McDonagh making his mark
BEING frank, funny and opinionated has given Calvary writer and director John Michael McDonagh grief in the past. The London- born auteur ripped apart Ned
Kelly director Gregor Jordan and the studio for reportedly destroying his screenplay for the 2003 drama starring late Australian actor Heath Ledger. He has also said it pushed him into becoming a director, so he wouldn’t have a similar experience.
As a result, he needed to show he wasn’t all talk when it came to his 2011 directorial debut
“All the pressure was on The Guard, because I bad- mouthed [ director] Gregor Jordan and my experience on Ned Kelly,” McDonagh said.
“You have to make a good film. If you make a crap film, it makes everything you said about that director you didn’t get along with bulls---, because it’s like you couldn’t do any better.”
Luckily for him, audiences loved The Guard, a buddy- cop comedy with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, which became the most commercially successful independent Irish film.
“When The Guard became a hit, it was just a relief. Then for [ follow- up] Calvary, I didn’t feel any pressure at all,” McDonagh said.
Calvary also stars Gleeson, playing a sincerely good priest theatened with murder during confession and given a week to live by a parishioner.
“Toward the end of shooting on The Guard, Brendan and I had been talking about the idea of doing a film about a good man, which became a good priest,” McDonagh said.
“I thought there would be a lot of movies made about scandals in the church, about bad priests, and I thought before all those come out we should flip it on its head and make a film about a good priest. That was sort of a starting point.”
McDonagh envisioned it as the second part of a trilogy.
“The third film we’re going to make is about a paraplegic. So that’ll be the three Ps: a policeman, a priest and a paraplegic,” he said.
“I call it the glorified suicide trilogy, because they all go to a final confrontation at the end that may or may not end badly and it’s almost a suicidal situation. I can see the box set now.”
McDonagh is the first to admit Calvary isn’t as “broadly audience friendly” as The Guard.
Apart from being a more art- house production, it deals with serious subject matters – abuse in the church, domestic violence, financial issues in Ireland and adultery. But alongside a cast including Gleeson,
Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen and Chris O’Dowd, it also has a lot of McDonagh’s trademark humour, which he’s not about to censor any time soon.
“I don’t really sort of monitor myself in that PC way,” he said. “Because a lot of people do and it leads to quite bland work.”
Besides, if someone doesn’t get the jokes, he said they were probably not a person he would chat to in the first place.
“I just assume an audience is like me and they’ll either like the sense of humour, or they won’t,” McDonagh said.
“If they don’t like it, they’re the type of person I’d meet at a party and probably not like anyway.”