Q&A with John Michael McDonagh, director of ‘Calvary’


Calvary, starring Brendan Gleeson, is released on DVD and Blu Ray from today. John Michael McDonagh’s film opened in American cinemas last week and Film Ireland threw a few questions across the Atlantic to the director in the hope he’d give us some tasty feedback – he certainly did.


With the release of Calvary in the US how’s the whole experience treating you?

The critical response has been fantastic, but my liver is suffering at this point.

Despite the “big issue” of the film, for me it’s quite a personal film about what it is to be good – and the scenes between Father James and Fiona are telling… can you tell us about this aspect of the film?

Those scenes were expanded upon after Brendan received the first draft. They made the film more emotional, less nihilistic and detached. They are now some of my favourite scenes in the film.

We recently spoke to composer Patrick Cassidy who said the film was “a great canvas for an underscore” – could you talk a little about the music from your perspective?

I’m somebody who can happily watch films that have absolutely no music at all (a Michael Haneke film, let’s say), but I know that for most audiences music helps them connect emotionally with a film. Patrick was the perfect composer to work with because he provided a very emotional and moving score but allowed me to use that score quite sparingly and at very specific moments.

Brendan Gleeson has spoken to us about how Sligo had “a real bearing on how everybody interacts” in Calvary, how did you approach the use of that particular location and what was your visual ambition for this film?

I didn’t want to make a small, parochial, “Irish” film. I wanted it to be expansive and cinematic. The landscape of Sligo gave me that widescreen grandeur. Producers in Ireland need to look to themselves, they need to go on location, they need to stop shooting everything in fucking Dublin and Wicklow.

It’s turning out to be a good year for Irish film and we still have the likes of Glassland and Patrick’s Day to come – how important is it for you to be a part of this?

It’s not important for me at all, but I wish both those films well. I know the filmmakers are committed. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Thanks for your time – appreciate it…

No worries


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