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'Seven Psychopaths' Writer-Director Martin McDonagh On His Love Affair With America

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire October 10, 2012 at 10:14AM

The venerable Irish playwright Martin McDonagh is finally back on screen this Friday with "Seven Psychopaths," a darkly hilarious follow-up to his Oscar-nominated screenwriting and directing debut, "In Bruges."
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Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths."
CBS Christopher Walken in "Seven Psychopaths."

The reason I bring this up is there's a line about how women in films of this nature are totally disposable.

Even looking at the script even with the other scenes cut in, it's still a film about boys with guns and at that point in the film, all of the things that Marty didn't want to be around. So he needed Christopher Walken's character to skewer both me, the film, and puncture Colin's bullshit about that too.

Not every screenwriter would skewer himself in his own movie.

But, you still kind of get away with murder because you've done that.

About Walken, what's it like working with him? This marks your second time together following "A Behanding in Spokane" on the Great White Way.

It's like a dream. Doing the play, you have an idea that maybe we should send it that person, never dreaming they'd read it or it would get through or whatever else. Most days on set, you'd get in the morning and you'd be talking to Chris and give him a little bit of direction and you'd go and pinch yourself, "Oh my God Christopher Walken's in my film!" Even now, seeing him appear in the room, he's a god, a crazy beautiful American icon. Maybe it's because we did the play together that he kind of trusted more to just go with the dialogue, but his cadence, his way of delivering a line is almost poetic.

Did you write for him initially?

No, it dates back around eight years, the script. So, it was written just after "In Bruges," but before "In Bruges" was made.

"In Bruges"
"In Bruges"

So why did you choose to make "In Bruges" first?

There was too much scope to this that as a first-time filmmaker, I don't think I would've been able to get my head around it. The size of the cast, the flashbacks, the cinematic aspects of it were beyond me at the time. "In Bruges" is three characters, one town; it was almost more like three guys talking.

This was jumping around in time and backstories and stories within stories, car chases, and gunfights. Even just looking at the two scripts before I'd made them, I knew I would fuck this up if I did this first. But after "Bruges" was made, I felt like it's still going to be almost beyond me, but I had to give it a go. I couldn't have given it over to someone else. I'm happy with what's up there.

Do you see yourself writing a screenplay and actually giving it over to another director?

I'd always have to take care of it. Like with plays even, I've never directed a play in my life, but you've got so much control over them, like a word can't be changed without your approval, no one can be cast without your approval either and you can always be in the rehearsal room every single day. Whereas a screenwriter in the mix of Hollywood is like the lowest of the low and has no power.

"I think in my heart I'll always be a writer, who happens to direct."

I thought about at one point, because I've got a backlog of two or three scripts that I know I'll never get around to. I was thinking about going down that path, but I came to the realization that I'm just too much of a control freak to ever see a bad version of that film script. So I'll always stick to doing them myself, I think.

With regards to film, what are you first and foremost: a writer or a director?

I think in my heart I'll always be a writer who happens to direct. I've always been proud of being a writer and what that entails, what it means. Directors get away with murder, but I'm proudest of being a writer, I think. Almost the whole thing of becoming a director was not letting someone screw up a good script. And even when I'm directing, I have to force myself into the visual aspects of it at a later stage. The story doesn't flow in images, it flows in characters and what they're saying and that's a whole other aspect that I always have to learn each time.

Whereas it's so free and easy with the language and characters that most of my job with directing is making it clear why that character's saying that at that particular time, and giving the actors as much ammunition as they need to go off and nail it. As opposed to trying to come up with motivations and that stuff, I'm not that kind of director. It's almost more getting them cleanly into the words.

This article is related to: Interviews, Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh







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