Before Sundance #2: John Michael McDonagh

We invite you to read the interview with John Michael McDonagh, the director of THE GUARD –  black comedy with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle in main roles. The movie will have its premiere on Sundance 2011.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a salty village cop in Ireland, has a subversive sense of humor, a caustic wit, and an uncanny knack for keeping people at arm’s length. When a straitlaced FBI agent chasing an international drug-smuggling ring hits town, Boyle has no intention of letting the arrival disrupt his routine of hookers and wisecracks. Initially, he relishes offending and ridiculing the agent, but a murder and a series of peculiar events draw the reluctant sergeant into the investigation.[]

Two completely different guys forced to work together. Rather popular starting point… Which elements will distinguish THE GUARD from other movies with similar story?

The fact that one is Irish and one is American. One is white and one is black. One doesn’t give a shit about his job and one does. The plot, however, does not play out the way you might be expecting. Also, the overall tone of the film is quite confrontational. It is definitely not a PC film.

How „Irish” is THE GUARD? I mean is the story inseparably connected with Ireland, or it isn’t that important and could happen anywhere else in the world?

It’s important that the location is a small town in a country that doesn’t have a very high crime rate. The dialogue and the attitude are particularly Irish. But it could conceivably be transplanted to another part of the world.

We could say many things about Ireland’s history, but surely not that these were peaceful times. Will there be any references to any dramatic events that happened in Ireland not that long time ago or you want to avoid such elements, avoid politics etc?

There are oblique references to „The Troubles”, yes, but generally speaking I believe in Art for Art’s sake, and am not trying to make any political point.

Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy… yes, they all are great actors, but for me it’s Brendan Gleeson (alongside with Colm Meaney) who’s the essence of „Irishness”. Did you at least for a moment consider any other actor for the main role in THE GUARD?

No, Brendan was the first choice, and he accepted very quickly. (I am hoping to make another film with him in 2012.) There are many elements within the plot (the character’s age, his outlook on life, his nihilism, etc.) that would have made it very difficult to cast another, younger, actor. Don Cheadle was also the first choice to play the FBI agent, as I always liked his comic performances in BOOGIE NIGHTS and DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS.

Your brother, Martin made IN BRUGES which for me was one of 2008 highlights. Perhaps it will surprise you, but in Poland this movie was announced as a comedy. It has of course its funny moments, but all in all it’s rather sad movie. I wonder if THE GUARD will also arouse such ambivalent feelings?

THE GUARD is intended to be a very black comedy, but yes, it has a melancholic subtext that is quite similar to IN BRUGES. There is a feeling of sadness and loneliness to Brendan’s character that permeates the whole film. I hope that it is this which will make the film unusual and original.

Did you ever think to make a movie together with your brother?

Maybe in ten years, after we have stopped arguing!

Thanks for the interview!

Thank you, Przemek. This was my first ever interview.

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