When the dark comedy “Seven Psychopaths” had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), it was part of the festival’s “Midnight Madness” program, which features horror or offbeat films during late-night screenings. “Seven Psychopaths,” which is written and directed by Martin McDonagh, won the “Midnight Madness” Audience Award for TIFF 2013: It was voted by the audience as their favorite “Midnight Madness” movie that year. McDonagh’s previous film was the critically acclaimed, award-winning dark comedy “In Bruges.”
In “Seven Psychopaths,” Marty Faranan (played by Colin Farrell) is a struggling writer in Los Angeles who is trying to finish a screenplay titled “Seven Psychopaths.” Marty’s best friend is unemployed actor Billy Bickle (played by Sam Rockwell), who makes money by kidnapping dogs and then returning them to their owners for a cash reward. Billy’s partner in crime is an eccentric, religious man named Hans Kieslowski (played by Christopher Walken), whose wife has cancer. Chaos ensues when Billy kidnaps the Shi Tzu of mobster named Charlie Costello (played by Woody Harrelson), who will stop at nothing to get revenge. After the TIFF premiere of “Seven Psychopaths,” McDonagh and the stars of the movie did a Q&A by answering questions from a moderator and members of the audience.
How did you get the idea for “Seven Psychopaths”?
McDonagh: I had the short story first, the “Seven Psychopaths” story. So then I thought, “What kind of writer would want to write something like that?” Then the idea of someone trying to write something about love and peace and not quite being able to.
Farrell: So if any of you missed it, it’s actually about love and peace!
Did you have a cast in mind while you were writing “Seven Psychopaths”?
McDonagh: No. It was written about seven years ago, just after the script for “In Bruges” but before we made “In Bruges.” Strangely enough, I knew most of the cast before we made [“Seven Psychopaths”]. Obviously, I knew Colin. Chris and Sam and I did a play in New York a couple of years ago … It’s a perfect cast.
Is there any subject matter you wanted to avoid?
McDonagh: No, obviously not. It was the intent to strike some kind of balance between darkness and something more decent. It was hard to find a balance between the two.
Did any films inspire “Seven Psychopaths”?
McDonagh: I love Miles Hunter. That’s one of the best psychos. I love [Sam] Peckinpah’s stuff and [Terrence] Malick’s stuff. This is kind of the love child between Peckinpah and Malick. Peckinpah as a gentleness among the horror, I think.
Was anything improvised?
We had a full script, but we had places that were improv’ed.
Rockwell: Not very much though. It was pretty much on the page.
Sam, is there any inspiration for how you played your “Seven Psychopaths” character?
Rockwell: “Mean Streets” is something that Martin mentioned.
Did anything get left out of the “Seven Psychopaths” script?
Farrell: Crazy stories? No, but it brutal filming the sphincter scene. No, it was a lot less chaotic than I thought it would be. I saw it for the first time tonight. The film has sort of a chaotic nature to it and violence to it, which is juxtaposed with the experience of what [filming it] was, which was really peaceful and a lot of fun. Obviously, there was a lot of laughter in the film, but there was a lot of laughter off-set. It sounds boring to say it was an easy shoot, but it was a lot of fun.
Were there any scenes left out of “Seven Psychopaths”?
McDonagh: There was another funeral scene between Olga’s and Woody’s characters when Woody first gets the news. At the funeral with the two guys in the beginning, there was more stuff with Abbie, Colin that dealt with the relationship and the alcoholism and all that boring girlie stuff that had to be left behind. And there was awful lot more in the desert, lazing around and talking about French films. It was more of the same sh*t.
Christopher, how does “Seven Psychopaths” stand in terms of other movies you’ve done in your career?
Walken: I’m getting parts like uncles and granddads.
Sam, where did you get the hat you wore in “Seven Psychopaths”?
Rockwell: We went on a road trip — Martin, Colin and I — and Colin picked it out a gas station. He gave me that and some Cheetos and some chocolate milk. He put the hat on my head. And that was it. The hat was in the movie.
Why did the apartment look that way?
McDonagh: [He says jokingly] We actually filmed in Sam’s apartment to save money.
Christopher, did you and “Seven Psychopaths” co-star Tom Waits hang out together? And who does better impressions?
Walken: I hardly saw Tom. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t really work with him.
For more info: “Seven Psychopaths” website