"Working with Eva Marie Saint was a dream," the 37-year-old actor told reporters at a press conference in New York Sunday.
"I had one of the most incredible experiences -- of the last 15 years on film sets -- with her," Farrell said of the female lead of "On the Waterfront" and "North by Northwest."
"I had been aware of her work since I was in my early teens, which was not that long ago. But I love working with actors who are slightly older than me, but have a greater depth of history, in regards to life and film. And working with Eva Marie Saint, as with Christopher Plummer [in 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,'] I think were two of my favorite experiences. She's a wonderful actress, but more importantly -- always more importantly -- always the cart that should go before the horse is the human being and how you find them as a person and I just adore the bones of her. I was really spoiled to be able to spend time with her on the set and it will stay with me all my days, which I hope will be plentiful."
"Colin and I became lovers," Saint quipped, prompting Farrell to respond: "In his mind! Many's the thought."
"You know Hollywood. You know actors," teased Saint, who has been married in real life to Jeffrey Hayden for 63 years. "I liked playing the older woman [in 'Winter's Tale'] because I'm old and I'm still working. But she's older than I am. In the movie, she's 100 and something. But she's still working at the newspaper and I think that was such an interesting idea for me to show a woman still working, still dressing nicely."
In the big-screen adaptation of Mark Helprin's novel, Farrell plays Peter Lake, an early 20th century New York thief who runs afoul of his former boss Pearly Soames, a gangster and demonic minion of Lucifer. Peter changes his wicked ways when he falls in love with Beverly, the wealthy, but terminally ill woman who lives in a mansion Peter tries to rob. After Beverly dies, Pearly finds Peter and throws him off the Brooklyn Bridge, however, he survives and, now immortal, spends decades trying to remember his identity and purpose. One day, he meets Abby, a little girl who seems familiar, in a park and his memory starts to return. The girl's mother, Virginia, is a journalist, who then helps Peter dig through old microfiche in her newspaper's archives and pull together the pieces of his shattered life. Virginia and Peter soon realize they were destined to find each other so they can save Abby, who is dying of cancer and in desperate need of a miracle.
Saint plays Willa, Beverly's little sister, now more than 100 years old, and the owner of the newspaper, while Jessica Brown Findlay plays Beverly, Russell Crowe plays Pearly, Will Smith plays Lucifer, Jennifer Connelly plays Virginia and Ripley Sobo plays Abby.
"Winter's Tale" opens nationwide Friday. Given the film's release date, Farrell was pressed to give his opinion on Valentine's Day and whether love is overrated.
"Overrated? No, possibly underrated, the importance of it and the prevalence in a single person's life or a shared community can make incredible changes and promote the idea of peace and harmony within a society or within a person's existence," Farrell said. "I think love is ... all you need is love. It really is. I think the one thing that defines us as human beings is our ability to care for one another and to demonstrate through acts of compassion a concern for your fellow man. Valentine's Day, I don't even know what that is about. It's an excuse, well, it's whatever you make it. Some people put up a Christmas tree and some people don't. It's whatever you make it. I don't think there is anything wrong with flowers or chocolate-covered cherries, but it would be nice if it didn't take a commercially promoted holiday for people to extend themselves in gestures of love. But I think love is what makes it all spin."