John Michael McDon­agh says af­ter the suc­cess of The Guard, the pres­sure was off for Cal­vary

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BE­ING frank, funny and opin­ion­ated has given Cal­vary writer/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 the 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 The Guard.

“All the pres­sure was on The Guard, be­cause I bad-mouthed (di­rec­tor) Gre­gor Jordan and my ex­pe­ri­ence on Ned Kelly,” he says. “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 any­way.”

Luck­ily for him then, that 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,” he says.

Glee­son again stars in McDon­agh’s blackly comic Cal­vary, play­ing a 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,” he says.

“I thought there would be a lot of movies made about scan­dals in the Church, about bad priests and I thought, ‘well, 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 en­vi­sions 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 says.

“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. It deals with some pretty se­ri­ous sub­ject mat­ter – 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 still has a lot of McDon­agh’s trade­mark hu­mour, which he’s not about to cen­sor any time soon.

“I just as­sume an au­di­ence is like me and they’ll ei­ther like the sense of hu­mour, or they won’t,” he says.

“If they don’t like it, they’re the type of per­son I’d meet at a party and prob­a­bly not like any­way.”

Cal­vary is show­ing in cin­e­mas now

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