“I travel just to see new places, and I didn’t really know anything about Bruges, and I was struck by how stunningly cinematic, creepy, picturesque and medieval it was. I wondered why it hadn’t been used in film before because it’s so distinctive. I just wandered around to all the churches and museums, and got bored and just wanted to get drunk and get out of there. Then those two halves of my brain started chatting with each other; the culture vulture and the drunk. They kind of became characters, they became Ray and Ken, and I thought, ‘Why would they be in a place like that when they wouldn’t want to be?’ That’s when the whole idea of hit men escaping a horrific job popped up. Bruges is completely organic. If we hadn’t been allowed to film there, I’d have scrapped the whole script because it had to be there.”
“Brendan was so easy to get along with. He really was. He’s just such a lovely man and such a wonderful artist, fiddle player, guitarist, writer and a fine actor; he was really generous from Day One. There was absolutely no ego on this at all. I’ve been pretty lucky [that] most jobs I’ve worked on there hasn’t been an ego, but we’re all there for the same reason. I loved the script. I read it the first time, and it was like nothing I’d ever read, and then when I got the chance to do it we packed up and off we went to Bruges. We had three weeks of intense rehearsal, and I thought we were going to run out of steam, but the script was so good that you’d ask one question and it’d come to what seemed a like a conclusion, and there would be ten more questions on the table that had just been revealed.”
McDONAGH on shooting in Bruges:
“I loved the fact that I could get up in the morning at 8:30 if we were shooting at 9:00, and walk across the square from my place on the canal and just go to work. The entire town was not more than two miles across. There’d be extras from town, and you’d see them walking around that evening or in a bar. That’s why I loved it. I was kind of worried they would think we were taking the piss out of it when they saw the film. We actually showed it [there] about three weeks ago and they didn’t; they liked it.”
“There was kind of an otherworldliness to [the script], or kind of a hyper-reality to the way the characters spoke. I had never heard characters talk like this at all. I’d never heard such a level of unbridled honesty, and what I thought originally was a lack of subtext, but I found out in rehearsal there was a plethora of stuff that was happening underneath. It’s a great tale. The characters were so beautifully drawn and the dialogue was so quick-smart and while even reading it, it seems incredibly funny there was a much greater heart that existed than any of the comic moments that are involved in the piece.”
McDONAGH on the religious themes in the film:
“As soon as I came up with why they were there, it was an easy one to explore. ‘How would I feel if I had done something so heinous?’ So I was able to explore, not come to any solutions about, but explore what I believe in having been brought up Catholic and having rejected that, but still having those kind of tendrils of faith, ‘Where am I now? How do I think about those things, of the afterlife?’ I still don’t have any solutions or final thoughts, but it was fun to explore.”
“Yeah, because faith in absolution is not really faith at all. I don’t want to say it’s idiocy because I’ll insult a lot of the population around the world including some of my family members, but surely faith should be based on a certain amount of skepticism almost in questioning.