John Michael McDonagh
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Writer/director John Michael McDonagh tackled issues of faith, commitment and valor with remarkable and earthy wit in critically acclaimed films including "The Guard" (2011) and "Calvary" (2014). Born and raised in England with his younger brother, the playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, he spent summers in his mother's hometown of Easkey, County Sligo, which would later serve as the setting for "Calvary." A devoted reader and film fan, McDonagh followed in his brother's footsteps by not only dropping out of high school but also pursuing a career as a writer. For a period, he lived on unemployment, soaking up classic Hollywood films on television, but after penning several unpublished novels, McDonagh decided to try his hand at film. With his brother serving as executive producer, he wrote and directed a short, "The Second Death" (2000), before one of his feature scripts, an adaptation of the 1991 novel Our Sunshine, was made into the Australian historical adventure "Ned Kelly" (2003), with Heath Ledger. Disappointed with the end result, McDonagh decided that he would also serve as director for his next script. A lengthy and difficult period of rejection followed, made all the more challenging by Martin McDonagh's ascension to screenwriting and directing with "Six Shooter" (2004) and the BAFTA-winning "In Bruges" (2008). But in 2011, John Michael wrote and directed "The Guard," a dark comedy about a hard-living Irish police officer, played by Brendan Gleeson, who clashes with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) over a major drug case. Executive produced by Martin McDonagh, the film became the highest grossing independent Irish film ever made, and minted John Michael McDonagh as a talent on the rise. Three years later, he reteamed with Gleeson for "Calvary," a dramedy about a long-suffering Irish priest randomly targeted for death by an unknown parishioner. The picture, which drew inspiration from a wave of revelations concerning the sexual abuse of children by priests, balanced its weighty subject matter with the same vein of black humor as "The Guard," and drew similar critical praise, as well as solid box office returns.