Since its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, The Banshees of Inisherin has been met with tidal waves of praise from critics and audiences alike. This is playwright-turned-director Martin McDonagh’s latest feature following the Oscar-winning success of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film follows Colin Farrell as the sweet, yet naive Pádraic, who is sent into a downward spiral when his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly decides he no longer wants anything to do with him. But, of course, behind every slightly unhinged man is a sister holding everything together, and we see that here with Pádraic’s sibling Siobhán, brought to life by the remarkable Kerry Condon.
Many will recognize Kerry Condon as an alum of the hit courtroom drama Better Call Saul or as the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y, an A.I. created by Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, in The Banshees of Inisherin, Condon gives her most moving and layered performance to date, returning to her Irish roots to play a woman torn between her mundane life taking care of herself and her brother in the wake of their parents’ passing, or taking that leap in pursuing fulfillment away from her native island and everyone she has ever known. This story was originally meant to complete Martin McDonagh’s “Aran Islands Trilogy” of stageplays, but it found a second chance on the big screen thanks to the filmmaker’s recent Oscar notoriety.
With The Banshees of Inisherin finally reaching its theatrical release after a grand festival run and much awards buzz, we sat down with Kerry Condon to discuss the all-important sibling dynamic between Pádraic and Siobhán, and reuniting with Martin McDonagh and her experience filming on two secluded Irish islands.
Exclusive Interview with Kerry Condon for The Banshees of Inisherin. Spoilers Follow!
To start off, I want to ask how it feels to be part of a film that’s so profoundly Irish?
Kerry Condon: I feel very proud to be a part of this. Especially because it’s making waves and resonating with people so much. But I’m really proud of it because all of Martin’s plays, I always thought were the best of his work and I wanted everyone to see them. If I met somebody who had seen them, I would be so excited! So to finally feel like it was one of his plays but as a movie, and now it was going to have such a big audience, I was just so excited that everyone was going to see what I consider to be like his forte.
One of the most compelling aspects of the film is the relationship between Siobhán and Pádraic. Did you ever have any discussions about who was the older sibling?
Kerry Condon: We never spoke about that and I didn’t really want to know because I feel like she’s the older sibling, in my opinion. And I think by not that much, either. Maybe by a year or two, I think they’re very close in age. But she’s certainly motherly towards him and cares for him.
When it came to crafting that sibling dynamic, did you have any conversations with Colin Farrell prior to filming?
Kerry Condon: We did, yeah! Colin is super close with his sister and I’m very close with my brother. So we both had an example of that in our own lives. So I thought about when I’m with my brother, how you behave when you’re with your sibling and how you feel like you did when you were a child. You have your in-jokes, or you can be very honest and vulnerable with your sibling.
But also at the same time, she had to play like a jadedness with Pádraic and that was coming from the aspect of being motherly towards him, which was a little bit of a burden because if you think about it, Siobhán was doing everything. You see her doing the laundry, she’s doing the shopping, she’s doing the cooking, and he’s doing nothing. That Irish woman doing all the chores kind of thing has taken its toll on her. So it was a mixture of things that I felt like I had to play.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe filming took place on two islands?
Kerry Condon: We filmed for three weeks on Inishmore which was the first island and those were the scenes with Pádraic and Siobhán in their house, and all the scenes with the animals along those lovely stone wall lanes. Then when we moved to the second island – I think we were on the second island for about five weeks – that was the pub, the port, the shop, and that’s also where we shot Colm, Brandon’s character, his house. So it felt a little bit more spread out on the second island because all the scenes together in the house were very intimate with just me and Pádraic.
I imagine it could feel quite isolating on those islands. What was that whole experience like for you and was there anything the cast and crew did to kind of keep spirits high?
Kerry Condon: Colin was very generous and he would always do something. Every week he would do something nice for the crew. He would have a coffee truck come on a Friday, or a crepe truck. He would just have something nice to come for everybody, he’s a very generous person like that. Everyone was always excited for what Colin was going to buy us on a Friday! But mostly on the weekends, we all did our own thing to be honest. We kind of kept to ourselves because it was full-on during the week and you would be tired enough at the weekends
However, one of the weekends on Inishmore, we got invited to a wedding because one of the local people on the island was getting married and it was so sweet. We also had a little party for the Costume Designer, it was her birthday, but that was very early on. When we got to the acting, then it was sort of every man for himself. And that was good for me because it added to the loneliness that Siobhán was feeling and the isolation.
People who aren’t in the industry think that you’re always having this whale of a time and you’re like, no you’re bollocksed at the weekend! You’re like, “I just need to rest and do my laundry.” So it was a very studious environment. I did play pool, I had a pool table in my house on the second island and I played pool quite a bit with Gary Lydon who plays the policeman. He’s very good at pool.
The ending of the film leaves almost all of the character’s futures up for interpretation, but I wanted to ask if you could weigh in on this. Obviously, Siobhán leaves Inisherin and she has her own life. What do you make of her relationship with Pádraic after those final frames, do you think he would ever brave leaving the island?
Kerry Condon: I think Pádraic stays on the island. This is my interpretation, and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right or wrong. I think he doesn’t turn back. I think he’s changed forever and his innocence and niceness are gone. I think that he’ll never forgive Colm and that he’ll end up being a weird loner with these animals living in his house, and maybe he’ll even stop going to the pub. If people come visit, they’ll all be like “who’s that weird fella?” and it’ll be like, “Oh, he had a falling out a long time ago” and he’ll just be this strange person. Oh, it’s so sad when you think about how he was just a sweet, innocent person.
I think with Siobhán, she would never come back to the island. I think she would continue to write to Pádraic and keep in touch with him that way, but I don’t think she would ever return. I do wonder about when she gets the news about Dominic and what happened to him, I wonder how that affects her life because she knows that she had that conversation with him at the lake. So it’s interesting to think about how your behavior and how you treat people can have a detrimental effect on their character and it can change a person, even do permanent damage.
You touched on it briefly, but this film isn’t your first time working with Martin McDonagh, as you previously did theatre together. Are you hoping to work with him again in the future?
Kerry Condon: Oh, of course! But then at the same time, when you’re very good friends with somebody who you’ve worked with quite a lot, and they have the ability to hire or not hire you, I don’t want to put that pressure on him because I do like to let him be free as an artist and to express himself with whoever he chooses and whoever he thinks is right for the part. But, I mean, jeez, of course, I would love to work with him forever during different points of my career. But, again, having him as a friend is just as valuable to me.
The Banshees of Inisherin contemplates multiple messages rooted in our souls and how we react to one another, what are you hoping that audiences are able to take away from this story?
Kerry Condon: I definitely hope people watching think about being careful with how you’re treating other people – not that I’m saying Colm shouldn’t have done that to Pádraic, because Colm was coming from a place where that’s what he needed. I do think it’s important to have this care about yourself, but being careful about the way you treat other people and go about doing things because you can change their lives forever.
There’s also a very spiritual aspect to the movie with all the nature, and it made me think, “Gosh, they’re in this beautiful place, and they’re bickering?” Then you look at all the animals, they’re so at peace and it made me think that maybe people could think more about their surroundings, and that we could be more in the moment and present. Animals are not ruined by the human condition, thinking of our legacy and existential questions. Animals are just in the moment. They’re not really thinking about death and what you’re going to leave behind.
I’m just rattled with those questions. I’m so sick of going like, “What’s the purpose of our lives? Why are we here?” I don’t understand it, and you’re never going to understand it either. So going back to a more simple place of being peaceful and calm, that is maybe the way to be in the moment. I hope it resonates with everybody and in a good way. I really do.