Post-screening Q&As are usually a dull, frustrating affair, where audience members line up to make pretentious observations in the guise of questions, and actors and filmmakers do their best not to say anything memorable. Just once I’d like to see a filmmaker walk out and say “Making the movie was fun. The cast were all brilliant and talented, we shot on 35 mm film, the final cut was 17.26 percent improvised, and that reference in the film to another thing you thought you detected was totally intentional, great job for noticing. Byeee!”
That’s probably why it was so refreshing that director John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Calvary) was almost meticulously on-brand as “guy who has no time for your Hollywood bullsh*t.”
McDonagh (brother of In Bruges/Seven Psychopaths writer Martin McDonagh) was at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin for the second SXSW showing of War on Everyone, his new dirty buddy cop movie starring Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Peña. The Englishman of Irish descent minced no words in response to the typical film festival fluff questions. Asked about all the artistic and literary references in his film and “What does it all mean, maaan,” his response was something along the lines of, “Writing is boring, I put those in there to entertain myself.”
Asked about the casting process, McDonagh answered, “We had another guy, but he was kind of a prick. Garrett Hedlund.”
Asked about research: “I’ve barely spoken to a police officer in my life.”
Asked what it was about Albuquerque, New Mexico that inspired him to shoot the film there: “They have great tax breaks.”
Was he in a hurry? Perhaps, but sitting McDonagh down for a longer interview doesn’t seem to make him any less blunt. See the other time McDonagh was asked about casting War on Everyone, in a sitdown with the Hollywood Reporter last month:
I continued my casting remit of only hiring actors who like a good booze-up. Brendan [Gleeson], Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Caleb Landry Jones, Tessa Thompson — they’ll never say no to a few pints. I actually cast Alexander not because of his great performances in Melancholia, Disconnect or What Maisie Knew but because I saw a YouTube video of him drunk at a Hammarby football match trying to incite the crowd.
Is McDonagh’s persona a bit shticky? Maybe, but it’s a good shtick.