John Michael McDonagh on sibling rivalry

What would it be like to have a sibling who was in the same business as you, but was having a lot more luck at it?

MPR’s Euan Kerr found out when he spoke to screenwriter John Michael McDonagh.


Don Cheadle and Brenden Gleeson appear as an unlikely pair of crime fighters in John Michael McDonagh’s “The Guard.” (Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

For a long time McDonagh was having a hard time getting his scripts turned into films. When one finally did get bought by Hollywood, the director botched the production. Now nobody was interested in McDonagh’s work.

To make things worse, McDonagh’s brother Martin had become an overnight sensation in London and New York with a series of award-winning plays, including “The Cripple of Inishmaan” and “The Pillowman.”

“I hate the theater,” John Michael McDonagh states bluntly. “I only go to the theater when he gives me free tickets for his own plays. Because I find it really boring. So he could have had all the success he wanted in the theater world and I wasn’t bothered.”

But then, Martin McDonagh started making movies.

“I think when he won an Oscar for his short film, that’s when I say a little ulcer started in the pit of my stomach, and it grew when he got ‘In Bruges’ set up,” said John Michael.

“In Bruges,” a dark comedy about two Irish hitmen hiding out in Belgium, was an indie hit in 2008, snagging Martin McDonagh a best screenplay Oscar nomination.

John Michael says he’s close to his brother, but they rarely talk about work.

Now John Michael is getting back in the spotlight with his new movie “The Guard,” which he’s directed himself.

To find out more about the movie, which stars Don Cheadle, click on the audio link below.

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