Of the films filling the slots for this year’s Oscar contenders (it’s been nominated seven times), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is by far one of the realest stories being told. But is it? After a woman is fed up with the authorities for letting her daughter’s rape and murder case go cold, three billboards appear on the side of a road, asking the chief of police for explanation.
Three Billboards stars Francis McDormand and Woody Harrelson as sworn enemies in the fight for justice and life. McDormand’s character, Mildred Hayes, posts billboards that read, “Raped While Dying,” “And Still No Arrests,” and “How Come, Chief Willoughby?” Harrelson’s character, Bill Willoughby, takes the billboards personally while he deals with his own struggles of slowly dying from cancer.
However, one of the most frequently asked questions about the film isn’t about the plot. Rather, it’s the script that’s snagged most viewers’ attention. Where did this story come from? Could this have possibly been based on real events?
The answer is, simply, no. But there’s a backstory to the tale that’s worth knowing.
Director Martin McDonagh spoke with the LA Times about the inspiration behind the all-too-real plot. While on a road trip across America, the U.K.-born filmmaker sat on a bus and saw three billboards outside his window in middle-of-nowhere Texas.
While the film won’t get the credit “Based on True Events,” it very well could. And that’s what is important. This film portrays the lack of justice real-life women often face, and the overbearing injustices that plague Black and other minority communities in towns just like Ebbing, Missouri.