We’re all a bit overwhelmed these days by the attention Achill Island is getting in national and international press, thanks to the release last weekend of Martin McDonagh’s film The Banshees of Inisherin. At exactly this time last year, on October 31, 2021, the remaining film crew, some of whom had come to Achill in mid-August after filming on Inis Mór in the Aran Islands, were packing up and leaving Achill for home. We islanders were just getting used to seeing Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and plenty of other famous faces around the place. Quite a few local women took up running after spotting Colin jogging to the different sets around the island in mint green short shorts!
We had some of the location crew staying with us in Teach Cruachán B&B, and they were just lovely guests. Contrary to popular belief, working in the film industry is anything but glamorous. The workday starts very early and finishes very late for those constructing sets, making costumes, and managing locations and extras during filming. Robert, one of our guests who was responsible for locations, works on feature films and other projects every year and he noticed there was something different about the atmosphere around this one.
Martin McDonagh, a playwright, screenwriter, and director whose star has been steadily rising over the past few years, culminating in two Academy Awards for 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was really engaged with this film, which he both wrote and directed. And the island locations of Inis Mór and Achill had a lot to do with his optimism. His excitement about Achill as a location was contagious and cast and crew noticed he was thrilled one day to capture a stunning rainbow that now appears in the opening sequence of the film.
McDonagh has often said in interviews given since the film’s opening that the Achill landscape was like one of the main characters of the story. A reviewer in GQ wrote, “Achill Island’s imposing mountains lend a sense of drama to the film, creating a looming backdrop against which Colm (Gleeson) and Pádraic’s (Farrel) relationship disintegrates.”
In the Irish Independent’s article on Banshee’s west of Ireland locations we learn, “On Achill, the famously beautiful Keem Strand, a beach that had made many of the ‘world’s best beaches’ lists, features in one scene. Tildesley told CNT: “The idea was that they would be on this beautiful beach overlooking a vast and misty body of water, but that mainland Ireland really wasn’t that far away.” The mountainous landscape on the island provides the scenery for certain scenes. A fisherman’s cottage (overlooking Keem Bay) was converted into Colm’s (Brendan Gleeson) cottage, with a bright yellow and red interior adding character. Production designer Martin Tildesley told Conde Nast Traveler: “Martin basically chose the view that he wanted, so that if he shot through the open door it would have this very particular framing of the sea. We went to the coastline and took a few steps back and there was the view that he wanted.”
There’s a lot of speculation that The Banshees of Inisherin is in line for several Oscar nominations, and if that happens the spotlight will shine even brighter on Achill Island. We’re just warning you now to book early next year for bicycle hire and bed and breakfast!