A few days before the opening of their movie In Bruges, actor Colin Farrell and writer-director Martin McDonagh sat comfortably beside one another at the Regency Hotel. The film, which co-stars Brendan Gleeson, is about two hit men holed up in Bruges—a perfectly preserved medieval city in Belgium—after a job gone horribly awry. “I was sort of struck by how beautiful and cinematic the place was,” said Mr. McDonagh of the inspirational weekend trip he once took to the city. “But then you saw all the museums and got bored out of your head,” chimed in Mr. Farrell (who might have heard this story a few times before). “Yes,” Mr. McDonagh said. “It was like beautiful, beautiful, beautiful on one side of my brain, and then boring, boring, boring on the other. The two characters evolved from there.”
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For Mr. McDonagh, previously known as the playwright of The Pillowman and The Lieutenant of Inishmore, directing a feature film was a first. “I tried not to get in their process,” he said, of his actors. Mr. Farrell, smoking a cigarette, waved this away. “A director is kind of a conduit between the writer and the actor,” he said. “With this one, the actors just had to rise to the occasion and bring themselves up to the standards of the script, which was daunting because it so brilliant. But that’s a really nice place to be.”
The film recently opened the Sundance Film Festival. “People seem to like it,” said Mr. McDonagh, turning to Mr. Farrell. “At least that’s what they say when they come into the room.”
“No, listen,” Mr. Farrell said with a laugh. “If they didn’t like it, they’d be asking you if you miss home or what hotel you like to stay in. Anything to not talk about the film.”
In Bruges arrives in theaters on Friday, Feb. 8.