Martin McDonagh

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Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (1).jpg
Born (1970-03-26) 26 March 1970 (age 46)
Camberwell, London, England
Citizenship British
Occupation Playwright, screenwriter, film director
Years active 1996–present
Notable work In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths

Martin McDonagh (/məkˈdɒnə/; born 26 March 1970) is an English/Irish playwright, screenwriter and film director, born and brought up in London with both British and Irish citizenship.[1] He has been described as one of the most important living Irish playwrights.[2]

Early life[edit]

McDonagh was born in Camberwell, London to Irish parents.[3] His mother (originally from Killeenduff, Easky, County Sligo) and his father (originally from Lettermullen, Connemara, County Galway) later moved back to Galway, leaving McDonagh and his brother (writer-director John Michael McDonagh) to grow up in London.[4][5]



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).[6] His second trilogy consists of The Cripple of Inishmaan (1997), The Lieutenant of Inishmore (2001) and The Banshees of Inisheer (the third play was never published, as McDonagh insisted it "isn't any good"),[3][7] and are set across a trio of islands that are located off the coast of County Galway.

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 in Galway in 1997.[8]

A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play that is set in the United States and it premiered on Broadway in March 2010. [9] Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play [9] for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth.[10]

McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.[11]

In February 2010, an announcement revealed that McDonagh was working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.[12]

The Leenane Trilogy[edit]


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. The play was well received on its opening night in Galway in 1996 and was then produced Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company in 1998.[14] The play transferred to Broadway in April 1998 and received a Tony Award for Best Play nomination.[15]

  • A Skull in Connemara (1997)

A Connemara man 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.[6][13] 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 in January to May 2001 at the Gramercy Theatre, produced by the Roundabout Theatre.[16][17]

Two brothers bicker 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.[18][19]

The Aran Islands Trilogy[edit]

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.[20] Also in 1998, Frederick Koehler played the title role in the Geffen Playhouse production in Los Angeles, California.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23] It transferred to Broadway in May 2006 and received a 2006 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.[24]

  • The Banshees of Inisheer

The finale of the Aran Islands trilogy (unproduced and unpublished).

Other plays[edit]

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[25] and received a 2005 Tony Award nomination for Best Play.[26]

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.[27][28]

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.[5][29] The play was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2016.


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."[30] In an interview in 2005, the New York Times writer observed that he "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' " [31]

In 2006, McDonagh won an Academy Award for his short film Six Shooter (2005), which is the playwright's first film.[32] Six Shooter is a black comedy that features Brendan Gleeson, Ruaidhri Conroy, David Wilmot and Aisling O'Sullivan, and 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 homeward train journey following his wife's death.[33]

McDonagh then entered into an agreement with the Focus Features film production company to direct In Bruges, a feature-length film based on his own screenplay, in which two Irish hitmen hide in the Flemish city of Bruges after a problematic job. Released in the USA 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.[34][35][36]

In a 2008 interview with the Stop Smiling magazine, McDonagh revealed "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 traveled 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."[37] 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.[38]

Plays staged in Iran[edit]

In August 2013, The Pillowman was staged at Arasbaran Cultural House in Tehran. The play was directed by Mohammad Yaghoubi and Ayda Keikhai, and received a warm welcome by Iranian theater-goers.[39] In December 2014, The Lieutenant of Inishmore was staged at Tajrobeh Theater, Tehran. The play was directed by Morteza Meshkat.[40]

Recurring collaborators[edit]

Actor The Cripple of Inishmaan (West End) The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Broadway) Six Shooter The Beauty Queen of Leenane (West End) The Pillowman (Broadway) In Bruges A Behanding in Spokane Seven Psychopaths The Lonesome West (West End) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Total
Ruaidhri Conroy NoN NoN 2
Abbie Cornish NoN NoN 2
Colin Farrell NoN NoN 2
Brendan Gleeson NoN NoN 2
Woody Harrelson NoN NoN 2
Željko Ivanek NoN NoN NoN 3
Brían F. O'Byrne NoN NoN 2
Sam Rockwell NoN NoN NoN 3
Michael Stuhlbarg NoN NoN 2
Christopher Walken NoN NoN 2
David Wilmot NoN NoN 2



Year Film Functioned as Notes
Director Screenwriter Producer
2000 The Second Death Yes Executive producer; written by his brother John[42]
2004 Six Shooter Yes Yes Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Cork Film Festival Award for Best First Short by an Irish Director
Foyle Festival Prize for Best Irish Short
IFTA Award for Best Short Fiction
Audience Award – Leuven International Short Film Festival
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Short Film
Nominated – IFTA Award for Best Breakthrough Talent
2008 In Bruges[43] Yes Yes BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay
BSFC Award for Best New Filmmaker
Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay
Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Screenplay
IFTA Award for Best Script – Film
Pauline Kael Breakout Award
PFCS Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
PFCS Award for Breakout Behind the Camera
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – ALFS Award for Breakthrough British Filmmaker
Nominated – ALFS Award for Screenwriter of the Year
Nominated – BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding British Film
Nominated – Bronze Horse – Stockholm International Film Festival
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Filmmaker
Nominated – Douglas Hickox Award
Nominated – FCCA Award for Best Foreign Film – English Language
Nominated – IFTA Award for Best Director – Film
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated – Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Breakthrough Filmmaker
2011 The Guard[44] Yes Executive producer;
Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, his brother
2012 Seven Psychopaths Yes Yes Yes People's Choice Best Midnight Madness Film
Nominated – Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film
Nominated – Best Film – BFI London Film Festival
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – IFTA Award for Best Director – Film
Nominated – IFTA Award for Best Script – Film
Nominated – Peter Sellers Award for Comedy
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Writing
2017 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri[5][45] Yes Yes Yes In production

Awards and nominations[edit]

Critics' Circle Theatre Awards[edit]

Drama Desk Awards[edit]

Laurence Olivier Awards[edit]

Tony Awards[edit]

  • Tony Award for Best Play[48]
    • 1998: The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Nomination)
    • 1999: The Lonesome West (Nomination)
    • 2005: The Pillowman (Nomination)
    • 2006: The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Nomination)


  1. ^ "Seven steps to Martin McDonagh". Irish Times. 6 November 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Zinoman, Jason (7 March 2010). "Is He Mellower? Ask the Guy Missing a Hand". New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b McDonald, Henry. "Profile" The Guardian, 25 April 2008
  4. ^ O'Hagan, Sean. "Interview. The wild west" The Guardian, 23 March 2001
  5. ^ a b c O'Hagan, Sean. "Martin McDonagh interview: ‘Theatre is never going to be edgy in the way I want it to be’" The Guardian, 13 September 2015
  6. ^ a b Hicklinh, Alfred. "'A Skull in Connemara' review – a sprited revival that redefines the concept of graveyard humour The Guardian, 28 May 2015
  7. ^ The Pillowman (2006–2007) at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Accessed 5 March 2009. Archived 26 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Wolf, Matt. "Review: The Pillowman " Variety, 26 November 2003, accessed 7 May 2016
  9. ^ a b " A Behanding in Spokane Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed 7 May 2016.
  10. ^ Finkle, David. "Review", 2 March 2010
  11. ^ The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter Archived 21 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "New Musical From Tom Waits on the Horizon". Tom Waits. Tom Waits & ANTI Records. 2 February 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Russell, Richard Rankin."Appendix: Chronology of Martin McDonagh's Life and Works" Martin McDonagh: A Casebook, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 1135868093, pp.178-180
  14. ^ "'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' Off-Broadway", accessed 4 April 2016
  15. ^ "'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed 4 April 2016
  16. ^ McBride, Murdoch. "Martin McDonagh’s 'A Skull In Connemara' Closing at Gramercy, May 20" Playbill, 20 May 2001
  17. ^ Ehren, Christine. "McDonagh's Skull Rises Out of Seattle's ACT July 27-Aug. 20" Playbill, 27 July 2000
  18. ^ "1999 Awards", accessed 6 April 2016
  19. ^ "'The Lonesome West' Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed 4 April 2016
  20. ^ "'The Cripple of Inishmaan' Off-Broadway", accessed 4 April 2016
  21. ^ Hoffler, Robert. "Review: ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’" Variety, 29 October 1998
  22. ^ Healy, Patrick (16 January 2014). "Daniel Radcliffe Returning to Broadway in 'Cripple of Inishmaan'". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  23. ^ "'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' Off-Broadway", accessed 4 April 2016
  24. ^ "'The Lieutenant of Inishmore' Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed 4 April 2016
  25. ^ "Olivier Awards, 2004", accessed 4 April 2016
  26. ^ " The Pillowman Awards", accessed 7 May 2016
  27. ^ Brantley, Ben (5 March 2010). "Packing Heat, and a Grudge". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  28. ^ "'A Behanding in Spokane' Broadway" Playbill (vault), accessed 4 April 2016
  29. ^ Clapp, Susannah. "'Hangmen' review – a tremendous, terrifying return by Martin McDonagh" The Guardian, 27 September 2015
  30. ^ Fintan O'Toole (Spring 1998). "Martin McDonagh". BOMB Magazine. New Art Publications. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  31. ^ McKinley, Jesse. "Suffer the Little Children" The New York Times, 3 April 2005
  32. ^ "2006 Oscars". Retrieved 6 April 2016. 
  33. ^ James, Caryn. "Martin McDonagh Finds His Inner Thug as Film Director" The New York Times, 4 April 2006
  34. ^ Tim Robey (18 April 2008). "Film reviews: In Bruges, Fool's Gold, Street Kings and more". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  35. ^ Wally Hammond (15 April 2008). "In Bruges (18)". Time Out London. Time Out. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  36. ^ "In Bruges (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster, Inc. 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  37. ^ "Q&A: Martin McDonagh, director of in Bruges". Stop Smiling. Stop Smiling Media, LLC. 15 February 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  38. ^ "'Seven Psychopaths' Listing", accessed 4 April 2016
  39. ^ The Pillowman staged in Tehran
  40. ^ McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore on Tehran stage
  41. ^ "Martin McDonagh Filmography", accessed 4 April 2016
  42. ^ Regan, Alex. "John Michael McDonagh's 'Guard'", accessed 4 April 2016
  43. ^ In Bruges, accessed 4 April 2016
  44. ^ The Guard, accessed 4 April 2016
  45. ^ Jaafar, Ali. "Woody Harrelson & Sam Rockwell Join Frances McDormand For Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards’", 9 March 2016
  46. ^ "Critics' Circle Theatre Awards, 1996", accessed 4 April 2016
  47. ^ "Denise Gough wins top theatre award after almost quitting acting" The Guardian, 26 January 2016
  48. ^ a b Awards, accessed 4 April 2016
  49. ^ "Olivier Award 1998", accessed 4 April 2016
  50. ^ "Olivier Award 1997", accessed 4 April 2016
  51. ^ "Olivier Award 2004", accessed 4 April 2016
  52. ^ "Olivier Awards 2016: The winners". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-05-17. 

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