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Martin McDonagh

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Martin McDonagh
McDonagh in 2012
Martin Faranan McDonagh

(1970-03-26) 26 March 1970 (age 53)
Camberwell, London, England
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Playwright
  • screenwriter
  • producer
  • film director
Years active1996–present
PartnerPhoebe Waller-Bridge (2017–present)
RelativesJohn Michael McDonagh (brother)

Martin Faranan McDonagh (/məkˈdɒnə/; born 26 March 1970)[1] is a British-Irish playwright and filmmaker. He is known for his absurdist black humour which often challenges the modern theatre aesthetic. He has received numerous accolades including an Academy Award, six BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, three Olivier Awards, and nominations for five Tony Awards.

His plays, many of which have been produced on the West End and on Broadway, include The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996), The Lonesome West (1997), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001), The Pillowman (2003), A Behanding in Spokane (2010), and Hangmen (2015).

McDonagh won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for Six Shooter in 2004 and has received nominations for six other Academy Awards. He directed the dark comedy films In Bruges (2008), Seven Psychopaths (2012), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), and The Banshees of Inisherin (2022).

Early life

McDonagh was born on 26 March 1970 in Camberwell, London, to Irish parents.[2] His mother (originally from Killeenduff, Easky, County Sligo) and his father (originally from Leitir Mealláin, Connemara, County Galway) moved back to Galway in 1992, but McDonagh and his brother (writer-director John Michael McDonagh) stayed in London.[3][4]



Separated into two trilogies, McDonagh's first six plays are located in and around County Galway, where he spent his holidays as a child. The first is set in Leenane, a small village on the west coast of Ireland, and consists of The Beauty Queen of Leenane (1996), A Skull in Connemara (1997) and The Lonesome West (1997).[5] His second trilogy is set across the Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway, and consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001), and The Banshees of Inisheer. The third play was never published, as McDonagh insisted it "isn't any good", though he expressed a desire to return to it when he is older.[6] In 2022, McDonagh directed a film titled The Banshees of Inisherin. The screenplay's resemblance to the play is unclear.[7]

In 1999 he was one of the recipients of the V Europe Prize Theatrical Realities[8] awarded to the Royal Court Theatre (with Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Jez Butterworth, Conor McPherson).[9]

McDonagh's first non-Irish play, The Pillowman, is set in a fictitious totalitarian state and premiered at the Royal National Theatre in 2003, after a reading at the Finborough Theatre in 1995.[10]

A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play that is set in the United States and it premiered on Broadway in March 2010.[11] Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play[11] for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth.[12]

McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.[13]

In February 2010, an announcement revealed that McDonagh was working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.[14]

The Leenane Trilogy

The trilogy starts off with The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which is the story of the dysfunctional relationship between a spinster and her domineering mother, during the course of which the former faces her last chance at love, and the latter faces a rather grim end.[15] The play was well received on its opening night in Galway in 1996 and was next produced off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theater Company in 1998.[16] The play transferred to Broadway in April 1998 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.[17]

The second part of the trilogy, A Skull in Connemara, involves a Connemara man who is employed to exhume skeletons in an overcrowded graveyard and he encounters the wife whom he was once accused of killing. The play premiered in 1997 at Town Hall Theatre, Galway.[5][15] The play was presented at the Royal Court Theatre (London), and made its US premiere at the A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) in Seattle, Washington in July to August 2000. The play ran off-Broadway from January to May 2001 at the Gramercy Theatre, produced by the Roundabout Theatre.[18][19]

The final part is titled The Lonesome West, a play involving two brothers bickering in the aftermath of the supposedly accidental fatal shooting of their father. The play ran on Broadway in 1999 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play in 1999.[20][21]

The Aran Islands Trilogy

The Cripple of Inishmaan is a dark comedy in which a crippled teenager schemes to attain a role in Man of Aran. The play opened in 1997 at the Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe) in London. It opened in April 1998 Off-Broadway at the Joseph Papp Public Theater, with Ruaidhri Conroy in the title role on both occasions.[22] Also in 1998, Frederick Koehler played the title role in the Geffen Playhouse production in Los Angeles, California.[23] In December 2008, The Cripple of Inishmaan was produced Off-Broadway by the Atlantic Theater Company, in conjunction with The Druid Theatre Company of Galway, Ireland.[24]

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is the followup play which was written as a response to the 1993 Warrington bombings when two children were killed by the IRA.[25] It is a dark comedy in which the insane leader of an INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) splinter group discovers that his best friend, a cat, has been killed. The play was produced Off-Broadway in February 2006 by the Atlantic Theater Company.[26] It transferred to Broadway in May 2006 and received a 2006 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.[27]

The Banshees of Inisheer, the third play of the trilogy, was not produced. It is unclear how close the 2022 McDonagh-directed film The Banshees of Inisherin comes to the original material.[28][7] The film's screenplay was published in 2022.[29]

Other plays

The Pillowman

A writer in a non-specified totalitarian state is interrogated over the content of several of his Brothers Grimm-style short stories. The play was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2004[30] and received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.[31]

A Behanding in Spokane

A play in which the character of Carmichael has been searching for his missing left hand for a quarter of a century. The play opened on Broadway in March 2010. The play was nominated for the 2010 Drama League award, Distinguished Production of a Play.[32][33]


A play following Harry Wade, England's second-best hangman, after the abolition of hanging in Great Britain in 1965. The play premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in September 2015.[4][34] The play was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2016. In 2020, Hangmen briefly premiered on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre starring Mark Addy and Dan Stevens before being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The play returned on Broadway in 2022 this time with David Threlfall and Alfie Allen. The play received critical acclaim from critics including from The New York Times theatre critic Jesse Green who wrote, "[Hangmen] feels like a perfect fit for our unjust times".[35]

A Very Very Very Dark Matter

A play set in a townhouse in Copenhagen that reveals the dark source of the tales of children's author Hans Christian Andersen, as well as of the writer Charles Dickens. It premiered at the Bridge Theatre, London in October 2018.[36][37]


McDonagh has stated that he prefers writing films to plays, as he holds a "respect for the whole history of films and a slight disrespect for theatre." In a 1998 conversation with Irish drama critic Fintan O'Toole in BOMB magazine, McDonagh further explained,

It's not that I don't respect theatre. I'm intelligent enough to know that a play can completely inspire a person as much as a film...[but] theatre isn't something that's connected to me, from a personal point of view, I can't appreciate what I'm doing.[38]

In an interview in 2005, the New York Times writer observed that McDonagh "now seems more comfortably resigned to the storytelling powers of drama, if still dismissive of its inherent elitism. 'It's kind of weird working in an art form that's not, well ...,' he stops and starts again. 'It's strange to be working in an art form that costs $100 to participate in.'"[39] In an interview with Sean O'Hagan of The Guardian, McDonagh said theatre "is never going to be edgy in the way I want it to be",[4] when discussing his absence from London theatre and promoting his new play Hangmen.


In 2006, McDonagh won an Academy Award for his short film Six Shooter (2004), which is his first film that he wrote and directed.[40] Six Shooter is a black comedy (as are his plays) that features Brendan Gleeson, Rúaidhrí Conroy, David Wilmot and Aisling O'Sullivan. It was shot on location in Wicklow, Waterford and Rosslare. In the short film, Gleeson's character encounters a strange, and possibly psychotic, young man during a train journey homeward following his wife's death.[41][42]

McDonagh entered into an agreement with the Focus Features film production company to direct In Bruges, a feature-length film based on his own screenplay. Two Irish hitmen hide in the Flemish city of Bruges after a problematic job. Released in the US in 2008, the film features Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson. In Bruges was the Opening Night film for the 2008 Sundance Festival and the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and McDonagh received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 81st Academy Awards.[43][44][45]


In a 2008 interview with Stop Smiling magazine, McDonagh said, "I've got a couple of film scripts that are ready to go. I'm not going to do anything with them for a couple of years, until I've travelled and had some fun. But there's one called Seven Psychopaths; if I do another film, that'll be it. I hope you like it."[46] The production of the film was confirmed in May 2011 and it was eventually released in North America on 12 October 2012. Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, and Tom Waits star in the film.[47][48]

McDonagh wrote and directed his drama-dark film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on 4 September[49] and won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival on 17 September 2017. Three Billboards won four awards at the 2017 Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay for McDonagh. McDonagh received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for the film.


Production of McDonagh's next film project was announced in 2020, titled The Banshees of Inisherin,[50] with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in the lead roles. Production was delayed by COVID-19, but shooting started in August 2021[51] and wrapped on 23 October 2021.[52] The movie held its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on 5 September 2022 and had a limited theatrical release on 21 October 2022.[53] McDonagh was awarded Best Original Screenplay at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, where the film also won Best Comedy/Musical. McDonagh received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Personal life

Since 2017, McDonagh has been in a relationship with actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge.[54] He is a vegetarian.[55]

McDonagh currently resides in East London.[55]

McDonagh holds dual citizenship for both Ireland and the United Kingdom. The west of Ireland is a recurring setting for him: his first six plays (including The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Cripple of Inishmaan) are located in or around County Galway, where he spent a significant part of his childhood.[56]




Year Title Director Writer Producer
2008 In Bruges Yes Yes No
2012 Seven Psychopaths Yes Yes Yes
2017 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Yes Yes Yes
2022 The Banshees of Inisherin Yes Yes Yes

Short film

Executive producer

Awards and nominations

Directed Oscar-nominated performances

Year Performer Film Result
Academy Award for Best Actor
2023 Colin Farrell The Banshees of Inisherin Nominated
Academy Award for Best Actress
2017 Frances McDormand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Won
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
2017 Woody Harrelson Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Nominated
Sam Rockwell Won
2023 Brendan Gleeson The Banshees of Inisherin Nominated
Barry Keoghan Nominated
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
2023 Kerry Condon The Banshees of Inisherin Nominated


  1. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  2. ^ McDonald, Henry (25 April 2008). "'He has made people think about violence ... the violence he portrays is a very true picture of modern urban Ireland'". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  3. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (24 March 2001). "The wild west". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  4. ^ a b c O'Hagan, Sean (13 September 2015). "Martin McDonagh interview: 'Theatre is never going to be edgy in the way I want it to be'". The Observer. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  5. ^ a b Hickling, Alfred (28 May 2015). "A Skull in Connemara review – a spirited revival that redefines the concept of graveyard humour". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  6. ^ Jason Zinoman (2 March 2010). "Is He Mellower? Ask the Guy Missing a Hand". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  7. ^ a b Moloney, Ciara (Winter 2022). "The Banshees of Inisherin". Cineaste Magazine. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  8. ^ "VII Edizione". Premio Europa per il Teatro (in Italian). Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  9. ^ "Europe Theatre Prize - VII Edition - Reasons". Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  10. ^ Wolf, Matt (27 November 2003). "The Pillowman". Variety. Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  11. ^ a b "A Behanding in Spokane". Playbill Vault. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  12. ^ Finkle, David (4 March 2010). "A Behanding in Spokane". TheaterMania. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  13. ^ "The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter". Archived from the original on 21 March 2007.
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  16. ^ "The Beauty Queen of Leenane". Lortel Archives: Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
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  19. ^ Ehren, Christine. "McDonagh's Skull Rises Out of Seattle's ACT July 27-Aug. 20" Playbill, 27 July 2000
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  21. ^ "'The Lonesome West' Broadway" Playbill (vault). Retrieved 4 April 2016
  22. ^ "The Cripple of Inishmaan". Lortel Archives: Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016.
  23. ^ Hofler, Robert (30 October 1998). "The Cripple of Inishmaan". Variety. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  24. ^ Healy, Patrick (16 January 2014). "Daniel Radcliffe Returning to Broadway in 'Cripple of Inishmaan'". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  25. ^ Review,Tale of cats and mad dogs, Culture section, Sunday Times, 9 February 2020
  26. ^ "The Lieutenant of Inishmore". Lortel Archives: Internet Off-Broadway Database. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  27. ^ "'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' Broadway" Playbill (vault). Retrieved 4 April 2016
  28. ^ Grady, Pam (25 October 2022). "In 'Banshees of Inisherin,' director Martin McDonagh makes the end of a friendship feel like civil war". Datebook | San Francisco Arts & Entertainment Guide. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
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  35. ^ Green, Jesse (22 April 2022). "Review: 'Hangmen,' Offering the Last Word in Gallows Humor". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
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  47. ^ "Seven Psychopaths". Archived from the original on 26 March 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
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  49. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (4 September 2017). "Frances McDormand On 'Three Billboards' Role: She's 'Fargo's Marge, "Grown Up" – Venice". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
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  51. ^ Kelly, Clara (22 August 2021). "Barry Keoghan to star in new Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell movie, The Banshees Of Inisherin". Joe. Archived from the original on 25 August 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2021.
  52. ^ Keoghan, Barry [@BarryKeoghan] (23 October 2021). "The Banshees of Inisheer Wrapped ☘️🐺❤️" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 21 January 2022. Retrieved 21 January 2022 – via Twitter.
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External links

This page was last edited on 2 July 2023, at 17:54
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