Di­rec­tor Martin McDonagh talks Seven Psy­chopaths with Don­ald Clarke,

As his sec­ond fea­ture Seven Psy­chopaths opens, Martin McDonagh talks to Don­ald Clarke about sign­ing on, find­ing his voice in Ire­land – and his “most Tar­enti­noesque pic­ture yet”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

SOME­THING pe­cu­liar has hap­pened to Martin McDonagh since we met four years ago. He has be­come a proper cult hero. You could, of course, ar­gue that, as the writer of hit plays such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Crip­ple of Inish­maan, he had al­ready com­fort­ably achieved that feat. Let’s be hon­est, though. Hav­ing a smash play on Broad­way does not make you a sub­ject of on­line ban­ter in Peo­ria.

In Bruges, fea­tur­ing Colin Far­rell and Bren­dan Glee­son as gang­sters adrift in that city, started slowly then grad­u­ally swelled into a word-of-mouth hit. Peo­ple must fling quotes at him all the time.

“Well, I don’t get that. But then no­body knows what I look like,” he says. “It opened slowly at the start of the year. Then it got a few awards and a nice snow­ball be­gan. I’m al­ways sur­prised by re­sponses. I’m shocked by the neg­a­tive re­sponse to things I’m proud of. I’m some­times sur­prised by the op­po­site. But it’s the long term that mat­ters.”

Sil­very of hair, tall and sleekly good-look­ing, the Lon­don-Ir­ish writer proves to be a shrewd and will­ing an­a­lyst of his own writ­ing. Now 42, he doesn’t quite qual­ify as a veteran, but he has been with us for a decade and a half. It’s been a very strange ca­reer. Raised in south Lon­don by Ir­ish par­ents, McDonagh broke through in 1996 when his play The Beauty Queen of Leenane re­ceived raves on its de­but at the Druid in Gal­way.

“I re­mem­ber read­ing Fin­tan O’Toole’s re­view and think­ing: fuck, I didn’t think it was that good,” he says.

Deal­ing in a kind of height­ened Ir­ish­ness at home to vi­o­lence and black moods, McDonagh’s suc­ceed­ing the­atri­cal work con­tin­ued to play suc­cess­fully in the West End and on Broad­way. The most com­mon – and lazi­est – ap­proach to de­scrib­ing pieces such as The Lieu­tenant of Inish­more in­volved dread use of the phrase “. . . meets Tarantino”.

When, thus, Martin broke into film with the Os­car-win­ning short Six Shooter there was a sense that he was coming home. Af­ter all, he has al­ways ad­mit­ted that he never much liked plays as a kid. In Bruges in­volved a sim­i­lar class of hood­lum ban­ter to that found in Pulp Fic­tion, but McDonagh’s busy fol­low-up, Seven Psy­chopaths, feels like his most Taranti­noesque pic­ture yet. Set in LosAngeles, the gorgeously ti­tled film features Colin Far­rell as a blocked screen­writer who falls in with var­i­ous ma­ni­acs played by the likes of Christo­pher Walken and Sam Rock­well.

This highly self-con­scious film pauses to com­ment on the script that Far­rell is writ­ing and, by ex­ten­sion, Seven Psy­chopaths it­self. In one telling moment, some­one com­ments on the poorly devel­oped fe­male characters. Is McDonagh beat­ing him­self up here?

“I don’t think it’s a com­ment on my­self,” he says. “The first play was all about fe­male characters. So I don’t see it as a crit­i­cism of my­self. It is a com­ment on Hol­ly­wood and on this par­tic­u­lar script. It’s a red her­ring con­cern­ing writ­ing in gen­eral.” There’s a lot of that go­ing on. Slumped over a key­board, a bot­tle by his side, Far­rell looks like the Hol­ly­wood car­i­ca­ture of a tor­tured writer. Mind you, he doesn’t look too un­like gen­uine pho­to­graphs of Wil­liam Faulkner or Ray­mond Chan­dler ei­ther.

“It’s a com­ment on the com­ment. It’s ex­pos­ing that cliché and play­ing with it. I ac­tu­ally think that writer’s block is a myth. I am lazy. But I don’t have writer’s block.”

No in­deed. Since his emer­gence, McDonagh has seen seven of his plays per­formed through­out the world. (At least one, The Ban­shees of Inisheer, re­mains un­pro­duced.) He has di­rected one short and two fea­ture films and has an­other script ready for pro­duc­tion. Mind you, he seems to have been in train­ing for this life since he left school at 16. Why did he not stay for A-lev­els? He seems like a smart fel­low.

“I never wanted to have proper job,” he says. “I had a love of film and a de­vel­op­ing love of books. And I hoped that would go some­where. Study­ing seemed to be ‘study­ing for work’ and there was no job I wanted. I’m sure I read more when I was on the un­em­ploy­ment than I would ever have done if I was study­ing the clas­sics.”

When he even­tu­ally found his voice it was a most un­usual one. Since he was a boy, McDonagh had trav­elled to Ire­land for hol­i­days. How­ever, not ev­ery child of im­mi­grant par­ents be­comes so at­tached to the lan­guage of the old coun­try. It seems a lit­tle cheap to com­pare McDonagh with Shane Mc­Gowan, but both men did seem to find an odd class of lib­er­a­tion in the lan­guage of their par­ents.

“I think writ­ing the Ir­ish plays was the first

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