Oscars: 10 Things to Know About Best Picture Nominee 'Three Billboards'

12:08 PM 3/3/2018

by Deirdre Durkan

The movie is up for seven Oscars.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Still_ - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won four Golden Globes and has seven Oscar nominations, including for best picture.

The film follows a mother whose daughter’s tragic murder has gone unsolved due to an ambivalent police force. The investigation’s inactivity prompts Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) to rent three billboards, which read, in full: "Raped while dying and still no arrests? How come, Chief Willoughby?"

Here are 10 things to know about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 

  • Sam Rockwell Has Played Dumb for McDonagh Before

    For director Martin McDonagh, Sam Rockwell has played a clueless hotel clerk (in 2010's Broadway play A Behanding in Spokane) and a dognapper-turned-screenwriter (in 2012's Seven Psychopaths).

    In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri, Rockwell plays a racist Midwestern cop. He earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for the role.

  • Frances McDormand Thought She Was "Too Old" to Play Mildred Hayes

    "I was flattered, but then I said no, I'm too old," McDormand remembered telling the film's director two years ago, when she was 58. Ultimately her husband, Joel Coen, told McDormand to "shut up and do it."

    Added McDormand: "I'm really interested in playing my age. I like being my age," as well as an often unrepresented demographic (a women from a working-class background).

  • One Producer Thought the Film's Release Was "Particularly Timely"

    “These weeks make it very contemporary,” said Graham Broadbent, who produced Three Billboards. “I sit here as a storyteller. I produce films because I like stories and I want stories to be made."

    He added, "The weird thing that comes with it is that responsibility for the best for the film … to make the best creative film, to have the best time, to make sure people are well looked after.”

  • Rockwell Went on Ride-Alongs in Preparation for His Role

    Rockwell told The Hollywood Reporter, “I met with some cops in southern Missouri. Martin didn't want me to do a heavy accent, but I wanted to do a little bit of something. So we [worked with] Frances, and we said, 'Is this northern Missouri or is this southern Missouri?' And I kept thinking the way it's written that it would lend itself to southern Missouri. I went on ride-alongs for a couple of nights, and I did a ride-along with a cop in L.A.”

    The actor described the experience as intense. A lot of the ride-alongs included observing houses full of drug addicts. "It was just like a couple of really obese people and then this really emaciated crack addict with a mullet," said Rockwell. "But the thing that you can't get on Cops or Hoarders was the smell." 

  • McDonagh Didn't Want McDormand's Character to Be "Flawless"

    "I didn't want anyone to be completely the hero, and I didn't want anyone to be completely the villain," the Three Billboards director explained

    His vision earned him two Golden Globes for best screenplay and best motion picture. 

  • Rockwell Was "Shaking Like a Leaf" at the Golden Globes

    After winning best actor for Three Billboards at the Golden Globes, Rockwell told THR that after a couple of drinks, he could be persuaded to do his dance from 2000's Charlie's Angels

    The actor also admitted he was "shaking like a leaf" at the Golden Globe Awards. 


  • McDormand Gave a Shoutout to Her Fellow Golden Globe Nominees

    After she won best actress, McDormand kept her speech light-hearted by promising, “All you ladies in this category ... tequila's on me," as she accepted her Golden Globe. 

  • McDonagh Was Inspired by a Ride on a Bus 20 Years Ago

    At 27, McDonagh was exploring the American heartland when his Greyhound bus passed a stretch of rural highway with angry billboards featuring messages to the local police in 2-foot-tall letters.

    "The kind of pain and outrage that were put up on those billboards — it stayed in my mind," he said.

    Nearly two decades later, the experience stuck with the director, who said he wrote the script in just five weeks. 

  • The Film Received a Seven-Minute Standing Ovation in Venice

    The pic received a standing ovation for almost 10 minutes at the Venice Film Festival during its official debut. 

    "We had a seven-minute standing ovation," McDonagh said. "I've never seen anything like it. After one minute, you're embarrassed. After two, you want to get out of there. But the head of the festival wouldn't let us leave. So we stood there for seven solid minutes."

  • Harrelson Will Do "Anything Martin Asks"

    Woody Harrelson was thrilled to get the opportunity to play the film's police chief and work again with McDonagh following 2012's Seven Psychopaths

    "I have this unwritten rule in my life that I’ll do anything Martin asks," said the actor. "Years ago I met him because I was writing this screenplay that takes place entirely in Ireland, so I was looking up great contemporary Irish playwrights. So I met Martin in Dublin. We ended up spending a lot of time together because I did a play over there. He was writing this play The Pillowman, and he offered it to me, but I read it and I said, “Well, finally with Martin, the darkness has overcome the light.' Usually, he has a perfect little balance, but this one — he’s crucifying a kid onstage. So I didn’t do it. Then I went and watched it. Billy Crudup played the part and it was like one of the greatest productions I’ve ever seen. After that, I said, 'I’ll never make this blunder again.' And thank God, because I really liked Seven Psychopaths. With this one, I read it, I thought it was very good, and then I was just in."