Martin Faranan McDonagh (/məkˈdɒnə/; born 26 March 1970) is a playwright, screenwriter, and director. Born and brought up in London, the son of Irish parents, he holds dual British-Irish citizenship. He is among the most acclaimed living Irish playwrights. A winner of the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, McDonagh has also been nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one, and in 2018 won three BAFTA Awards from four nominations and two Golden Globe Awards from three nominations for his film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
McDonagh was born in Camberwell, London, to Irish parents. His mother (originally from Killeenduff, Easky, County Sligo) and his father (originally from Leitir Mealláin, Connemara, County Galway) moved back to Galway in 1992, leaving McDonagh and his brother (writer-director John Michael McDonagh) in London.
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). His second trilogy is set across the Aran Islands, off the coast of County Galway, and 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", though he has expressed a desire to return to it when he is older.
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.
A Behanding in Spokane is McDonagh's first play that is set in the United States and it premiered on Broadway in March 2010. Lead actor Christopher Walken was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance as a killer looking for the hand he lost in his youth.
McDonagh also penned two prize-winning radio plays, one of which is The Tale of the Wolf and the Woodcutter.
In February 2010, an announcement revealed that McDonagh was working on a new stage musical with composer Tom Waits and director Robert Wilson.
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."
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.'" 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", 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. Six Shooter is a black comedy (as are his plays) that features Brendan Gleeson, Ruaidhri 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.
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 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.
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." 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.
McDonagh wrote and directed his drama-dark comedy film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on 4 September and was well reviewed. On 17 September 2017, it won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Three Billboards won four awards in the 2017 Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay for McDonagh.