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Only Kerry Condon Could Take on the Maddening Men of ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

When Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson face off in Martin McDonagh's latest dark comedy, it's co-star Condon who really comes out swinging. Her process was, as she tells IndieWire, fittingly personal.

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 05: (L-R) Graham Broadbent, director Martin McDonagh, Kerry Condon, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson attend "The Banshees Of Inisherin" red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 05, 2022 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/WireImage)

Producer Graham Broadbent, filmmaker Martin McDonagh, Kerry Condon, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson attend “The Banshees of Inisherin” red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival

WireImage/Courtesy of Getty

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It’s only fitting that a woman is the voice of reason in Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin.” And only Kerry Condon could play the part.

The 1920s-set dark comedy finds longtime friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) at one hell of an impasse. After years of whiling away their afternoons at the local pub, Colm made the choice to cut ties with his pal, the hows and whys of which frame McDonagh’s alternately delightful and wrenching fifth film.

As Pádraic’s sister Siobhán, Condon (like Farrell and Gleeson, a McDonagh regular) is initially tasked with providing both reason and understanding amid these maddening men’s emotional stalemate. But as the film winds on, Siobhán is forced to confront her desire for something beyond their provincial little island, the kind of place where a “feud” between two drinking buddies can consume everyone’s waking hours.

As her frustrations — with her brother, with Colm, with men in general, with this damn island, with her life — finally come to a head, she lets loose an admonishment that many people (OK, many women) have likely thought, repeatedly, routinely, often. Even now, Condon repeats the line over Zoom with glee: “You’re all fucking boring!”

With her Irish brogue, that “fucking” sounds like “fecking,” Condon briefly melting into Siobhán. That’s sort of what happened in real life: For a moment, Condon and her character became the same person. That line? It was inspired by Condon’s frustrations with the men of “Banshees,” even if those frustrations are a fair bit less pressing than Siobhán’s.

“I remember there was one of the weekends [we were shooting the film] where nobody reached out to me, and then I’d said to Martin, ‘I didn’t hear a word from anyone all weekend, I have been on my own, nobody contacted me. You’re all fucking boring!” she recalled during a recent interview with IndieWire. “So I think Martin was like, ‘Eh, perfect. You’re staying in the vein of the character.'”

Colin Farrell and Kerry Condon in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

Jonathan Hession/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

When Siobhán lets loose, it’s after days of trying to broker a peace that may never come between the two men. “I tried to do it in a way that it was she was raging at them, raging at their self-importance and raging at their not considering her or thinking about her or paying attention to her,” Condon said. “It’s not a cry for help, because I think she knew she wouldn’t get the attention even if she asked first. They wouldn’t know how to help her, they wouldn’t know how to deal with the woman, an emotional woman.”

While Condon admits she initially struggled to find her way into Siobhán after McDonagh — who wrote the part expressly for her — showed her the script, she found ballast in one important biographical detail: that the siblings’ parents had passed away, a pain neither of them are able to manage properly and which colors everything they do.

“I had recently experienced grief in my life for the first time, and so that really opened a door,” she said. “Experiencing grief reminded me of when you have sex for the first time, in the sense that your life changes forever. It opens this whole [sense of], ‘Oh wow, that’s what people are doing, and that’s what goes on.’ … I felt that Siobhán was still carrying the weight of that loss and the weight of the grief and dealing with it in a different way to Pádraic. That was a starting point for me.”

As McDonagh told IndieWire earlier this year, Siobhán “started out as the sisterly voice of reason,” but “if you go down that road with her intelligence, her empathy, and her anger, by the end, you feel that she’s got to either commit suicide or leave the place.” That was something the filmmaker and the actress often discussed. As the film moves forward (even as the men at its center don’t), Siobhán becomes convinced that, as Condon puts it, “It’s now or never.”

In one key scene before Siobhán makes her ultimate choice — played both for laughs and tears, as is the McDonagh way — Pádraic comes across Siobhán crying alone in their bedroom (the siblings still occupy their twin beds from childhood, lest one of them have to occupy their parents’ old bedroom).

Kerry Condon in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

Jonathan Hession/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

“She’s crying, and Pádraic says, ‘What’s wrong?’ And she says, ‘Nothing,’ but ‘that it’s all getting a bit much,'” Condon said. “If she keeps explaining how she’s feeling, she’ll burst into tears, and all the truth would all come out. I tried to play with the idea of somebody who’s hiding how they’re really feeling, and that feeling of depression where you feel like you’re on the verge of tears, but you’re hiding it from everyone.”

While Condon plays Siobhán as quite stoic, on the inside, it’s a different story. That also allowed the actress to act as the audience’s surrogate for the growing battle between Pádraic and Colm, because she can feel for both of them.

“She could see both sides,” she said. “She felt for Pádraic, and she knew [Colm’s choice] was unkind and not nice, but at the same time, she understood the solitude that Colm was looking for and those existential questions that [he’s asking]. She couldn’t explain that to Pádraic, he just wasn’t going to get it. That added to her frustration with the scenario, that neither of them were going to see the other person’s point of view.”

Thus: “fucking boring!”

Siobhán’s ability to say that to both Pádraic and Colm is rooted in her closeness to the characters. It’s the same with McDonagh, whom she has known and worked with for over two decades. McDonagh gave Condon her first major role, starring in his play “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” when she was 18. In 2009, she starred in McDonagh’s play “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” which earned her both a Lucille Lortel Award and a Drama Desk Award.

In 2017, she appeared in her first McDonagh film, with a small role in his “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” (Don’t worry, she kept busy in the interim, thanks to a variety of roles, like voicing the A.I. F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and playing Stacey Ehrmantraut throughout the run of “Better Call Saul.”)

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Kerry Condon as Stacey - Better Call Saul _ Season 4, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

“Better Call Saul”

Nicole Wilder/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

The years, she said, have not materially changed her relationship with McDonagh. “I don’t think it’s changed at all, really, it feels the very same to when we did ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore,’ many, many years ago,” she said. “I still feel like the same person. He still feels like the same person to me.”

She added with a laugh, “I will say that who I am and who he is when we’re working together are different to who we are when we’re friends. I feel like, ‘Oh, we’re working together, he’s an authority figure and it’s his movie and he wants it [this way].’ I feel very much Martin’s in charge, and as long as Martin’s happy, then I’m doing a good job and that’s all I need to worry about. But when I’m hanging out with him? I’m not worrying about if Martin is happy.”

She’s also known Farrell for more than half her life. The pair first met when Condon was just 17 and both appeared on the BBC drama “Ballykissnangel,” long before, as Condon jokes, “He blew up and became Colin Farrell.”

The film offered the pals a chance to do something together that could capitalize on their innate closeness. Three weeks of rehearsal helped, too, all of them focused on the scenes between Condon and Farrell in the family house. “It was just me and him for three weeks in the house doing all the scenes together,” she said. “So by the end of it, you were so familiar, it was very comfortable with each other.”

Also helpful? Zero competition between the pair. “We wanted each other to be great,” she said. “We were both really generous to each other because we wanted each other to be great. I wanted the movie to be great because it was Martin’s.”

During scenes in which the siblings are speaking to each other, and McDonagh is cutting back and forth between their faces, Condon said, she and Farrell never dialed down their work. “He did his off-camera stuff just as good as he did his on-camera stuff. We didn’t take a bit of a break, like, ‘I’m not on camera, and I’ll just say the lines for you,'” she said.

Like Siobhán, Condon can’t help but be emotional about the story McDonagh has crafted. When the film premiered at Venice in September — where McDonagh won the Golden Osella for Best Screenplay — all eyes were on Condon as she cried through the film’s protracted standing ovation.

“It was the second time I’d seen the movie, and so I was able to watch it finally, not criticizing myself or my performance or critique,” Condon said. “Not necessarily that I’m criticizing everything, but the first time you watch it, you’re really just looking at your own stuff. So the second time, I did go, ‘Oh, OK, now I’m going to sit back and look at other people’s stuff and not be so judgmental of my own stuff.'”

She was particularly moved by a scene about halfway through the film in which Pádraic gets punched in the middle of their tiny village, and it’s Colm who assists him, gently putting his old friend into his cart and driving him home. But even then, Colm won’t speak to Pádraic. It doesn’t go unnoticed by Farrell’s character, who starts bawling.

“I remember reading that in the script going, ‘Oh, my God, this is so sad. There’s no lines, but it’s just so sad,” Condon said. “It was executed exactly how it had been written. It just really moved me because I felt like I understood Pádraic’s pain.”

Once the lights went up and everyone turned to look at the cast and crew, Condon barely had time to snap from movie watcher Kerry to movie star Kerry. She was so touched by the film that she couldn’t help it — she started to cry. No one, she said with a laugh, was going to think she was “unhinged” if she let the tears flow, not in that room, not with all those Italians who are “not going to be scared if you start crying.” (A lesson for Pádraic and Colm, perhaps?)

As the film continues to garner accolades throughout awards season (including plenty of attention paid to Condon, Farrell, and Gleeson’s performances), Condon said she’s just happy that people finally recognize the decades of work she’s put into her career, both with McDonagh and beyond.

“Nobody ever really put the connections together of me having done the plays and things [before film and TV], and I do like that being known, because I did get started very young,” she said. “And I did do those plays before Martin had done any films, so I do like to get that credit because it was hard work, and I was there at the very beginning. It’s not all the time [that] when people do the theater, they get to do films, and so it was really nice that I finally got to do the film part.”

And while Condon found plenty of common ground with Siobhán, it’s hard to ignore one fundamental difference between the two: Condon is pretty happy with where she is right now. Anything else that might come next? That’s nice, too. “I’m just really grateful,” she said. “I still have to see what happens in my life, besides wearing lovely clothes at these events and everyone being happy about the film. I don’t really know how my life changes really. If it doesn’t change, that’s OK, because I’m having a really lovely career and a really lovely life.”

A Searchlight Pictures release, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is currently in theaters. 

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