While perusing Hollywood Interview after following the link to the Gabriel Byrne interview in the post below, I found an interview with one Jeff Dowd. Jeff who? you might ask. He’s an old friend of the Coen brothers and largely the inspiration for The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Of course, the interview is mostly about Lebowski and is quite an interesting read.
Archive for April, 2009
This just popped into my RSS reader. it’s quite a long interview with Gabriel Byrne who, I’m sure I don’t need to say, played Tom Reagan in the Coen brothers’ gangster master piece, Miller’s Crossing. He mainly talks about his current acting gig in the very excellent HBO show In Treatment where he plays a psychiatrist. He speaks at length, and fondly, of his time working with the Coen brothers. I have extracted the relevant parts out below but do read the whole interview.
The next film we have to discuss is Miller’s Crossing, another favorite of mine. Tell us about the Coen brothers and their universe.
Well, there was pre-universe, during it, and post-universe. (laughs) When I read that script, I was just like anybody I think who read it, just really impressed by how visual and literate and how complex those relationships in the story actually were. When you unravel what that movie is about, it’s even more audacious that someone could base a storyline on that single conversation between Steve Buscemi’s character and mine at the bottom of the staircase. All the twists and turns, the betrayals…
Everyone betrays everyone at the end of that film.
Yeah, they do. I think the film was really about the idea of who can you really trust.
And can you even trust yourself at the end of the day?
Exactly. Nobody ever really knows anybody.
I loved your character of Tom Reagan.
Yeah, he’s a watcher and a mover and shaker and really quite ruthless and deadly in the end.
I just finished college when the film came out, and had written a paper on Machiavelli, and it struck me that what the Coens did was to take Machiavelli, put him in a gangster picture in the 1930s, and make him an Irishman.
Well, yeah. (laughs) There were certainly Machiavellian traits in the character and as much as the film is about gangsters, it’s also a film about big business and about the nature of morality. I think when the film came out it was really underrated.
The other element that defines it, as with all the Coens’ films, is its incredible sense of humor. It’s a very satirical film.
Oh, its humor is terrific. There’s laugh out loud moments in that movie, whereas on paper, it didn’t necessarily read that way. When Albert Finney turns around says “They took his hair, Tommy. They took his hair!” (laughs) And of course, we’d just seen the kid run off with the guy’s rug in the earlier scene. I asked the Coens what their inspiration was to write the film, and I forget whether it was Joel or Ethan who said to me: “You always see gangsters in the street, but you never see them in a forest.” I just thought that was so brilliant. Plus, there’s so much amazing imagery: the hat floating by the camera through the forest, which is one of the most original images in film history.
They also pay homage to some of my favorite films, especially the ending, which is a nod to The Third Man.
Yeah, there’s The Third Man, there’s also The Glass Key in there, the original Scarface with Paul Muni. I remember looking at those old gangster films and thinking ‘What can I steal out of here that won’t be too obvious. And I think it’s in Scarface where Paul Muni lights the match off the policeman’s badge. It’s just a throwaway bit, but in order to set up that shot in Miller’s Crossing, it was this really complicated process, where we had to fix the cop’s badge with sulfur and all kinds of props for that bit to work. And it was this wonderful, Coen-esque cop character: “I’m just speculatin’ about a hypothesis, Tom!” (laughs) It looked like a throwaway moment, but it really helped establish Tom’s disrespect for the law, and everything, really.
You got to work with the great Albert Finney in that film.
Yeah, we shot that in and around New Orleans, and I think if they’d had an election for Mayor that year, Albert would’ve won it, hands-down. He led the St. Patrick’s Day parade and was up and down Bourbon Street every night. The last thing you’d think of Albert after talking with him was that he was an actor, which is the greatest compliment I can give him. You’d talk with Albert about race horses, football, politics, what was going on down the road. I never heard him talk about acting, and I’m not someone who likes talking about acting, either, or talking about the business. We had many great conversations. I remember after we shot that scene in the park, we were two hours from New Orleans, and myself and Albert came back together in the van. We didn’t have separate cars in that film, everyone just went in the van together. It was great. Coming back, I just sat with Albert for two hours and he told me all about where he was born, and where he was brought up, what working in England was like in the 1950s and ‘60s…he told me how he turned down the lead inLawrence of Arabia. I said ‘Did you regret it?’ He said “No Gabe, I didn’t regret it, because the next year I won the Oscar for Tom Jones.” (laughs)
NPR has a brief write up of a recent brief interview with Ethan Coen, where he discusses his written work and touches a little on the forthcoming movie, A Serious Man. You can read the article but also listen to the interview (by clicking “listen now” then “add to playlist” from the top of the article). He talks about his published books, including the release (April 20th) of the recent play, Almost an Evening, along with the re-release of his book of poetry, ‘The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way‘.
Back to movies then, of A Serious Man he says;
“It’s about a Jewish family in the Midwest, a kind of middle-class Jewish family in 1967 and it’s kind of, well you know, like all our movies. I hope there are some laughs but I’m not sure I would call it a comedy. It’s kind of a domestic drama about a guy whose life kind of falls apart. Horrible, horrible things happen to him so, of course, it’s funny.”
Says “kind of” a lot doesn’t he?
Thanks due to elite Coen brothers news hound, Bunnie!
I have popped links to Carter Burwell’s site, up many times in the past and here’s another. Burwell has launched what he’s calling Radio Burwell on the site which continually cycles through lots of his amazing movie music including a lot of Coen brothers stuff (including parts from Sawbones). Check it out here.
Also while on the site, I was delighted to learn that Burwell is scoring Spike Jonze’s forthcoming Where The Wild Things Are, an adaptation of one of my favourite childhood books, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. You can watch the spectacular looking trailer here (although it has no music by Burwell but rather the track, Wake Up, by the most excellent Arcade Fire). Cannot wait!
Thanks to long time YKFK reader Joe for letting me know.
WOW! I love it when this happens because it doesn’t happen very often but MGM are releasing the Blu-ray version of Fargo in the UK on 4th May while the US has to wait till 12th. I don’t know how this got by me till now but I’ve just pre-ordered it. So exciting!
Who knew but Knox Harringon, the “famous video artist” has his own website! It doesn’t seem to DO much but it’s nice that someone thinks he deserves his own web presence. Let me know if you find something on the site.
He’s a Big Lebowski personal favourite of mine because he has a Scouse accent which, I assume, Thewlis himself brought to the role since he is from just up the road in Blackpool. It’s nice to have a character from my home town in a Coen brothers movie.
In a brief interview with the Chigago Tribune novellist Michael Chabon had this to say about the Coen brothers adaptation of his novel…
Q What’s moving forward most quickly is a Coen brothers’ adaptation of “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union,” right?
A Right. I’m a huge Coen brothers fan. I love their movies. It’s an event when there’s a new Coen brothers movie coming out. I can’t wait to see it. The fact that it’s something I wrote is just gravy. They seem perfect for it. As soon as I heard they were considering it, they sounded like the ideal choice for the material.
I couldn’t agree more about this being right up the Coen’s alley and I really, REALLY hope they get to it as soon as True Grit is finished.
Thanks to Will for mailing this in.
IGN.com have reviewed the forthcoming 2-disc Blu-ray release of No Country For Old Men which is out in the US tomorrow and should be region free (this is unconfirmed at the moment but the last release was). Initially I was resistant to this release on account of the fact that this is the movie’s second Blu-ray release ALREADY. But is seems it might actually be worth a purchase.
The review, of course, gives the movie itself 10/10 and 9/10 for the both the audio and visual quality but most interstingly is the 10/10 given for the extra features. Apparenly the interviews contained on the first disc (2nd disc is just the digital copy) run to around 5 hours in total!!!