After winning an Academy Award for his short film Six Shooter, playwright Martin McDonagh made his move to the world of features with the movie In Bruges. While the title failed to get any real traction domestically at the time of its theatrical release, it garnered a great deal of critical praise, earned a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award nomination, won Colin Farrell a Golden Globe and has since taken on a cult following. It’s been a long for years for fans who have awaited McDonagh’s return to the silver screen, but finally that time comes to an end this weekend.
Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a press day for Seven Psychopaths where a group of journalists and myself had the chance to talk to McDonagh about his latest film. Check out the extended interview with the writer/director below in which he talks about the development of the story, the impact In Bruges had on the making of this one, the experience directing Christopher Walken’s voice, and working with the animals.
And beware of the last page, which is full of spoiler goodies
What is the attraction to psychopaths and killers and rabbits?
Rabbits? That’s a definite one, I love them. Psychopaths and killers not so much. I guess I share Colin Farrell’s character’s feelings towards psychopaths and killers in the film. That I know how cinematic they are and how interesting films can be with them, but kind of question the morality of only having films about guys with guns. It’s that, playing those two ideas off each other is my interest in them. Also, I was thinking about this the other day, if you’d written a film called Seven Accountants you wouldn’t really get much interest. Christopher Walken wouldn’t be the same in that part [laughs].
This movie operates on so many different meta levels. I’m curious, was this the story you set out to write from the beginning?
Yeah, this is exactly how it developed. There wasn’t a time when it was just the central story and I was looking out for it. I think I had the Quaker’s Psychopath short story, and then I had the title of this, and then I was stuck with Colin’s character and didn’t know how to come up with the others. I wanted it to be about love and peace, then his two friends show up and the dog thing it just kind of snowballed. It kind of developed naturally like that and then the meta things came. If you’re writing a film that’s about a writer in Hollywood that doesn’t want to write a film called Seven Psychopaths it’s going to be meta no matter what you do.
Were you actively trying to move away from doing it like a play?
I think, just in writing the scripts, I’m always trying to be as cinematic as I can. To do on film what you couldn’t so on stage. I think more and more I’m trying to go in that direction. I mean, I’m going to go back to writing plays too. I think that the difference between the two are becoming more and more polarized. If it’s a story and it’s going to be set in a room, it’s going to be a play. If there’s going to be rabbits and dogs, it’s going to be a film.
You’ve worked with Colin before. How much of the cast did you have in your head as you were writing this?
As I was writing, none of them really. It was actually written seven years ago. Just after I wrote the script for In Bruges, before I made the film. I’ve loved all the actors in this from a long time ago. Maybe Sam Rockwell. Sometimes I write with Sam’s voice in my head because I love him as an actor, and I love the way he can go from comedy to darkness on a dime. But I never dreamed I’d be in a place where I’m doing a film with Christopher Walken or Tom Waits...
I did a play with Sam and Christopher about three years ago in New York, so I knew them. Woody I met like 10 years ago because he’s a theater guy too. We almost did a play together. Tom Waits we almost wrote a fucked up musical kind of thing, which we might go back to. So first day of shooting was like family. So it wasn’t as terrifying as working with a cast this big might appear to be. It was fun every day on set. I think it’s kind of palpable in the film how much fun we were all having. No one was heavy or starry; there were no issues from anyone.