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Spot the familiar faces in Three Billboards

Spot the familiar faces in Three Billboards

Writer/director Martin McDonagh cast some of his favourite actors in this brilliant film. We highlight the stars he works with again and again

McDonagh obviously had the right idea, since the accomplished cast won numerous awards for the movie – so which of his films have you seen them in before?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, available from Friday 2 November in Sky Cinema On Demand

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) wants justice for her murdered daughter, whose killer was never caught. Blaming the police in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, she tries to spark a reaction by renting three huge billboards and posting accusatory messages on them. 


Despite opposition from locals including Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), an unpredictable police officer with a hot temper, Mildred refuses to back down. Throw in a drugs bust, a terminal illness, a dentist who ends up on the wrong end of a drill and a whole host of peculiar characters, and you’ve got a movie that says a whole lot more than what’s on those billboards.


If you’ve seen any of the three other films McDonagh wrote and directed – In BrugesSeven Psychopaths and the short Six Shooter – you’ll have an idea of what to expect. For one thing, dark (very dark) humour. For another, some familiar names – McDonagh likes to work with the same people repeatedly. Even the musical scores for Three Billboards, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths were all written by the same composer, Carter Burwell.


Although leading lady McDormand, who won the Best Actress Oscar, is a McDonagh first-timer, many other cast members have featured in his earlier (equally great) films. Check out our own billboards below for more information…


Sam Rockwell as Jason Dixon

McDonagh wrote the role of Dixon specifically for Rockwell. No one can play this kind of flawed, self-doubting hothead quite like Rockwell and the proof is in the awards – he earned a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Dixon is a crooked cop through and through, but… it’s more complicated than that. Redemption, though, might just be out of his reach.  


McDonagh also cast him in…

Rockwell played Billy Bickle in Seven Psychopaths, displaying behaviour that you can’t quite condone but still enjoy watching. He steals dogs for a living and then returns them to their owners for a handsome reward. It’s all fun and games until he steals a prized shih tzu from crime lord Charlie Costello. That brings us to…


Woody Harrelson as Bill Willoughby

Police chief Bill is a good guy, but he’s tired. He placates Mildred as best he can, but it turns out he’s got more important things on his mind than a few billboards. He has some killer one-liners, which Harrelson delivers with his trademark sarcastic drawl and twinkle in his eye (again, the role was created for him by McDonagh).


McDonagh also cast him in…

Harrelson was Charlie Costello in Seven Psychopaths and, like Rockwell, he has charisma that makes you warm to him instantly (psychopath or not). As Charlie, there’s no denying he’s dangerous, yet somehow you still like him – even if he does go to somewhat extreme lengths for that dog…


Abbie Cornish as Anne Willoughby

Being a police officer’s wife means a lifetime of worry that one day you might get that fateful knock on the door. Anne stands by her man and their two daughters, even when the threat is no longer external.


McDonagh also cast her in…

Cornish had a minor role in Seven Psychopaths as Kaya, the long-suffering girlfriend of writer Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell). Farrell is another prominent actor in McDonagh’s work, having also starred in In Bruges, as is fellow Irishman Brendan Gleeson (Six Shooter and In Bruges).


Željko Ivanek as Desk Sergeant

The Ebbing Police desk sergeant is a likeable, yet questionable, pawn of the police forces operating in the fictional Missouri town. He plods along at the whims of Willoughby but sometimes pipes up with a good idea or quip of his own.


McDonagh also cast him in…

In Seven Psychopaths Ivanek plays Paulo, the head of Costello’s gang of thugs, who threatens Farrell’s Marty with great relish. He clashes with the same actor in In Bruges, as a Canadian who complains about cigarette smoke in a restaurant and gets offended when Farrell’s Ray calls him American.


Brendan Sexton III as Crop-Haired Guy

Although he sounds like an irrelevant extra with no lines, Crop-Haired Guy is central to the plot of Three Billboards. Sexton tends to get typecast as bad guys, and this film is no different. With his steely stare and a mouth in overdrive, you wouldn’t want to get as far as asking his name.


McDonagh also cast him in…

Sexton is the young version of Zachariah Rigby (Tom Waits) in Seven Psychopaths’ flashback scenes, in which he and his wife Maggie go “around the country killing people who go around the country killing people”. We’ll have to wait and see if McDonagh casts Sexton as anything but a villain in future, but we’re not holding our breath…


Amanda Warren as Denise

Denise is one of Mildred’s few friends in Ebbing and her colleague at a gift shop. She’s a straight talker who’s determined to stand in Mildred’s corner… until the police get involved.


McDonagh also cast her in…

Remember Maggie, one half of the murderous couple in Seven Psychopaths? That was Warren! And the McDonagh universe (McDonaghverse?) comes together.


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Image credits: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.