John Michael McDonagh Talks CALVARY, the Heavy Themes of the Movie, How No Movie Should Go over 100 Minutes, Future Projects, and More at Sundance

     January 27, 2014


One of the many films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was writer-director John Michael McDonagh‘s Calvary.  The dark comedy stars Brendan Gleeson as a good priest who wants to do well by his community, but his life is threatened by an unknown assailant during confession.   As Matt wrote in his review, “Calvary is a dark, complex, and demanding meditation on faith, the limits of forgiveness, the necessity of compassion, the possibility of absolution, and inevitable reckonings.”  It’s also got a great script and fantastic performances, which explains why Fox Searchlight bought the film.  Calvary also stars Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, and Marie-Josée Croz.

Shortly after he premiere, I landed an exclusive video interview with McDonagh.  He talked about his writing process, where the idea for Calvary came from, putting the project together, the heavy themes of the movie, how no movie should be over 100 minutes unless it has a “pretty damn good reason,” some of the other scripts he’s written, his thoughts on doing a TV series, who attends his friends and family screenings, and much more.  If you’re a fan of McDonagh’s, I’m confident you’ll like this interview.  Hit the jump to watch.

John Michael McDonagh calvaryJohn Michael McDonagh Time Index:

  • What it was like to transition from The Guard to his next project and where the idea for Cavalry came from.
  • 2:20 – He expected the dark script would be difficult to get financing, but the cast helped.
  • 3:15 – He doesn’t mind taking thoughtful notes, but he does hear stupid ideas sometimes.
  • 5:55 – The assembly cut was just under two hours.  Says there should be a “pretty damn good reason” to go over 100 minutes.  Talk about the length of The Raid.
  • 8:40 – Talk about the heavy themes of the movie.
  • 10:20 – He has several scripts sitting around.  Says he keeps coming back to a script about two corrupt cops in Texas, “The French Connection crossed with the Marx Brothers.”  Also has an arthouse noir called Assumption about a black deputy sheriff in New Mexico.  He wants to make an American movie, so he will pursue those two next.
  • 11:30 – McDonagh was sent many scripts after The Guard that he calls “uniformly crap.”  Discuss the writers’ world of television.
  • 13:40 – Describes an idea he had for a TV series about a Buddhist private investigator in Las Vegas, but the project didn’t go anywhere.
  • 14:30 – How this project came to Sundance.
  • 16:30 – Says this year he likes Girls, Breaking Bad, American Hustle, Gravity.  The script that resonates with him most is Inside Llewyn Davis.
  • 18:10 – Gets feedback from his writer/director brother Martin McDonaugh and a few others in his circle.
  • 19:20 – Says his favorite movies are Badlands and Night of the Hunter.


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