Brow Beat

The Director of Wild Mountain Thyme Is Spectacularly Horny on Main

John Patrick Shanley’s tweets are loony, rain-drenched, and standing on your doorstep.

Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan in the rain, in Ireland.
Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan in Wild Mountain Thyme. Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street Media

You may know John Patrick Shanley as a Pulitzer-winning playwright who, every couple of decades, gets the chance to direct one of his own screenplays. Maybe you saw the trailer for his Wild Mountain Thyme, the rain-drenched romantic comedy opening Friday starring (in decreasing order of convincing Irish accents) Jamie Dornan, Emily Blunt, and Christopher Walken, and recalled him as the guy who wrote Moonstruck.* With its snappy dialogue and its characters who wear their hearts on their sleeves, Wild Mountain Thyme—104 minutes of absolute blarney, and I say that with great affection—is clearly meant to recall that swoony, madcap classic.

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But real fans of John Patrick Shanley—call us John Patrick Stanleys—know that you don’t have to watch the plays or the movies for uncut doses of JPS’s drippy romanticism. No, for more than half a decade, Shanley has been giving it away for free on social media, with daily Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts that I can only describe as absolutely soaking wet. John Patrick Shanley is a world-class poster, and his feeds are the social media equivalent of two hot Irish people standing in an emerald-green field, opening their hearts to each other in the pouring rain. To read them is to marvel at a person with the energy and self-regard necessary to decree himself a twice-daily fount of wisdom—to stand in awe at the Shanleyness of John Patrick Shanley.

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Sometimes, as above, the messages are philosophicalish, shrouded in mystery. Sometimes they are desperately romantic, in the manner of Shanley characters like Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck.

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Sometimes that romanticism creeps a little further into the realm of abject horniness:

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In all cases, the tweets represent a playwright’s faith in the power of language to inspire, to comfort, to drop panties. In Wild Mountain Thyme, Jamie Dornan goes off on an impassioned speech about what Ireland means to him, the power of the land, etc. “The green fields, the animals livin’ off ’em,” Emily Blunt muses to her horse, Blister (?), after he departs. “When he says those things, Blister, I know I must have him, God help me.”

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Later, Emily Blunt makes her own declaration, designed to coax the reluctant Dornan into love with her. “It’s good you’re tall,” she says. “Men are beasts. They need that height to balance the truth and the goodness of women.”

“There’s no answer to blather like that!” Dornan protests.

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“Hope,” she says. “It’s a force. And women are the salvation of the world.” I checked: This has not been a John Patrick Shanley tweet, but it may as well have been a John Patrick Shanley tweet.

Like all great posters, Shanley adapts his message to his medium. Twitter is where Shanley dispenses aphorisms and words of inspiration, and also once filmed himself describing a dream he had about an elephant. But he also posts multiple times a day to Instagram, where he disseminates modern art and loves a good Emily Dickinson quote. He also likes to tell his followers what he’s been thinking about, as in this video, where he’s been thinking a lot about truth:

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The “good morning” at the beginning of this monologue is a throwback to Shanley’s longtime social media ritual on Facebook, where for many years he posted twice daily. Every morning a “good morning,” every evening a “good night,” accompanied always by a photo of a nature scene or, you know, a painting yanked from the internet of a mostly-naked woman floating in the sky:

I think another crucial part of Shanleyness as an aesthetic is a recognition that sometimes words fail us—that sometimes human life cannot be summarized in speech, that inspiration comes not from wit but from the exquisite beauty of a rainstorm, or a professionally-photographed naked lady. Long ago, aficionados of Shanley’s Facebook posts—like my college friends, one of whom directed Shanley’s The Big Funk in our undergraduate theater and now finds her affection for that play curdled by his online persona—noticed that the ratio of rainstorms to naked ladies fluctuated over time, and that for certain months his Facebook feed was really nothing but women. If he seemed like the kind of guy who might, on a hot July day, post “Good morning” along with a decidedly nonprofessional snapshot of the bottom half of a young woman fully nude except for pink bobby socks, and then delete it half an hour later, well, our group of eagle-eyed Stanleys can confirm he is not at all unlike that kind of guy. (A year or so later, he stopped posting to Facebook entirely.)

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What I find most fascinating about JPS’s posting habit is how much it reflects, for good and for ill, the tensions at play in his work. The twinkly wisdom and the declarations of love and, yes, the fully nude women posted on Election Day all represent, to me, the way that the wayward romanticism that’s so charming in Moonstruck tends to manifest in the actual world: entitled, a little too forward, extremely sure of itself. In real life, very seldom do most of us want a guy to unexpectedly pick us up and carry us away. Sometimes, sure. But not with the frequency with which it happens in a story by John Patrick Shanley.

Correction, Dec. 10, 2020: The author of this post has learned that Jamie Dornan is actually Irish. Slate regrets the error.

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