‘Calvary’ Director John Michael McDonagh Loves Digital Filmmaking


Now playing in select theaters, Calvary centers on Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a devout man who is set to be killed by one of his parishioners. Father James has one week to get his house in order and decide if he will stop this impending tragedy or face this challenge head on. Director John Michael McDonagh, who previously worked with Gleeson in The Guard, was visually inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. The breathtaking and at times intimidating landscapes are courtesy of Easkey, a village located off the Irish West Coast.

Brendan Gleeson on the set of CALVARY. Photo by Jonathon Hession.
Brendan Gleeson on the set of CALVARY. Photo by Jonathon Hession.

“We wanted the exteriors to be big, widescreen, cinematic – with all that nature. The mountains, the waves crashing in,” said McDonagh. “And then when we come inside, we go in really close and there’s lots of close-ups. It’s very claustrophobic inside . . . I didn’t want the film to be perceived as a small, parochial Irish film.”

In the audio clip below, McDonagh elaborates on the advantages of digital filmmaking (he shot The Guard on film and Calvary was shot on digital). McDonagh mentions Calvary actors Dylan Moran (he plays an obscenely rich man at odds with Father James) and David Wilmot (he plays a fellow priest), as well as cinematographer Larry Smith in the clip.

McDonagh, who is currently prepping on his next film War On Everyone, has grand designs on an ambitious project titled The Bonnot Gang. I asked him about the project, and here’s his response:

“It’s a true story about a group of anarchist bank robbers in Paris in 1911. And it is a Brian De Palma/Jean Pierre Melville type movie. It’d be the last film I’d made, I reckon. I think I would have need to have made six or seven before that because it would be like a Sam Peckinpah Western, but in modern garb. I’d say it’s The Wild Bunch crossed with Le Samouraï. In my head, my final film would be the greatest film, but I feel I need to know so much more about the techniques of filmmaking before I get to do it.

For that type of movie, it may only be $50-60 million. I’m not in that place yet to get that kind of money but I always feel like I’m not in that place yet to direct a script as it’s written. I don’t think I’m as accomplished as I should be to make that movie. Maybe it will be the last one.”

Below is the audio version of his answer:


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