Profanity in trailer raises questions

Three Billboards. Photo from The Sylva Herald.

This story was written by Jason Farmer, originally published in The Sylva Herald.

A just-released movie trailer for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” shocked some local residents and thrilled others with its profanity-spewing approach.

“Martin really went to town on this first trailer,” Location Manager Robert Foulkes said Friday about Director Martin McDonagh’s movie tease. “It is very intense, with its visuals and dialogue.”

Foulkes said Fox Searchlight is “very pleased with the movie and excited to time the release for an Oscar-consideration push – most likely in October or November.

“Cheers to Sylva!” he added. “While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, this movie will definitely inspire moviegoers around the world to want to visit your wonderfully accommodating and amazing-looking town.”

Will it?

A number of county residents took to social media to praise the trailer, others to pan it, after The Herald posted the video last Thursday.

The video is a “red band” trailer, meaning it is uncensored – leading to the restricted rating notice at the beginning of the clip.

“If you want a movie with three-fourths of it foul language, then this is the movie for you,” Mary Anders, of Sylva, said on Facebook. “Nothing to brag about it being done in Sylva.”

Frank Case, a former Jackson County resident, said that he is disappointed Sylva is associated with a movie “loaded with offensive language.”

McDonagh’s movies are known for harsh language and visuals, Sylva Town Manager Paige Dowling said. His most recent movies, “Seven Psychopaths” and “In Bruges” are rated R – with one nominated for an Oscar.

“We knew what McDonagh’s work was like going into it, because it was expressed at the public hearing on Feb. 22 last year,” Dowling said. “There are people who still want to see the movie, because it was filmed in Sylva, if they can overlook the language. I think the town looked really good in it.”

Tourism Development Authority Chairman Robert Jumper said he doesn’t believe the film’s language will hurt Sylva in visitors’ eyes.

“While we certainly understand that people may find the profanity offensive, due to the fictional nature of this film both in script and location (Ebbing, Missouri), it does not reflect on the integrity and community that is Sylva.”

Julie Spiro, director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“We appreciate the town of Sylva’s commitment to bring a movie to Sylva and, whether you like it or don’t like this movie, it will still create an economic impact for the area, and that’s good,” she said.

McDonagh’s movie crew viewed 19 towns in North Carolina before selecting Sylva.

The dark comedy tells the story of Mildred Hayes, a woman in her early 50s, who goes to war against the local police force, believing them to be too inept to solve the murder of her daughter.

The movie stars Frances McDormand, winner of Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards; Woody Harrelson, an Emmy winner; Sam Rockwell; as well as other big-name actors.

Crowds flocked to Sylva during the movie’s May 2016 filming dates for the opportunity to see Hollywood stars. Several local businesses flourished with the influx of customers, however, some did not, because of road closures.

Filming ended during the final week of May.

Click here to view the video.