s difficult to see your children with their peers, and you can see the difference . Also, before we got the diagnosis, we we’re constantly being question by family why our kids behavior was a little off. Questioning our parenting . There wasn’t a lot of family support . I am happy to say we did make it through the other side and now they’re thriving . But there was a lot of pain, sweat and tears that got us there.

  6. Veronica says:

    I gotta be honest: ten years ago, I never thought COLIN FARRELL would be one of those guys for whom fatherhood was a experience that matured him. He’s come a long way from the hard drinking, slutty party boy I remember from the early 2000s.

  7. Esmom says:

    Very sweet. I can relate as I have a child on the autism spectrum. Walking is a big milestone but even the smallest things that most parents take for granted are huge accomplishments. I can still remember vividly the first time my guy said “hi” back to someone who had said “hi” to him. It was first grade, on the playground, and I wanted to jump and dance for joy right then and there.

    He’s now a senior in high school, applying to colleges and he flies under the radar about his disability, not disclosing it to his peers. He knows it’s an integral part of who he is and how he experiences the world — and while he gets frustrated with the many difficulties, he also believes it’s given him an almost superhuman level of determination (and I would agree) — he doesn’t want people instantly labeling him.

    He has been heartened and comforted by stories of celebs and athletes facing challenges — frankly I wish there were more speaking out about either autism and other brain disorders like depression — so good for Colin for keeping his son’s story out there to help give others hope.

  8. Erica says:

    Please use person first language: “his son with special needs” vs. “special needs son”.

      • India Rose says:

        Yes please. I was about to ask the same thing. We don’t say diabetes child or cancer person, because we’re all more complex than our diagnoses. My kids’ identities are more than their special needs. It’s a little clunkier to say child with special needs …but come to think of it, we’re only adding one short word.

        Thank you for listening.

      • Tryannosarahs says:

        I am the sister of a brother with special needs, and I agree.

        @India Rose I am also the partner of a person with type one diabetes and I can attest that they still get labeled as and reduced to their disease. Diabetic child/diabetic person is not uncommon to hear is pretty prevalent.

    • bookgrl63 says:

      Speaking as an autistic person, I will say that person first language isn’t exactly in vogue with the disability community. Especially if the disability is lifelong and incurable. For example, and I could be wrong about this, I think many deaf people prefer deaf to hearing impaired. I know certainly that “person with autism” isn’t popular among people on the spectrum because that autism is a disease. I think disabled is probably a better term than special needs though.

      • Larelyn says:

        I know I am splitting hairs, but there is a profound difference in America between hearing impaired, deaf, and Deaf.

        The Deaf community (yes, capital D) is a cultural group who use American Sign Language as their primary language and can oftentimes be illiterate to English.

        Someone who is deaf oftentimes was once hearing or has a deep foundation in the hearing world (hearing parents, hearing schools, etc).

        Hearing impaired indicates there is (or was) some ability for hearing.

        Source: Living in a community with a strong Deaf presence and my state’s school for the Deaf

      • JJ says:

        I completely agree it should be your own choice with a diagnostic label. “Special needs” isn’t one though – so I’m wondering: would you still prefer special-needs person? With this term I always think: people HAVE special needs, it isn’t that they ARE special needs. Thoughts?

      • bookgrl63 says:

        Thanks for the info. I don’t think you’re splitting hairs. It’s important to know what people want themselves to be called. That’s why it bothered me when the above commenter brought up person first language. I can’t speak for everyone but I do know that a lot of disabled people aren’t big fans of it.

  9. Carol says:

    My oldest who has cerebral palsy took his first steps without walker or canes at age 9. Luckily, we grabbed the video when we realized what he had done and got him to do it again, including his huge smile when he realized he had done something awesome. First steps are always special, but these steps were also the culmination of years of surgeries, therapies, and hard work. The best part was that his younger brothers were as excited and proud as he was.

  10. Tig says:

    I know he was just being cheeky, but the “beat that” made me a bit sad for her. Being cut out of her two oldest children’s lives like she was had to have been painful. There are prob a lot of moments in their young lives she missed out on. Again, not equating what Colin, his son’s mother and most importantly his son are living with with Nicole’s experiences. I sure hope those older children and Nicole have managed to
    forge some type of relationship after all these years. Sorry to blather on, but that situation has always struck me as so horrible for her.

  11. FHMom says:

    My brother has a neurologist disease and has never walked. It’s something most of us take for granted. Walking was always the milestone that made my parents nervous with each grandchild. I completely understand Colin’s pride.

  12. pinetree13 says:

    “But to be told your child may never take the first step and then see those first steps is just kind of a different sport all together.”


    Between this and some of the comments from fellow celeb*tches *struggles to maintain straight face while at work, don’t-anyone-make-me-talk*

  13. feebee says:

    Colin Farrell is awesome. The way he talks about this stuff…. makes me smile. Makes me grateful. “Beat that”, ha!! Parents with special needs kids… it has it’s tough patches but a rare sunshine. My first has her challenges. When my second turned up I remember thinking oh, so it was supposed to be easy like this! But he’s right, whatever they have it’s what makes them who they are and that’s just it.

  14. Pandy says:

    I heart Colin Farrell! Such a sexy man. I like Nicole’s dress – haute hippy. My kind of style although i couldn’t pull this dress off.

  15. adastraperaspera says:

    My favorite Colin Farrell work is his first role, in Ballykissangel. A corny, sweet series. I think Colin put a lot of feeling into the character.

  16. Electric Tuba says:

    Good god he is a sessy son of a beeeehacccch

  17. Ally says:

    The Lobster was truly vile. What it portrayed ended up being ten times worse than anything it was purportedly satirizing.

    It’s like Saw for the blasé intellectual set. Not seeing anything by this director ever again.

  18. Yup, Me says:

    Sharing this here since I had the good fortune of hearing it recently and since it’s beautifully aligned with Colin’s words as well…

  19. Nessa says:

    I love Colin Farrell. Always have. Even more so, since he shared about his son’s disability / syndrome.
    I have a 6 year old son with Autism and I love how Colin was more focused on the work it took his son to get to that point of walking at 4 years old. My son works so hard to try to understand what we’re teaching him and to try to fit in and get his point across. It’s terribly stressful for all of us involved. He’s amazing and I’m so proud of him. We have a long way to go, but we always try to move forward .. even if it’s just a few steps.

    In Bruges was the best movie and he was so awesome in it. We actually call it “In F#$%ing Bruges” LOL

  20. Snowflake says:

    Omg, he is so sexy! I wish I had seen this post earlier ! He just does it for me.

  21. raincoaster says:

    Colin Farrell is such a great guy, and he never seems too big for his britches. I remember he was talking about getting ready for a role, and he had a personal trainer for hours a day who made him live on protein shakes, and he said to a magazine interviewer “I haven’t taken a proper shit in a month!” How can you not love him, particularly when he’s a good dad and (from what I’ve heard from people who know/slept with him back in the day) a really nice guy.

  22. Rae says:

    I’ll always have time for Colin.