Writer-director John Michael McDonagh declared war on STACK when we pitched him ten questions about his latest film, War on Everyone – the story of two corrupt cops in New Mexico who set out to blackmail and frame every criminal unfortunate enough to cross their path.

Has society become too politically correct, and was War on Everyone conceived as a response to that?
You’d need to be more specific about which society you mean before I could reasonably answer the question. Do you mean Australian society, Russian society, Indonesian society? I never conceive films in response to anything. Only idiots do that. War on Everyone was conceived to tell an entertaining story, and to make me a lot of money, which it did.

The characters are not in any way nice guys, but you nevertheless find yourself rooting for them. Was it difficult to keep this balance?
No. It’s called a story arc.

What inspired the change from filming in Ireland to New Mexico?
The narrative of War on Everyone seemed to fit more comfortably in an American setting than an Irish one. All my films are essentially Westerns, so I thought it was about time I shot a film in the American (South)West. I’d also like to point out that I was born in South London and have lived in South London all my life. To believe that I would continually make films in Ireland is absurd.

Did the geographical shift require a change in how the jokes were written?
Only as regards American idioms. Nothing was censored.

You cast Alexander Skarsgård as Terry because of his drunken football video. How did you come across it and what was it about the video that made you think he was the right choice?
I usually watch YouTube when I’m drunk myself, so that was probably how I discovered it. I guess there was a recklessness to the incident (a guy who basically doesn’t give a f-ck) that fit with my conception of Terry. Also, I assumed that Alex would be a good laugh whenever we went out drinking during the making or the promotion of the film, and that proved to be the case.

You seem overly fond of the wipe transitions in this film.
That’s a statement not a question. And “overly fond” is a snide, pejorative comment. Go
f-ck yourself.

Director John Michael McDonagh. Photo credit: Nicolas Gerardin

The influence of the Western genre is hard to miss. What was it about the genre that you wanted to bring to War on Everyone?
Westerns always have a shootout at the end, so I wanted that. In Westerns, though, there are men in white hats and men in black hats. In War on Everyone, everyone is wearing black hats.

Terry’s 1970 Monte Carlo coupe seems to be indestructible during the beatings it takes. Was it as tough as it looks?
We had two cars. The first one was demolished in the early scene where Terry drives it into a parked car. Alex did that for real. He was only meant to clip the parked car, but he ploughed right into it. So that meant we only had one car for the rest of the picture. Luckily, we got away with it. It was only during shooting that I noticed how many times the car was actually smashing into things, which is why I added Terry’s line (“I love this car! It’s f–ing indestructible!”) right at the end.

War on Everyone has a larger scope than your previous films, The Guard and Calvary, which were set in small towns. How did you find this transition?
That’s not true. War on Everyone doesn’t have a larger scope than Calvary. Calvary is a film about big philosophical issues, life-and-death issues that human beings struggle with every day. War on Everyone is a black comedy about two corrupt cops. Massive difference. If you’re asking about the nitty-gritty of working with American crews, as opposed to Irish crews, I would say that it’s the same the world over — there are people who are good at their jobs and there are people who aren’t. I was surprised, however, at just how many more people there are in the US who are bad at their jobs.

If you were to declare war on everyone, is there anyone you would class as an exception?
Amy Adams.

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