Martin McDonagh on 'In Bruges'

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Born in Camberwell (of Irish parents), the prize-winning, 38-year-old playwright Martin McDonagh won an Academy Award in 2006 for his first film, the short ’Six Shooter‘, starring Brendan Gleeson. His debut feature, ’In Bruges‘, in which Gleeson pairs up with Colin Farrell to play two mismatched hitmen holed up in the ancient Belgian town, continues McDonagh‘s fascination with dark, sometimes despairing subject matter; this time wrapped up in the seductive trappings of the fish-out-of-water black comedy

Martin McDonagh on      'In Bruges'
Martin McDonagh directs Colin Farrell in his debut 'In Bruges'

Why the move from theatre to film?

‘I’d always dreamed of making one. But it was always just a dream. As a working-class kid in south London, it was not ever something that would cross your horizon. But then I fell into the playwriting schtick [laughs], cos it’s really easy and I don’t like working. But at the back of my mind I always wanted to do something in the art form I actually cared most about – film.’

Artistic freedom is what you wanted?

‘Yeah, yeah. The freedom as a first-time filmmaker to do as I wanted, which is pretty much what I’ve had with this. There were offers down the years but I never wanted to work on anyone else’s scripts and I never wanted to tell anyone else’s stories. Then I tried it with the short film “Six Shooter” and learned a few things on that. And then I kind of jumped in, really.’

You originally wrote ‘In Bruges’ for a pair of cockney villains.

‘Yes. But when I had cast Colin as Ray and I had Brendan [Gleeson] there, I thought it would be crazy to force both [these Irishmen] to do bloody cockney accents when the change dialogue-wise, let alone character-wise, wasn’t that massive. It wasn’t that big at all, in fact: literally 20 words or so.’

Farrell’s character is more difficult than Brendan’s: he’s a loose cannon and a bit ‘thick’.

‘I don’t know about “thick”; he’s got to be irritable but not irritating. You’ve got to like him but be pissed-off about what he’s done. He’s got to be someone who draws you in, despite how shitty and horrible he’s been to people. And that’s what I think Colin did brilliantly. He’s kind of lovable – you go with him – but there’s nothing sentimental about his performance, I don’t think.’

Do you think some viewers might be upset about your character’s jokes about fatness, racism or dwarfs?

‘Probably [laughs]. But hopefully not. Ray certainly isn’t the most PC person in the world, but I hope the overall tone of the film isn’t that way.’

You didn’t deliberately set out to provoke?

‘No. I would never set out to do that. I mean I did set out to push the envelope of what a character can or can’t say on film but not in a gratuitous fashion.’

I like the character of the pregnant hotelier Denise who sits on the stairs so the men can’t fight.

‘I like to try and write strong female characters now and then. I started off that way in my first play. I haven’t really had lead female characters since then but I think I will on the next one.’

Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted ‘In Bruges’ to look like?

‘I wanted it to look as beautiful as possible. I didn’t want it to be a grimey, British-Irish kind of gangster thing. The Venice of “Don’t Look Now” was the template. And I wanted it to get darker and more foreboding as the film went on.’

What are your plans for the future?

‘I’ve got a couple of scripts that are ready. Both scripts are American-set, but I have issues with the whole Hollywood scene and I want to make them on my own terms. I wouldn’t want any less control than I had on “In Bruges”.’‘In Bruges’ opens on Apr 25.

Author: Interview: Wally Hammond


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