Directed by Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark comedy that follow Mildred Hays, played by Frances McDormand, who after months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case, makes a bold move, commissioning three signs leading into her town with a controversial message directed at William Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson. Apparently, Willoughby is the town’s revered chief of police but it such doesn’t look like it in the trailer.
When Willoughby’s second-in-command Officer Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, an immature mother’s boy with a penchant for violence, gets involved, the battle between Mildred and Ebbing’s law enforcement is only exacerbated.
This is a great interview about an actor’s process of being the character.
The trailer is hilarious and fun to watch but I still feel Hays’ pain of losing her daughter without the police doing anything about her murder.
The story begins with Mildred Hayes and the three billboards she rents on Drinkwater Road. “I decided the buyer of the billboards was an aggrieved mother and from there, things almost wrote themselves,” McDonagh recalls. “Mildred was someone strong, determined and raging, yet also broken inside. That was the germination of the story.”
Frances McDormand is awesome to watch in the trailer and clip as a modern, female variant of the classic western hero in a showdown-style performance. “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,” she explains. “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 and a Molotov cocktail.”
“I could see it in her walk and her attitude,” says McDonagh. “I think John Wayne did become a touchstone to a degree for Frances. But I also see Brando and Montgomery Clift in there, too.”
Here is a featurette describing McDonagh.