Even though Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin premiered in theaters yesterday, it’s already getting Oscar buzz. The dark comedy stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the leads from McDonaugh’s 2008 hit, In Bruges. Now they animate McDonagh’s fictitious Irish island, Inisherin. For the first 30 seconds of the film, set in 1923, they play best friends—until Gleeson’s character, Colm Doherty, suddenly tells Farrell’s character, Pádraic Súilleabháin, “I just don’t like you no more.” The next 90 minutes are fueled by hurt that’s heightened to the point of absurdity.
While the men do the bulk of the talking, Kerry Condon—who plays Siobhán, Farrell’s unmarried adult sister—is the movie’s human core. Condon credits McDonagh’s writing, but everyone else credits her acting.
As with all her roles, the 39-year-old actress spent hours creating a backstory for her character that viewers will never see. She and Farrell even came up with an elaborate explanation for how their characters’ parents died, which never figures into the movie.
Every morning before shooting began, Condon asked Farrell to run over lines three times. “There was no moment where I wanted to be paying attention to how I looked,” she says. That “was tricky when Colin Farrell is there, because he’s gorgeous.”
Award-season talk began at the movie’s Venice Film Festival premiere, in September, but the actress has purposefully avoided thinking about an Oscar nomination. When she first heard about the film’s Oscar potential, she thought, for the first time, “I actually am good at [acting].” Then she paused and wondered, “What if [I] don’t get it?”
Condon has wanted to act since she was a little girl growing up in Thurles, Ireland, a town of fewer than 8,000 people. “I just don’t remember a time when I didn’t want it,” she says. Jokingly, she explains that her fierce ambition is a “working-class thing”—though it rings true.
She first met McDonagh in 2000, when she was 17. He cast her in his play The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a comedy about the Troubles, which had its premiere with the Royal Shakespeare Company the following year. It was the first of many collaborations.
“There was no moment where I wanted to be paying attention to how I looked.”
At 17, Condon also met Farrell. They quickly became close, but as she watched her friend’s career soar, hers developed slowly.
She’s worked steadily, landing TV roles in shows such as Rome and Better Call Saul as well as voice parts in several Marvel films. And she continued working with McDonagh, appearing in his plays and in films such as The Cripple of Inishmaan and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But many of the projects poised to take her career to the next level fell apart.
A decade ago, Condon was cast in an HBO series called Luck. Directed by David Milch and written by Michael Mann, Condon acted opposite Dustin Hoffman. A month after it premiered—and had already been renewed for a second season—it was dramatically canceled when it came out that three horses had died in production. (Condon ended up adopting one of the horses from the show.)
“I don’t think at this stage of my career Banshees of Inisherin is going to equate the same level of fame that Colin got when he was starting his career,” she says. “And thank God, because that’s not really what I’m looking for at all—or what I ever was looking for in my career.”
Condon has never been an average Hollywood actor. She likes living in Los Angeles because she doesn’t have to see anyone, and it has space for her horses. She’s never married or had children. “I’ve always prioritized my career and being an actress,” Condon says.
Now Condon prefers to not look far ahead. “I suppose I’m a little bit afraid of being disappointed,” she says. When she signs on for a project, “I just do it for the filming.”
The Banshees of Inisherin is in theaters now
Clara Molot is an Associate Editor for AIR MAIL