In Bruges was just practice. This is the big one
Starring: Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson.
Director: Martin McDonagh.
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What's it about? A novelist goes to extreme measures to cure his writer's block.
Verdict: Clever, edgy, grown-up fun.
C olin Farrell is taking great joy in winding up his friend Martin McDonagh over the origins of their new movie Seven Psychopaths.
The pair first collaborated on In Bruges (2008), a dark comedy that earned writer and director McDonagh a Bafta award and an Oscar nomination, and Farrell a Golden Globe.
But, as it transpires, In Bruges was simply McDonagh's trial run at film-making.
Farrell said: "Just before we started In Bruges, he said, 'If you think In Bruges is good, you should see the other script I wrote, it is much better.
"He said, 'I'm only doing In Bruges to see if I like making films. Then I will make the real one'."
Looking slightly sheepish, McDonagh joked: "That was all complete honesty.
"But seriously, Seven Psychopaths was always going to be a bigger script."
An accomplished playwright (he is the recipient of two Laurence Oliver Awards and four Tony Award nominations), McDonagh wrote the screenplay for Seven Psychopaths at the same time as In Bruges – but there was never any question as to which would be his film directorial debut.
"Seven Psychopaths was too big to get my head around cinematically before I dipped my toe in the water," explains McDonagh, a white-haired 42-year-old who exudes casual elegance in jeans, T-shirt and jacket.
"As a first-time director, I decided to start with something that was more about things I knew."
A tale of two hitmen, In Bruges was in some ways a character and relationship study set in one place. McDonagh said: "I felt I knew that territory from my work in theatre.
"Seven Psychopaths was like a puzzle, a gigantic cinematic jigsaw. I don't think I could ever have done this film without having done In Bruges first."
The title of their latest film is also the name of the screenplay that Marty, played by Farrell, is struggling to finish.
"Marty's fallen in love with this title but he hasn't come up with all the psychopaths," explains Farrell, 36, who's appeared in the likes of Minority Report, Miami Vice and, most recently, a remake of Total Recall.
"While Marty's renowned for writing violent scenes, he's trying render a story that is, in essence, about peace and love."
In the film, when we meet Marty he's already past his deadline and way past the end of his girlfriend Kaya's (Abbie Cornish) patience. The situation isn't helped by constant disruption from his best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell). This is never more apparent than when Billy and his dog-napping business partner Hans (Christopher Walken) discover that a particular pooch they have swiped happens to be the beloved pet of notorious gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson).
As the three go on the run, with Shih Tzu Bonny in tow, Billy remains determined to help Marty finish his screenplay – at any cost. The result is a black comedy that is as funny as sometimes it is hard to stomach.
Farrell said: "Every now and then, writing jumps off the page. This one does that. It slaps you in the face, gives you a kick in the **** and takes you on a wonderful ride."
Dressed in jeans and black jacket, he's wearing a long silver chain over a green V-neck T-shirt and a bangle.
While his tan might be all LA (he lives there most of the year), Farrell seems to be a down-to-earth Dublin boy who is delighted to be working with McDonagh again.
"He has a particular way of stringing words together that has an insane effect on the imagination," says Farrell. "There's an emotional core to everything he writes, the humour, the chaos, the violence, the quick-wittedness of dialogue.
"And the characters are inspired by a truth – love of a pet, need to help a friend, the wish that a lover was closer, ambition."
With seven distinct performances on the agenda, the challenge for McDonagh was to have a firm grip on what defines a psychopath.
"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," muses McDonagh.
"It's a fun puzzle to play with – who is and who isn't a psychopath in the movie."
Seven Psychopaths is in cinemas now.