'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Director Martin McDonagh on the Story That Inspired His Film [Interview]

'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' Director Martin McDonagh on the Story That Inspired His Film [Interview]
From Slashfilm - November 10, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a film that will stay with audiences. Its a simple story layered in unexpected complexities brought out by its three leads: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.Its one of the best films of 2017.

In the film, McDormand plays Mildred Hayes , a divorced woman searching for justice for the violent death of her daughter, Angela. Its been seven months since the crime took place and the police, led by Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Harrelson), have yet to find any solid leads to point to anyone worth arresting.Taking matters into her own hands, Mildred uses three billboards located on the outskirts of town to point out the lack of movement on the polices part. As youd expect, chaos soon follows.

Thisis the third film from writer/director, Martin McDonagh, who previously helmedIn Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. Deeply organic, touching, gut-wrenching and hilarious, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri feels like a movie fit for 2017 America.

From my chat with Mr. McDonagh, it seems he would most-definitely agree.

After watching your film, I got lost down multiple research rabbit holes. It feels like Three Billboards is based on a true story. But I havent found any information to support this theory.

It kind of is! I saw something similar to what we see on our billboards like 17 years ago. I was on a bus going through one of the statesI dont even know now which one it was. Somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner. It was this similarly statement, sort of calling out the police for not solving a crime. Thats all I saw.

That stayed in my mind for like 10 years before I decided that it was a mother who had taken these things out. It all became fiction for mebut it was based on a couple of actual billboards.

Theres something very timely about the story youre telling.

The script was written eight years ago, so its not like a direct response to Trumps America or whats been happening in Missouri over the last couple of years. Those characters and those issues have been around for a long time and will be around for a long time yet.

For me it was more aboutrather than talking about whats in the newsbeing truthful to these three characters. And not having them be stereotypes or archetypes of, you know, the good cop, the bad cop and the grieving mother. Maybe start off from that place, but go to explore the humanity beneath those three things.

Universal elements of loss, grief and recovery connects every character in the film. The story feels fitting for the stage as well as the big-screen. Was it always your plan to turn this story into a movie?

From day one, it was a screenplay. It wasnt plotted out. Apart from the story from the idea I just told you, you know, the billboards and a strong mother, that was all I had. So it was about setting [Mildred] in play, her toughness and her strength, and then seeing how people reacted to it, how the police reacted to it, and then how she reacted to them.

It was born very organically and I was surprised as each scene evolved to see what she would do next, or what they would do to counteract it.

Did you always have the three leads in mind when you were penning the script?

It was written for Frances [McDormand], very specifically. If she said no, Id have beenf**ked because I dont know where wed have gone. It was written for Sam [Rockwell] as well. Both this and the Seven Psychopaths character were written for him. Ive always loved Woody [Harrelson] so I always wanted to work with him too. But, yeah, those two were particularly written for.

How do their previous roles and career choices inform your writing process?


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