Seven Psychopaths: Why the Movie is So Enjoyable

Have you ever looked around and thought you were surrounded by a bunch of psychopaths?

Writer Marty Faranan (COLIN FARRELL) has just realized that in his case, it’s literally true.

Already past deadline on his latest screenplay and way past the end of his girlfriend Kaya’s (ABBIE CORNISH) patience, Marty’s personal and professional lives are constantly disrupted by his best friend Billy (SAM ROCKWELL).  But Billy’s well-intentioned attempts to help his friend soon spiral into a whirlwind of crime and crazy when Billy and his partner Hans (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN) find that their dognapping business has led them to inadvertently take a dog they should never have kidnapped…a shih tzu (BONNY the shih tzu) belonging to Charlie Costello (WOODY HARRELSON), a Los Angeles gangster with a devotion to his dog that borders on obsession.

Vowing to kill whoever took his dog, Costello sets off to find those who stole Bonny…and suddenly Billy, Marty and Hans find themselves in a whole lot of shih tzu.

Origins

The idea for the movie kicked in about six or seven years ago. “I had one of the stories of one of the psychopaths,” recalls Academy Award® winning Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Six Shooter). “Another couple of stories soon followed and it just kind of snowballed from there.  As it developed, I kept thinking about someone who would write this type of story.  Also, about what makes a good movie and the tug-of-war between wanting to do something spiritual but also something dark and deranged.”

Caught in the crosshairs of the perfect POV were McDonagh’s cinematic influences – Directors Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven) and Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). “During production I was constantly evaluating how these opposing viewpoints and extremes had to coexist in order for this film to work.”

In Bruges Vs. Psychopaths

McDonagh actually wrote Seven Psychopaths at the same time as his directorial debut In Bruges, which he also wrote. For that film, his first collaboration with Colin Farrell, McDonagh won a BAFTA Award and received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Original Screenplay.  The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 and followed Six Shooter, his first foray into film, which brought him an Oscar® for Best Live Action Short Film. An accomplished Irish playwright, McDonagh has also received two Laurence Olivier Awards and four Tony Award nominations for his plays The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lonesome West, The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Pillowman. He first teamed with Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken on his 2010 play A Behanding in Spokane. It was his first play set in America.

Despite his acclaimed career, McDonagh was unsure about tackling the complex and multi-layered Seven Psychopaths as his first turn behind the camera. “It was too big to get my head around cinematically before I dipped my toe in the water.  As a first-time director, I decided to start with something that was more about things I knew.  In Bruges was in some ways a character and relationship study, all set in one place. I felt I knew that territory from my work in theater. Seven Psychopaths was like a puzzle, like a gigantic cinematic jigsaw. I don’t think I could ever have done this film without having done Bruges first.”

Producer Graham Broadbent (In Bruges, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) agrees that In Bruges gave McDonagh the confidence he needed to bring Seven Psychopaths to the big screen.  That said, he remembers the moment McDonagh approached him with the Seven Psychopaths script. “It was a great read, a wonderful piece of writing – original and extraordinary.  It had a rich mix of humor, humanity and danger.”

The producer continues, “Martin makes the reader walk a tightrope. I think that’s the smart element in this script – it constantly subverts where you think it’s going to go. Martin will play a different card just when you think you know where it’s going.”

As for the juxtaposition of humor with darker elements, McDonagh is no stranger to meshing the two.  “My humor is leavened with a little bit of darkness but the trick is to never let the darkness weigh the humor down,” he notes. “And I try to put a lot of humanity in my scripts. I think this one has a good amount of tenderness and is a big human story at its heart…it’s really about friendship.”

McDonagh finds the process of bringing the written word to life while defining the tone with the actors exhilarating, acknowledging that the most challenging scenes are those solely “based on dialogue and performance.”  Observes McDonagh, “That is when I enjoy my job the most.”

With seven distinct performances on the agenda, the challenge here would be to have a firm grip on what exactly defines a psychopath…a challenge indeed given, as McDonagh explains, “some of the characters have elements of the psychopathic to them, but at the same time they don’t. I guess psychopathy is in the eye of the beholder in some ways.  It’s a fun puzzle to play with, who is and who isn’t a psychopath in this movie.”

The comedy’s protagonist just happens to be a screenwriter named Martin who is struggling with contradictory perspectives. Autobiographical? “Let’s just say I throw a good deal of my truth into the mix along with things that are 100 percent false.”

Credits

CBS Films, Film4 and BFI present Seven Psychopaths, a Blueprint Pictures production of a Martin McDonagh film.

Written and directed by Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Six Shooter).

Starring

Colin Farrell (In Bruges, Crazy Heart), Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2, Frost/Nixon), Academy Award nominee Woody Harrelson (The Messenger, Rampart), Academy Award® winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Catch Me If You Can), and Tom Waits (The Book of Eli, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, To The Wonder), Abbie Cornish (Limitless, Sucker Punch), Academy Award® nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, The Big C) and Emmy Award® winner Željko Ivanek (The Words, Damages).

Produced by Graham Broadbent (In Bruges, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Pete Czernin (In Bruges, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Martin McDonagh, the film is executive produced by Tessa Ross (In Bruges, The Iron Lady).

Director of Photography is Ben Davis (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Debt), Production Designer is David Wasco (Inglourious Basterds, The Royal Tenenbaums,

Editor is Lisa Gunning (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Love You More).

Costume Designer is Karen Patch (What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Royal Tenenbaums)

Composer is Golden Globe nominee Carter Burwell (In Bruges, Where the Wild Things Are).