This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

DID YOU READ

Martin McDonagh on “In Bruges”

Posted by on

02112008_inbruges_310x229.jpg

By Aaron Hillis

Martin McDonagh makes creative success look ridiculously easy. Having already racked up Olivier, Obie and Drama Desk awards (not to mention four Tony nominations), the Irish playwright wrote and directed his first short film in 2004, “Six Shooter,” and won a freakin’ Oscar. The short starred Brendan Gleeson, who has reteamed for McDonagh’s feature debut and Sundance 2008 opener, “In Bruges.” After an underworld assignment in London goes tragically wrong, hit man Ken (Gleeson) and his snarky, younger partner Ray (Colin Farrell) follow orders to hide out in the titular Belgian town. However, Ray’s fidgety boredom and uncanny ease at starting a public commotion put the two in the crosshairs of the police, a hot production intern and her psychotic boyfriend, a dwarf actor and the criminal duo’s menacing boss (played by a scene-stealing Ralph Fiennes). McDonagh sat down with me to discuss bigoted characters and why “In Bruges” isn’t just another hit man flick.

What do the Belgians think about a film whose protagonist not only hates the city of Bruges, but is quite outspoken as a naysayer?

He is. I was a little bit worried about that because they welcomed us with open arms, and helped us out completely. We showed it to the mayor’s office, the tourist board and all of the Belgians who worked on it three weeks ago. They all liked it and were behind it, that was kind of a relief.

Me, personally, I think it’s a beautiful, amazing town. What I

wanted to capture on film is just how pretty, strange and worth a visit

is. For a younger guy, it’s probably not the most exciting place in the

world. Outside of the museums, churches and the architecture, there’s

not a tremendous amount to see. When I was walking around the place on

a little weekend break about four years ago, that’s what popped up in

my head. Half of me was loving the culture, and half of me was dying to

get a drink, or meet a girl or anything to get away from the boredom.

That’s sort of how the story popped up, having a guy who hates it and

is just bored by the architecture and galleries, and another guy who

loves it. So then I thought, why would two people who have these

opinions be stuck in a place like Bruges when they didn’t want to be?

That’s when the hit man idea came up… escaping a horrible incident,

being sent there and told to chill out for a couple of weeks.

When

you decided the characters would be hit men, were you concerned that

the “soulful hit man” movie has been done to death in the last decade

or longer?

I think part of the idea was to set up that “it’s

a cool hit man movie” fish-out-of-water story that we’ve seen before,

but then try to subvert that, and take it into territory that’s a lot

darker, more despairing, or sadder than most “soulful hit man” films

ever really go to. Guilt and sin are addressed, but it’s more of a

lapsed Catholic take on it, you know? It has the balance of the comedy,

but I think the sadder place it goes to is what makes this different.

02112008_inbruges_310x229_2.jpgNot to get too writerly about it, but how do you balance those tones?

I

honestly don’t think about it. Most of my plays have been that way.

It’s just the way I write naturally, it always tends to come out as

black comedy. I guess it’s just kind of the way I see the world. I see

all the horror, war and pain, and in some ways, I just want to

politically take the piss out of it, of all the people who are causing

that stuff. If you let it get you down, you’re gonna die, you’re gonna

kill yourself. [laughs] So I’m kind of laughing at this stupidity,

which sometimes is the only thing to do. It’s partly about redemption

and honor and decent things, as well as the darker things.

It

seems like theater people who get into filmmaking tend to make flat and

stagey work, but “In Bruges” is rather cinematic for a playwright’s

feature debut.

Well, exactly, that’s exactly the kind of

film I didn’t want to make: Two guys walking around talking for two

hours, or sitting on a bench and talking for two hours, or sitting

somewhere else. That was my biggest fear. I grew up loving films. I

never really had much of an interest in theater as a kid because I

wasn’t ever brought to it; you know, I didn’t really have the money to

go to it. Film was always my first love, and is something I wanted to

get back to, and all of my influences are cinematic ones. All the De

Niro-Scorsese films, Terrence Malick, Kurosawa, Sam Peckinpah, David

Lynch… um…

… Nicolas Roeg?

Roeg,

yeah. I wouldn’t have said an influence necessarily, but “Don’t Look

Now” is very much a template of this, of trying to capture a town as a

character. So yeah, I always wanted to make something that was

cinematic instead of wordy. I storyboarded for three straight months

before we started shooting just to get the visual side into my head.

It’s something that doesn’t come naturally, so I just broke down every

scene and drew pictures. Bruges itself helps — it’s such a cinematic

place. I just forced myself to work in angles, two-shots or one-shots

or all those things, it’s just time, effort and forcing yourself to

learn a different skill. At the same time, I know what I like and what

I’m good at, which is dialogue and character, so I didn’t want to run

away from that completely.

There’s a casual bigotry

to Ray, who has something bad to say about gays, blacks, dwarves and

pretty much anyone who’s not like him. When you write protagonists like

this, how careful should you be in letting audiences know you’re not

condoning ugly behavior?

I guess the easy, honest answer

is not careful at all. I’m pretty P.C. as a person, but sometimes it’s

more interesting to create a character who is the exact opposite in

lots of ways, not a voice box for your beliefs. If your spirit is

against bigotry, that’s what you hope will come through overall. You

hope that an audience member will see that filmmakers don’t necessarily

subscribe to a character’s point of view.

Most everything that

comes out of Ray’s mouth is, at best, childlike and kind of dumb. I’m

sure some would say Ray is homophobic, or whatever else. He’s also a

killer! I don’t subscribe to that point of view either, but with

everything Ray says, there’s an honor. It doesn’t feel like there’s any

hate or malice to it. That’s also countered with things that Ken says

about his wife who died, who was black. I hope the picture comes across

that these are well-rounded characters that I don’t necessarily agree

with, but you have to be as free with your writing and characters as

possible.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t about to accuse you of sharing Ray’s anti-Americanism, either.

[laughs]

A lot of my best friends are American! Creatively, everything has

happened for me here, more so than in London or anywhere else in the

world. Anti-Americanism is just as dumb as anti-black or anti-gay, but

lots of people in the world are kind of subscribing to that point of

view. With this film, I’m not doing anything to stamp it out, but I

think governments are the bigger issue. I’ve always been anti-American

government, but I’m always “anti” to British government, Irish

government…

So maybe you’re addressing you own

anti-authoritarian ways when Ray insults the fat, Midwestern American

tourists, as if they represent the half of the U.S. who voted for the

current administration?

Yeah, but was it half? [laughs] Even those people Ray takes the piss out of, he’s not right… Okay, he is a little mean-spirited about that. But it’s funny!

“In Bruges” is now in limited release.

[Photos: Focus Features, 2008]
Watch More
IFC_Portlandia-AORewind-blog

A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

Watch More
SistersWeekend_103_MPX-1920×1080

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

IFC_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend-Series-Image

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

SistersWeekend_101_MPX-1920x1080

IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

IFC_Comedy-Crib_Sisters-Weekend_About-Image

IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

SistersWeekend_102_MPX-1920x1080

IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

Watch More
IFC_BVSS_203_birthday-song-celebration

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

via GIPHY

IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

via GIPHY

IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

Watch More