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In Searchlight’s The Banshees of Inisherin, the latest from Oscar-winning writer-director Martin McDonagh, a broken friendship between Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) rocks a close-knit village on an island off the coast of Ireland. After Colm decides one day that Pádraic is too dull for him to spend his remaining days talking with him about the minutiae of rural life at the local pub, Pádraic decides to change Colm’s mind — which only sparks Colm’s increasingly (and at times humorously) violent reactions.
The film is a reunion not just for McDonagh and his In Bruges stars Farrell and Gleeson but for the writer-director and actress Kerry Condon, who stars as Pádraic’s steadfast sister, Siobhán. Condon, who on Oct. 22 will receive the distinguished performance award at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival for her role in the film, launched her stage career with celebrated performances in McDonagh’s plays The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The Cripple of Inishmaan and also appeared in his Academy Award-winning feature Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. She spoke with THR about her friendship with McDonagh, how she found her character and how the darkly comic film captures Irish culture.
What about McDonagh’s writing appeals to you as an actor?
One of my first professional theater jobs was [McDonagh’s play The Lieutenant of Inishmore in 2001]. I never went to drama school, and a lot of my training came from that time period, just being around Martin at that young age. There is a confidence that I have when I’m doing his work; when I leave that job, I always feel like I can do anything. Also, the [characters he writes] are quite like me. I’m not going to lie: I’m an Irish girl from the countryside who loves animals. There are strands of me in all the characters, so it’s easy for me to lean into what he’s looking for.
What was your first reaction to The Banshees of Inisherin?
It was very different than the parts that I’ve done in his plays because they were wild, those women. From the very first read, I didn’t see all of the things that I could bring to it. There were so many [aspects] to Siobhán; she has to be jaded but hopeful, childlike with Pádraic but a mature woman. Then I started to think, “This is maybe a little trickier than the other [roles] because I have to find the stuff in myself.”
You and Colin Farrell play brother and sister. How did you create the dynamic between your characters? And how did you play Siobhán differently with other castmembers?
I’m very close to my brother and Colin’s very close to his sister, so we both had a relationship [to base our characters on]. When you’re with your brother, there’s nothing sexual about you at all. That’s the fun about being with a sibling: It’s very like it used to be when you’re young. I had to take away any element of that [sexualization], yet at the same time, she’s still a young woman, and she’s reading all these books. Maybe she’s imagining romances, and there’s a private life that she’s not sharing with anybody. With Brendan and all the people in the village and in the pub, that was easy. She’s just sick of the fellas talking over [her], thinking they know everything, and they don’t. I mean, that’s just inherent in me.
There’s an interesting gender shift — it’s the men in this movie who are the emotional messes, essentially throwing tantrums. Meanwhile, it’s Siobhán who acts as Pádraic’s protector. Do you think that speaks to gender in Irish culture?
I think it is Irish, to be honest with you — Irish women tolerate so much. And they were never really praised or shown the gratitude that they should have been shown. But then that’s what makes them so brilliant: They don’t even need the fuckin’ gratitude. They’re like, as long as the men are fed, and they’re all getting on — because if you look at the history of Ireland, there was always so much fighting, so much alcoholism, and don’t get me started on the Catholic Church. The women were there through it all, and it couldn’t have been easy. There is a very strong aspect to Irish women that isn’t praised, and that’s why Siobhán is never looking for it. She knows she’s never going to get it. She’s not going to be mollycoddled or treated special. But she’s also tougher than Pádraic, which adds to the humor — Pádraic is somewhat pathetic.
Has there been a change in Ireland, where you have noticed women are finally starting to earn that acknowledgment?
It’s very progressive, Ireland. I can’t really speak too much on it because, of course, I haven’t lived there in a long time. My family all lives there, my sisters live there, but I don’t want to be mouthing off about a place I don’t even live in anymore. But they did elect a woman president years ago, and now abortion is legal, and all those things that were hindering women, you know, and same-sex marriage. But of course, change is slow. They do love their boys. (Laughs.)
You share a lot of screen time with both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, plus plenty of farm animals. With whom were you more relaxed on set?
I’m a massive animal person. I’d say I’m more animal than human. I do believe they are little expressions of God or something. That was the one difference between me and Siobhán: I thought maybe if she had bonded with the animals, she wouldn’t have been so depressed. I mean, we had to have a lot of patience because [it’s not easy] to get a cow into a house without scaring it. It was such an incredible job, and those animals were so beautiful, patient and sweet. And there wasn’t a day where I really let off and was like, “I’m going to sit back and have a laugh with the boys!” I really wanted to nail every scene. I had to [think], “It’s me and Martin. That’s it.” As long as he was happy, I was fine.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The Rest of the Best at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival
The actors and filmmakers taking home the event’s highest honors.
DISCOVERY AWARD: Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) for Taurus
In his latest acting role, Baker plays a self-destructive musician (and stars with fiancé Megan Fox).
RISING STAR DIRECTOR AWARD: J.D. Dillard for Devotion
Dillard’s third feature film is a historical drama about a Black fighter pilot (fellow honoree Jonathan Majors) in the Korean War.
VANGUARD AWARD: Nicholas Hoult for The Menu
The former X-Man continues his foray into prestige with this black comedy about a fancy restaurant.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR DIRECTING: Ron Howard
The director needs no introduction; he’ll receive the award after a screening of his Thai cave rescue drama Thirteen Lives.
SPOTLIGHT AWARD: Jonathan Majors for Devotion
Before he takes on the MCU (in his first Marvel feature appearance as Kang the Conqueror), the actor takes on the not-so-friendly skies film.
SPOTLIGHT AWARD: Janelle Monáe for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Monáe joins — and stands out among — an ensemble cast in Rian Johnson‘s murder-mystery sequel.
DISTINGUISHED PERFORMANCE AWARD: Jeremy Pope for The Inspection
Pope leads this indie based on writer-director Elegance Bratton’s life.
VARIETY CREATIVE IMPACT AWARD IN COSTUME DESIGN: Sandy Powell for Living
The 15-time Oscar nominee takes on Bill Nighy in 1950s London.
VIRTUOSO AWARD: Eddie Redmayne for The Good Nurse
Redmayne plays a medical worker with a (murderous) God complex.
OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN ANIMATION AWARD: Henry Selick for Wendell and Wild
The Coraline director’s latest movie stars two animated demon brothers.
RISING STAR AWARD: Sadie Sink for The Whale
The Stranger Things star is captivating festival-goers as Brendan Fraser’s estranged daughter.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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