Jump to: Spoilers (7)
Writer and director Martin McDonagh was inspired to write the movie after seeing billboards about an unsolved crime while travelling "somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner."
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The sequence where Dixon assaults Red Welby and throws him out the window was done in one continuous take. According to director Martin McDonagh, they filmed the scene five different times and the shot used in the film was take #4.
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Frances McDormand was hesitant to take the role of Mildred when offered to her, but was eventually convinced by her husband, Joel Coen. She said, "Because at the time he gave it to me I was fifty-eight. I was concerned that women from this socioeconomic strata did not wait until thirty-eight to have their first child. So we went back and forth and we debated that quite for a while, and then finally my husband said, 'Just shut up and do it.'"
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The basis of this story is from actual events in Vidor, Texas just outside of Beaumont, Texas. The police ignored both the facts and the parents of a poor girl who was murdered in 1991, by an alleged hometown hero from an old money family. As the police have done nothing, the billboards are still up on Interstate 10.
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Woody Harrelson would often use his breaks from shooting to sign autographs and take pictures with locals who had come to watch the filming. During an extended break one day, he played an impromptu guitar performance at the music store next to the police station set.
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Production staff welcomed locals to watch outdoor scenes being filmed at public locations, provided they were not disruptive. Each shooting day, crowds would form to watch the proceedings, often upwards of one hundred people. During breaks in shooting, the actors and actresses would approach the crowds to sign autographs and take pictures.
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In additional to gaining weight, Sam Rockwell wore padding to make his character appear chubbier.
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There is no town in Missouri named Ebbing. The movie was filmed in the small mountain town of Sylva, North Carolina.
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Frances McDormand's Oscar for Best Actress which she received for this film was stolen (and immediately retrieved) the day after the awarding ceremony.
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Though it was initially supposed to be a simple task, Sam Rockwell's accent research was very involved. According to dialect coach Elizabeth Himelstein, Rockwell likes to find authentic people and record them for accent references. Himelstein watched an episode of Cops (1989) from Springfield, Missouri and tweeted the police department requesting an interview with the Chief of Police. Not long afterward, Himelstein and Rockwell Skyped with the officer and learned about his life and his job. "The officer actually came up with the word 'clank' for jail", she says. "Sam brought that to Martin, and he agreed to put that word in the script." Then, she says, the officer made a recording of himself saying all of Rockwell's lines. From there, Sam studied the recordings.
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The bandanna Mildred wears is an homage to The Deer Hunter (1978), of which Martin McDonagh and Sam Rockwell are avid fans. During the filming of Seven Psychopaths (2012), they often discussed the movie with Christopher Walken.
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The movie that Dixon's (Sam Rockwell's) mother is watching with Donald Sutherland and "his dead girl" is Don't Look Now (1973), directed by Nicolas Roeg. This movie was also alluded to in Martin McDonagh's feature film, In Bruges (2008). In this film, Frances McDormand's character parallels Donald Sutherland's character in that they both are driven by the guilt and grief of losing their daughter.
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The "deer scene" was filmed with Becca the White-Tailed Deer at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Becca's trainer and caretaker is award winning singer and songwriter Ben Wilson.
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The prop department meticulously studied various font options for the text on the titular billboard. The font they eventually chose was Impact.
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There are several allusions to Don't Look Now (1973). Not just the storylines of both films being about parents grieving the death of a daughter. The film Dixon's mother is watching on television about "the dead girl" is Don't Look Now (1973), from which a few brief notes from Pino Donaggio's score are heard. Red is the key color in both films. The eponymous billboards are bright red and the agency guy is called "Red". Both films have a little person, a useless priest, hopeless cops, a nasty fall, a massive knife, children left to play alone by water, and a kids' toy bobbing in water.
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Local residents of Jackson County, North Carolina were encouraged to apply to be extras. Several were cast for background roles. Students from the Stage and Screen department of nearby Western Carolina University were cast as shooting stand-ins for the main actors and actresses.
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The bright red background on the three billboards is a recurrent color throughout the movie. In clothing such as Jerome and Mildred's tops, lighting in the street, and in the bar, and also in props such as Mildred's swings, Dixon's telephone, Dixon's headphones, and the restaurant tablecloth and picture frames to point out a few. In advertising, which is the primary function of the billboards, color repetition is used to keep a brand or product at the forefront of a consumers mind. In a similar way, Mildred is trying to keep her daughter's case at the forefront of the local police investigations. As a result, both the characters and the audience are continuously reminded of Mildred's message.
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The TV reporter is about to recite the full title of the movie, but is interrupted by Mildred who happened to be driving by.
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A white rabbit always appears in all of Martin McDonagh's films in some form. Even his short film Six Shooter (2004). The meaning is not known, but it is a fun Easter egg to hunt for.
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Sam Rockwell peppers his version of Streets of Laredo (1995) with shouts of "mao!", which is a reference to the Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter (1978), of which writer and director Martin McDonagh and Sam Rockwell are avid fans.
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The second of only two films to win both Best Film and Best British Film at the BAFTAs, after The King's Speech (2010).
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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Woody Harrelson described this as "Super Troopers (2001) meets Seven Psychopaths (2012)."
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This is the first movie since Bugsy (1991) to have two Academy Awards nominations in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.
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Sam Rockwell's character's full name is Jason Dixon. An intended pun on "Mason-Dixon", thus emphasizing the stereotypical Southern "redneck" character personified by Dixon.
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When we first meet Red in the office, he is reading "A Good Man Is Hard to Find", the short story collection by Flannery O'Connor.
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First film since Dallas Buyers Club (2013) to win in two acting categories at the Academy awards, and the first since Million Dollar Baby (2004) to win both Best Actress and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
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The film was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it premiered on September 4, 2017. It also played at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won its top prize, the People's Choice Award. This film was also screened at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Abbie Cornish, Sam Rockwell, Zeljko Ivanek, Brendan Sexton III, and Woody Harrelson worked with writer and director Martin McDonagh on Seven Psychopaths (2012).
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The beer that Dixon, the guy from Idaho, and his pal are drinking in the Town Pump Tavern is Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout brewed in Farmville, North Carolina.
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Dixon's pet tortoise appeared three times throughout the movie. Once at the beginning (Dixon is holding it), once in the middle (turtle on coffee table/tray), and once at the end (in his mother's lap as he leaves).
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The beer Dixon and his mom are drinking is called Napoleon Complex (green label), made by Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. Mama Dixon, played by Sandy Martin, was the grandma in Napoleon Dynamite (2004).
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This marks the reunion of three of the actors who appeared together in Low Down (2014): Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage, and John Hawkes.
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When Jerome and Denise are sitting at the bar, with Dixon sitting in a booth, a forty-five star U.S. flag can be seen hanging on the wall.
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First full-length film in which writer and director Martin McDonagh did not use a song from The Walkmen in the soundtrack.
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Sandy Martin appeared in Martin McDonagh's previous film, Seven Psychopaths (2012), as the mother of a dead mobster. However, her scene was cut. It appears in the deleted scenes.
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The age gap between the two couples are 33 (between actors Hawkes and Weaving) and 21 years (between actors Harrelson and Cornish) with the male partner older than the female partner.
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Product placements include e Morton salt and Ehlers coffee.
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In a rare instance, the Google Street View van was traveling through Sylva, North Carolina in May 2016 while primary filming was under way. On Google Street View (link in the External Sites section here on IMDb) there is ample evidence of crew, including set decoration, Second Assistant Directors, gaffers, and properties working on the south side of Main street. The Sylvan used furniture store is dressed as the Ebbing Police Station after the fire. Dressing crew can be seen putting up plywood on the burned building.
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One of the comic books that Dixon reads, and has a shirt of, is "Incorruptible", written by Mark Waid, it tells the story of a villain who is thrust into the role of a hero. This parallels Dixon's own journey throughout the film.
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Several locations used for shooting were businesses that were repurposed or given façades for use during shooting. Most notably, the Ebbing Police Department building was a consignment furniture store. The building was rented, crews redressed the interior and exterior, even special effects scenes involving pyrotechnics were filmed. Then the building was renovated to its original state and returned to the business owners.
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There is some sort of anti-karma idea represented in the movie in a lot of cases. (1) Mildred (Frances McDormand) uses the billboards to blame Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) for not finding the killer of her daughter. He in return, pays an extra month rent to keep those billboards. (2) Dixon (Sam Rockwell) throws Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) out of second-floor window; but, when he meets Welby in the hospital and apologizes for the damage done, Welby is mad at him, but eventually leaves him a glass of juice. (3) Mildred set the police station on fire while Dixon was inside. Dixon decides to save Mildred's daughter's case file from the fire before leaving, and eventually gets burned by the fire set by Mildred, later is told by Mildred that she was the one who caused the fire, to which he responds by joking about it. (4) We learn along the way that Charlie (John Hawkes), Mildred's ex-husband, was actually the one who set the billboards on fire when drunk. Later, the scene when her date is ruined, she takes their leftover bottle of wine, goes to Charlie's table, tells him to take care of his new girlfriend, and just leaves the wine bottle on his table and leaves.
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Lowest body count for a Martin McDonagh film (two).
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The killer is never revealed.
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