5 Fun Facts: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
List by Aaron Haughton
Martin McDonagh's latest film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a rousing, biting, yet hopeful, black comedy, releases today. We had the opportunity to see the film early in mid-October and were blown away, and we think you will too. If you haven't already, you can check out our review of the film here. To celebrate the film's release we're serving up 5 fun facts about the production. Enjoy!
- The rabbit theme continues.
Rabbits have been a running theme for McDonagh throughout his film career, and a quick reference to rabbits can be found in Three Billboards. Mildred (McDormand's character) works in the town gift shop, which just so happens to sell little rabbit figurines.
- The actual town embraced the production.
The film wasn't shot in Missouri, but in Sylva, North Carolina, situated amidst the Great Smoky Mountains. While searching for a town to fit Ebbing's shoes, the location scouting spanned Ohio, New Mexico, Missouri, Mississippi and Georgia before happening upon the tiny town of Sylva. "There's nothing about Sylva that hints that a dark story like this should be happening there," notes McDonagh, "and that was important: to have the town itself be a decent foil for Mildred."
Creating the town was no small feat for production designer Inbal Weinberg, whose designs spanned from the large-scale to the tiniest details of Ebbing life — she even found herself coming up with bumper stickers and high school mascots for a town that doesn't exist. No matter where or what Weinberg was building, she was gratified by how much the people of Sylva embraced masquerading as Ebbing, commenting that "The more we shot, the more super excited they got and started making their own shirts and memorabilia."
- It was McDormand's idea for Mildred's outfit.
Early in preparation for the production, McDormand hit on an idea that soon became a part of her performance: to have Mildred wear a singular outfit all through the film — a kind of unadorned, blue-collar regalia she dutifully puts on each day. "Frances came up with Mildred wearing the same jumpsuit every day as a kind of 'war uniform,' and I thought it was a great cinematic idea," recalls McDonagh. "I liked the idea that Mildred doesn't have time to think about what she's wearing; she's at war."
Costume Designer Melissa Toth added: "Mildred is such a radical character the way Frances plays her and to her it was important to show that Mildred is on a daily quest that drives here from the moment she gets dressed in the morning. Sometimes she's wearing a bandana, sometimes not, and at one point, she even wears a gift shop smock over the jumpsuit — but the jumpsuit really was the part of the performance for Frances."
- McDormand channeled John Wayne.
"I really latched onto John Wayne in a big way as my physical idea because I really had no female physical icons to go off of for Mildred," McDormand explained in an interview. "She is more in the tradition of the Spaghetti Western's mystery man, who comes walking down the center of the street, guns drawn, and blows everybody away — although, I think it's important that the only weapons Mildred ever uses are her wits."
McDonagh also commented: "I could see it in her walk and her attitude. I think John Wayne did become a touchstone to a degree for Frances, but I also see Brando and Montgomery Clift in there, too."
- McDonagh wrote the script with McDormand in mind.
McDormand ran into McDonagh 15 years ago following a performance of his award-winning play "The Pillowman" and after briefly talking about his new film career, she suggested he write a film role for her. "As soon as those words were out of my mouth, I wished I could take them back because you're not supposed to do that. But then 15 years later he sent me the script, and I couldn't believe my great good fortune to be asked to play Mildred."
"I wrote Mildred for Frances," McDonagh said. "There wasn't any other actress I thought had all the elements that Mildred needed. She had to be very in touch with a kind of working class sensibility, as well as a rural sensibility. She also had to be someone who wouldn't sentimentalize the character. All of Frances' work is fundamentally truthful. I knew she could play the darkness of Mildred yet also have dexterity with the humor, while staying true to who Mildred is throughout."
What do you think? Are you excited to see the film? Was the list fun enough? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!