In a cinematic world dominated by superheroes, Star Wars and vengeful ageing assassins, two brothers of Irish descent have been busy cutting their own path.
Martin and John Michael McDonagh may have grown up in London but it's Irish blood that runs through their veins. Their father grew up in the Irish-speaking community of Lettermullen in County Galway while their mother was a native of rural Sligo. The brothers also spent their summers in Ireland, immersed in the nation's culture and strong sense of tradition. It was an experience that helped shape their cinematic sensibilities.
Michael McDonagh's latest film, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has earned rave rave reviews and countless awards, while John Michael McDonagh boasts a similarly impressive track record wonderfully distinctive filmmaking. Now, with the McDonaghs very much in the spotlight, The Irish Post is taking a closer look at all of their work to date.
9. The Second Death
John Michael McDonagh's first short film, made back in 2000, features a powerhouse central performance from Liam Cunningham alongside fellow future Game of Thrones stars and Irish thespians Michelle Fairley and Aiden Gillen. It's an emotive effort , serving as a meditation on the themes of remorse and forgiveness with the character of Inspector Gerry Stanton ultimately serving as the prototype for Brendan Gleeson's character, Sergeant Gerry Boyle, in McDonagh's next film, The Guard.
8. Ned Kelly
John Michael McDonagh wrote the screenplay for this biopic focusing on the legendary 19th century outlaw of the same name. Heath Ledger took on the title role, helping erase memories of the disastrous 1970 film that had Mick Jagger playing the part of Kelly in the process. It's well documented that Ledger was eerily similar in stature to the real-life Kelly. They were the same weight, same height and the outlaw’s original iron body armour fit the late actor perfectly.
7. Seven Psychopaths
The script for Martin McDonagh’s dark crime comedy went unmade for six years before the success of In Bruges prompted studios to take another look. It was worth the wait, with McDonagh able to recruit a stellar cast including Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken for his witty and gleefully violent take on a familiar genre. Mickey Rourke was actually originally cast in Harrelson's role as violent gangster Charlie Costello before a falling out with McDonagh prompted him to leave the production.
6. War On Everyone
John Michael McDonagh took his brash comedic sensibilities Stateside for this twisted Starsky and Hutch homage that follows the anarchic investigations of bad-to-the-bone cops Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena. Skarsgard was a late replacement for Garrett Hedlund with McDonagh handpicking the True Blood actor after watching a video of him drunkenly lambasting some fellow fans at a football match.
5. Six Shooter
Martin McDonagh's first film won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film and with good reason. Set almost entirely aboard a train, Six Shooter was actually shot on a real locomotive which the crew had access to from 8am to 4pm every day. After which it was cleaned in time for the daily commute. A memorably black and bloody Irish comedy starring Brendan Gleeson, the film also features 34 uses of the f-word and its derivatives.
4. The Guard
John Michael McDonagh proved he was more than a match for his brother with this Irish-set buddy cop thriller that sees Brendan Gleeson unorthodox policeman and Don Cheadle's uptight FBI Agent going up against an international drug smuggling ring. Produced by Martin McDonagh, The Guard went on to become the most success Irish independent film of all time, overtaking The Wind That Shakes The Barley, which previously held the record.
3. In Bruges
The film that put Martin McDonagh on the cinematic map, In Bruges offers up the simplest of premises with two assassins, played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, forced to stop-over in the Belgian city after a "job" gone wrong over in Dublin. Originally, the characters of Ray and Ken were written as English in McDonagh’s script, however, they were changed to Irish after Farrell and Gleeson read, and were deemed perfect together, for the roles.
John Michael McDonagh's second collaboration with Brendan Gleeson sees the latter cast as a priest whose life is threatened during a confession with a dark and suitably comic story unfolding as a result. McDonagh was determined to make a film telling the story of a good priest after The Guard, with Gleeson dedicating Calvary to Ireland’s "good" priests and a "particularly good Christian Brother in primary school ... Brother Pat Grogan, a beautiful man".
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand goes head-to-head with local sheriff Woody Harrelson and racist police officer Sam Rockwell as a grieving mother who sets out to challenge the authorities after their fail to solve the murder of her daughter. Martin McDonagh wrote the film with McDormand in mind, after seeing several billboards for a real-life unsolved crime while travelling "somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner" of America. Three Billboards has also inspired similar campaigns in relation to the Grenfell disaster and gun control in the US.