15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘In Bruges’

15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘In Bruges’

In Bruges, the 2008 black comedy starring Irish duo Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, was playwright Martin McDonagh’s very first feature film. And what a film, placing two hitmen hiding out and bickering like an old married couple in the medieval-style city of Bruges, Belgium. It’s as eccentric as crime comedies come and a pure pleasure to watch. 

So let’s take a scenic trivia tour of the movie in which Farrell insults American tourists and punches a Canadian in a restaurant...

The Boat Stunt Was Originally Going to Be Different

Farrell’s stunt double, James Embree, revealed that initially, there wasn’t going to be any boat in the scene where Farrell’s character, Ray, jumps out of the window. “I traveled out there with another stuntman called Jamie; he was driving the boat for the scene where I jumped out of the window of the hotel into the canal,” Embree has explained. “Initially, the idea was for Ray to jump into the river, but it was way too shallow for that, so Martin decided to use the tourist boat. We did speed tests past the window to figure out the timing; we actually drew a big crowd while we were rehearsing too. Colin did the lead-up and climbed onto the window ledge from the inside; he asked me what type of shape to get into to help with how I wanted to be for the jump, which was very cool.”

The Movie Shares Similarities with a Harold Pinter Play

It has been pointed out that In Bruges not only resembles playwright Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter — a one-act play about two hitmen waiting on an assignment while they bicker about semantics and whatnot — but the movie also features Pinter’s love for bantering dialogue.

Bruges Tourists All Want to See the Same Thing

The Bruges Film Office once told RTE that most tourists “want to know where the tower that Brendan jumped from is.” They also said that they once had a guy who was eager to tell them just how many times the word “fuck” was said in the movie (according to this calculation, it’s 126 times).

The Movie Set in the Film Was Modeled After the Bosch Painting

Production designer Michael Carlin said that the movie set Ray stumbles on was purposely created to tie in with Ray’s enthrallment of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, The Last Judgment.

Ray and Ken Were Supposed to Be Londoners

McDonagh said he didn’t have any specific actors in mind for the roles of Ray and Ken when he was writing the screenplay. However, he stated they were Londoners in the script and only changed them to Irish when Farrell and Gleeson were cast.

The Story Was Born from McDonagh’s Weekend Trip to Bruges

The writer/director once said that it all came about when he visited the city for a two-day weekend. “When I got there, I was stunned by how beautiful it was,” he remembers. “I went to every museum and church on the first day, and by the middle of the second day, I was bored out of my head because I’ve been to every church four times. I just wanted to get drunk, get laid and get out of there. I guess those two parts of my brain started talking — the culture lover and the drunken whore — and I thought, ‘Why would two people like that be in Bruges when they didn’t have to be?’ That’s where the idea of the hitmen came from, and it kind of wrote itself after that.”

Farrell and Fiennes Had to Show Off Their Sprinting Skills

When IndieWire asked McDonagh about his favorite scene in the movie, he talked about shooting the chase scene. “Most exciting was the chase, running down the dark streets of Bruges at night,” he admitted. “Basically, we were on a little camera truck, which we tried to drive as fast as possible and get the guys to run as fast as possible. Colin’s a big smoker. Ralph is fit, but we couldn’t ask them to do that many times. So it was cool just to go as fast as possible, and still be up close and intimate, and have it a little exciting and jagged, with gunshots going off and little explosions. That section was all story-boarded and fun to edit too.”

McDonagh Worries About a Particular Joke He Wrote in the Film

During the museum scene, Ray and Ken talk about Purgatory, with Ray saying: “Purgatory’s kind of like the in-between-y one. You weren’t really shit, but you weren’t all that great, either. Like Tottenham.” This joke aimed at the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team and their so-so legacy has had McDonagh worried ever since he wrote it. “I do find myself agreeing with that,” McDonagh told GQ in 2018. “But ever since I wrote that scene, I’ve been worried it would eventually be ruined by Tottenham winning the treble. That’s been a constant source of anxiety in my life. But I think I’m safe — for a while at least.”

Ralph Fiennes Studied a Bob Hoskins Movie to Get into Character

Fiennes revealed during an interview that, to get in the mindset of his character, Harry Waters, who is part family man and part sociopathic businessman, he watched the 1980 British gangster movie, The Long Good Friday. “You get a sense of that world with the Bob Hoskins character, where he has his girlfriend, and he has his friends,” Fiennes explained. “And then there’s the tougher business side.”

Farrell Was Reluctant at First to Take on the Part

Farrell once said during an interview that he told McDonagh to cast someone else. He felt the movie was too good and that audiences might come in expecting something different simply because he’s in it. McDonagh told him he was all wrong and cast him anyway. 

McDonagh Sees The Banshees of Inisherin as an In Bruges Sequel

Or at least, a sequel gone wrong. “It’s literally almost like a sequel that goes wrong from the very first five minutes,” he told Seth Meyers, explaining that while Farrell and Gleeson’s In Bruges characters kind of fall in love with each other, The Banshees of Inisherin sees their characters going through a breakup.

The Movies That Inspired McDonagh

McDonagh told Pop Entertainment that two films in particular inspired him to create In Bruges: Don’t Look Now and Performance. Don’t Look Now is a good template for trying to capture a city as a character in a film,” he explained. Performance is a 1970 British crime drama starring James Fox and Mick Jagger.

There’s a Deleted Scene Showing Harry Waters’ Backstory

Matt Smith played the younger Harry Waters in a deleted scene that served as a flashback showing him decapitating a detective inside a police station. The scene is rough because it didn’t go through post-production, and also garishly gory.

McDonagh on Writing the Role of Jimmy

When asked why McDonagh wrote a little person character into a black comedy script, he explained the reasoning behind Jimmy (Jordan Prentice): “With that character, if you are trying to write a fully-rounded little person character, who happens to be an actor, it kind of lends itself to exploring a darker theme. Because, obviously, all they ever get to play is an elf or a munchkin or something like that. So I kind of wanted to explore how does that affect you if you are a good actor? How do you live? What do you turn to? How does it make you feel? In this case, he turns to coke and hookers.”

The Movie Made Best Friends Out of Farrell and Gleeson

It was the first time the two actors worked together on a project, and Farrell remembers how he knew that Gleeson was a real mensch. “The first time I met him was in a room at the Chelsea Hotel,” Farrell told the Irish Examiner. “I had recently put the jar down; I was sober about a year and a half or something like that. … I’d know that this man would like a pint every now and then and I certainly had a reputation, and the reputation was now that I was recently sober, he knew that. Anyway, he said, ‘Will you have a drink?’ and he went to a mini bar and he pulled out two bottles of water, and he went, ‘I have still or sparkling.’ In that moment, the simplicity of that gesture told me, ‘There’s a man that will look after you. There’s a man that will take care of you; there’s a man that considers people.’”

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