Archive for the ‘Barton Fink’ category
Yesterday Empire Magazine hosted a live webchat with none other than Ethan Coen. Ostensibly it was to discuss True Grit, which is released in the UK tomorrow, but the subject matters were wide and varied. I have cheekily copy and pasted it below but if you prefer to read it au naturel then head over to Empire’s site.
j_clark says: What made you choose to refer majorly to the original text [of Charles Portis’ True Grit] as opposed to the ‘69 film?
Well, I’ll tell you: we saw the ‘69 film in ‘69 so we didn’t remember it very well. The impetus for making the movie was an enthusiasm for the book, and we really only vaguely remembered the movie.
rhysf1 says: Do you find it difficult faithfully adapting a novel and not being able to use some of your classic dialogue and character names?
Character names, that’s interesting, because we actually rewrote a script once as a writing job because we liked one of the character names. The name was basically all we liked from the original script: the character’s name was Gus Petch. We actually ended up making the movie, it was Intolerable Cruelty. But no, we don’t store up names for later use, so we didn’t feel stymied in not being able to use our own character names.
Miles Messervy 007 says: Why ‘Roderick Jaynes’?
Oh, I don’t know. The name came out of the air, I don’t know. We decided he was from Hove, and embittered. Possibly the two things are related. I don’t know where the name came from, though.
Drew 666 says: What makes Joel laugh?
Could you talk about when you bring DoP Roger Deakins in and how his input impacts production? What’re the main things that Roger brings to the process?
He comes in as early as he can, and that’s totally contingent on his schedule. If he’s free, long before we start shooting then what we usually do is a draft of the storyboards without him and then a draft with him. We scout locations with him, again contingent on his schedule. He basically does everything with us from the point he’s able to sign on. Participating in the location scouting and the storyboards is important because it just goes to what the movie looks like, and if he’s shooting something.
Daryn says: Now that cinema tastes seemed to have changed and audiences seem more open to arthouse and experimental movies, is there any chance we will ever see your adapation of To The White Sea?
Oh no. We worked on it with a producer named Richard Roth, and Jeremy Thomas. They’re both great – Jeremy came very close to getting us the budget, which was large given the nature of the movie. But he came up short even with Brad Pitt doing the movie for free. So if we failed under those circumstances I don’t know that we’ll ever succeed. Also, Brad’s too old now.
J.D. DRUMPELLIER says: Would you ever consider making a horror film? I know you’ve dabbled with classic genre horror imagery in Blood Simple and the like, but would you ever consider just making an all-out horror picture in the same vein as Raising Arizona is an all-out farcical comedy?
Funny you should ask. Yes, we’re working on a couple of scripts now; one of which it would be fair to call a full-on horror movie. Frances McDormand is the monster.
thatfilmlover says: Joel and yourself have directed six actors to Oscar nominations, and two of them to wins. Now with Hailee [Steinfeld] and True Grit, what’s your secret to getting the best out of actors?
Not doing anything. We just cast actors who know what they’re doing and who we like working with. Actually, the whole directing actors is a mystery to me. I don’t know that we really do anything. We’d like to take credit for all their performances but…
nickjhp says: I was just wondering what the significance of the first scene in A Serious Man is? Oh… beats me. It’s better with it than without it, right? I don’t know.
El Dukerino says: Charles Portis has been described as “like Cormac McCarthy, but funny”. Do you think that’s fair?
It’s unfair to Cormac. They’re both very funny. Cormac is… I was going to say drier, but that’s not true: Charles Portis is very dry. Maybe we were unfair to Cormac: there were a lot of laughs in the novel No Country For Old Men, as there are in his other books, but we didn’t include any of them. Probably because they’re mostly in the sheriff’s monologues, which are totally absent from the movie.
Rhu says: Are there any of your films that feel more “yours” or more “Joel’s”? Or is everything really 50/50?
No, we write them all together, we talk through each script. There’s no separating even bits of movies, much less whole movies as between the two of us.
TaraReid says: Hi Ethan! When are we starting filming on Lebowski 2? My agent apparently knows nothing but I still have the job don’t I?
This was in the US press – Tara Reid announcing Lebowski 2. George Clooney periodically announces a movie called Hail Caesar that we’re apparently going to do with him. And John Turturro’s been after us for years to do a movie focused on his character in The Big Lebowski, the paedophile.
fakeplasticmax says: What are your thoughts on Lebowski’s immense cult following, with things like The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski and the Church of the Latter-day Dude? Did you in some way expect the Dude phenomenon to take off as spectacularly as it did?
No, I haven’t heard of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. Do they actually convene and hold services? No, we didn’t expect that, no.
James Barrett says: Is there a possibility that you may remake the sequel to True Grit (Rooster Cogburn, 1975) in the future?
Yes, if we can get Cate Blanchett to do the Katharine Hepburn part. We’re in negotiations with her people.
Buddy says: Barton Fink is hired to write a wrestling picture. The Naked Man, which you co-wrote, was a wrestling picture (albeit a rather strange one) what can you tell us about their connection (if any connection exists)?
What would be a not-strange wrestling picture? I don’t know, no connection. People like wrestling. There are just some things that people like. People like cows. People like Dutch doors. One just recognises what people like.
Finkblot says: Joel, have you considered working with Sam Raimi once again? Hudsucker Proxy was a revelation, and Crimewave was insane!
No, Sam’s too busy. We’re game. We’re in negotiations with his people.
rolotomasi says: What is your attitude towards film criticism? Do you pay attention to the reviews your pictures get?
Yes, I love reading reviews. I love reading bad reviews. When they’re really nasty they feel personal in a way that you never get in real life, where people are generally polite. They’re really interesting – actually, and I always find it mysterious what gets up people’s noses. Good reviews are not so interesting, because it’s basically people saying, “I really liked your movie,” which they do say in real life.
Mrs. Fink says: Ethan, I have to know… what’s your favourite sandwich?
Oh. Well, OK, prosciutto and mozzarella, a little arugula, oil and vinegar on it. Are you offering?
DavisBrown says: How long did it take you to find the right person to play the character of Mattie Ross? Do you enjoy working with younger people on set?
Many months. Casting people were looking throughout the States for about six months, at least, before we started shooting, and they saw thousands of people – probably 15,000 girls, either in person or through online submissions. 14,990 of them were dreadful. Joel and I saw a tiny fraction of who the casting directors saw, a few of whom were interesting. But we only saw Hailee Steinfeld about four weeks before we started shooting. We were starting to feel some anxiety until we met her. And it’s fun working with young people. The process has been fun for her in a way that it sometimes isn’t for us and the other more experienced actors. And that’s actually contagious on the set.
|John Turturro’s been after us for years to do a movie focused on Jesus from The Big Lebowski.|
Rhu says: Does it feel weird after the Oscar win, that you now basically are a part of the establishment? It would have seemed incredibly unlikely not that long ago.
Yes, it’s very strange. I was in the Oscar mosh pit last year, looking around thinking, “I actually know most of these people.” It’s alarming. But I don’t think we can be blamed for it; we got nominated for A Serious Man – I mean, who could blame us for that?
lloydwhittle says: What character are you most proud of creating?
Sy Ableman. Fred Melamed’s character in A Serious Man. Best movie monster ever!
Michael Welsh says: I remember reading you basically went door to door to finance Blood Simple – would you give the same advice to aspiring filmmakers today?
I don’t know, I really don’t know. That was more than 25 years ago, so I don’t know how relevant our experience is now. I don’t know what the experience of starting out in the movie business is now.
Mark_It_Zero says: What’s the one thing that you and your brother argue most about?
We don’t really argue. When we’re writing it’s not even like there are opposing points of view; mostly it’s like we’re staring at the wall and any idea is welcome. And once the script is finished the process of writing the script together has us obviously very much on the same page. We have other long-standing collaborators as well and we also don’t argue with any of them – we’re obviously very non-confrontational people.
Marmotman says: Any plans on going into a big-dollar TV series a la Spielberg, Bruckheimer etc? Even if not, any old TV shows either side of the pond that you’d like to remake?
No, hadn’t thought about it.
kathen says: You guys always manage to get your actors to have the best hair, but which hairstyle was your favourite? (I personally think Tilda Swinton’s in Burn After Reading is glorious)
Yeah, that was good. There’s one scene in a restaurant with Tilda and George; the restaurant has copper-coloured sconces that perfectly match her hair. But I think my favourite is John Turturro’s wedge in Barton Fink. Look for Barry Pepper’s hair in True Grit, hair enthusiast.
oamr9792 says: Do you have any plans to write another book of short stories to go with your films?
I’ve written a few stories, but I’ve gotten lazy; not enough to compose a book. And I probably won’t have any time soon.
Sully114 says: I was wondering why Jeff Bridges eye patch in True Grit is on the opposite eye than John Wayne’s?
(Burying head in hands) I’m stumped.
Buddy says: Do you still plan on doing an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Cuba Libre or have you already satisfied your appetite for Westerns?
Oh, we did do a script of that but it was just a writing job, many years ago when the book came out. But it wasn’t something for us to make.
|What makes Joel laugh? I’m still searching…|
Gringo says: Has there ever been a book that you’d love to see on the screen but you can’t think how to make the adaptation work?
No. That’s a strange, logically imperfect question somehow; the two novel adaptations that we’ve done we did because they struck us as promising movie material. I don’t know how a book would strike us as that and yet seem impossible to adapt into a movie.
andthorough says: What would you say your favourite piece of music is from one of your films?
Boy, I like so much of what Carter Burwell has done; every single movie of ours has been with Carter doing the underscoring. The theme from The Man Who Wasn’t There which we did with Billy Bob Thornton, I really like, and A Serious Man. Those two were original with Carter. Some movies he takes themes he or we have found and adapts them, and the score of True Grit is thematically based on four 19th century Protestant hymns. All his music is great; I actually really enjoy that part of the movie because we have so little input into it that it’s harder for us to get sick of the music than it is for other parts of the film.
Finkblot says: What will your next project be? Gambit? Old Fink? Or something previously unannounced?
Gambit was also a writing job. It seems like the movie is going to get made but not by us; it never was to have been. [As for] Old Fink, the Barton Fink sequel: John Turturro is not old enough yet. And the whole thing may be more a thought experiment than a movie. We don’t really know what we’re doing yet; we’re working on a couple of scripts.
Long, long, long time You Know, For Kids! reader, Joe, has tracked down and managed to interview Isabelle Townsend, the actress who played “Beauty” in Barton Fink. Below you can find the email exchange;
Greetings Mrs. Townsend,
Thank you for accepting our invitation to answer a few questions about “Barton Fink”. Much like the Maltese Falcon or Rosebud, your role as “Beauty” is an icon of cinema, and we appreciate your taking the time to share your experience in the making of a masterpiece. On to the questions…
Q: According to IMDB, “Barton Fink” was your first film. How did that role come about for you, and do you recall the process of being cast? For instance, did you have to audition, or do you recall your first meeting with the Coen Brothers? How was that first meeting, and how did the Coen’s describe the role to you?
Yes it was my first role and I had an audition with Joel and Ethan in NYC. They both made a big effort to put me at ease as I was painfully shy at the time. They didn’t talk much about the role. They just asked me if I had read the script. I didn’t hear for a long time and I knew they were seeing a lot of actresses in Los Angeles. One day my agent called to tell me the role was mine on one condition: Loose the British accent!
Q: What was it like to be involved in “Barton Fink”? Did you enjoy your time? Did you have an opportunity to read the script in advance? How long were you required on-set? Do you recall participating in post-production ADR? It sounds as if your voice is dubbed slightly.
It was a one day shoot at Zuma beach near LA on a sizzling hot day. I remember thinking how relaxed and professional everybody was. I had read the script twice before the audition, so I felt prepared. I did participate in post-production ADR.
Q: What were your thoughts going into the production, and did your expectations differ from the reality of your experience working on “Barton Fink”? Did the Coen’s give specific direction or make any requests of your performance?
I remember enjoying going to a fitting for the bathing suit which was custom made. I don’t remember rehearsing the scene with John Turturro. We just had a nice chat before shooting. I remember walking down the beach for technical rehearsal and going up to Joel and Ethan at some point for directions. They just said to do it as it’s written in the script. Joel said” Isabelle, you can do this with your eyes closed!” I guess that was all I needed to hear.
Q: The photo hanging in Barton Fink’s hotel room varies slightly from your scene at the end of the film. Are you pictured in the actual photo, and if so, was that a separate day of shooting? Can you tell us how the hotel photo came about?
Yes I am pictured above Barton’s desk in the hotel room and it was a separate day of shooting.
Q: Speaking of the photo, were you able to keep any production keepsakes? Many have wondered where the original photograph ended up. Is that hanging in an office somewhere? Do you have any personal photos from the set that you would be willing to share?
I was not able to keep any production items and the picture is not hanging in my office!I have no pics to share. Wish I did!
Q: The final shot of the film includes yourself in the foreground with a bird diving into the ocean background. According to many accounts, the inclusion of the bird was not intentional. It’s easy to imagine the crew having a good laugh as the bird “ruined” the shot, but do you happen to recall that moment? Was the diving bird noticed or acknowledged on-set?
The bird was not intentional! I remember reading an interview of Joel and Ethan joking that the bird was in the script and they had always been lucky with birds…everybody on set had a good laugh about it. It’s Joel and Ethan’s genius to use moments such as this.
Q: Did you attend the premier at Cannes Film Festival, and was that the first time you saw the film? What was that like? What did you think of the film when you first saw it? When was the last time you watched Barton Fink?
I did not attend the premier in Cannes film Festival, but I did get a chance to go to a production screening. I think the last scene reflects Barton’s state of mind, the nightmare he had gone through, the fact that he had lost his sanity. The scene has a soothing effect. I’ve been told it felt like a breath of fresh air. “Beauty” is not in the entertainment business, as Barton seems to think…perhaps she knows better…she may even know about writer’s block as she stares back at the horizon and its emptiness.
Q: Did “Barton Fink” change the direction of your career? Have you ever been recognized as “Beauty”?
Yes, I got an agent and I did get recognized as “Beauty” without the tan!
Q: The Coens have discussed filming a sequel to “Barton Fink” called “Old Fink”, and while we have no idea what the script might include, I wonder if “Beauty” might make a cameo. Interested?
I am not aware of a sequel. Of course I would be interested. Let me know if you hear anything further.
Q: Have you enjoyed any of the other films by the Coen Brothers? Care to name a favorite? Also, do any memories stand out to you when thinking back to your involvement in “Barton Fink”? Any anecdotes welcome!
I am a huge fan of Joel and Ethan’s work. They are simply brilliant. I enjoyed among others “Hudsucker Proxy”, “Raising Arizona” and “Fargo” which I did go to the premier of in Cannes and saw Joel and Ethan again afterwards at the party in a cloud of artificial snow!
All the best,
Thanks are due to Joe who has contributed a lot to YKFK over the years. Thanks, Joe (and sorry it took me so long to get around to posting this up!).
The Power of Data Visualization website has an infographic detailing the budgets, box offices, genres, Rotten Tomato scores and Oscar noms/wins of all 14 Coen brothers movies. The most interesting thing on it, if you ask me, is that The Hudsucker Proxy scores only 59% on Rotten Tomatoes!
Fred Melamed, last seen playing the incredibly earnest Sy Ableman in A Serious Man, has confirmed in an interview with Empire magazine that the Coen brothers may have a role for him in their future adaptation of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. In said interview in the April 2010 issue of the magazine, when asked how he landed the role of Sy he said;
“I know the Coens a little bit as I went to school with Joel’s wife, Frances McDormand. I actually auditioned for a role in Barton Fink, the pushy movie executive, but Michael Lerner got it. Then they offered me a part in The Hudsucker Proxy, a character wearing only a baby diaper. Luckily, I wasn’t available. Finally, we made it work. And they told me there may be a part for me in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, when they make that.”
I would love Melamed to become one of the Coen Family.
Lurking in Twitter I found a link to this, frankly awesome, collection of re-imagined Coen brothers movie posters. The designers at Poster Lab have reworked posters for Blood Simple, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn’t There and No Country For Old Men. I think you’ll agree that they’re truly beautiful.
Click on the images below to see the full size posters;
I’ll keep an eye on Poster Lab and update if they do the missing movies, I really hope they do.
Just spotted this on Twitter but, for some reason, the Raindance website has made the screenplays for EVERY, and I mean EVERY, Coen brothers’ movie available for download. Now, this includes the screenplays for both A Serious Man AND their next movie, True Grit!!! You heard me right- including TRUE GRIT!
Obviously most of them are available right here on YKFK and have been for a long time however, I have gotten into a bit of legal deep water in the past for posting up scripts for forthcoming movies before which is why I have not uploaded the ones for Burn After Reading, A Serious Man and True Grit…
3. Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), Raising Arizona
5. Tic Tac (Al Mancini), Miller’s Crossing
9. Buzz (Jim True-Frost), The Hudsucker Proxy
11. Officer Lou (Bruce Lohene), Fargo
12. Marty (Jack Keller), The Big Lebowski
14. Freddy Reidenschneider (Tony Shalhoub), The Man Who Wasn’t There
15. Gus Petch (Cedric the Entertainer), Intolerable Cruelty
16. Wheezy Joe (Irwin Keyes), Intolerable Cruelty
17. Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt), No Country For Old Men
18. Gas Station Proprietor (Gene Jones), No Country For Old Men
20. Sy Abelman (Fred Melamed), A Serious Man
Nice to see a couple of entries from Intolerable Cruelty which I still think is massively underrated suffering, as it does, from the weight of Coen quality prior to it.
What do you think? Has anyone been missed? Only ONE from The Big Lebowski? I would have Knox Harrington (David Thewlis) in there right away! And no Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), surely Jesus’ part is small enough to make this list? None from The Ladykillers? Let’s talk…
Watch a 5 minute interview with Joel and Ethan Coen. Watch them discuss A Serious Man. Observe them put the Lebowski/Jesus spin-off rumours to bed. View them chat openly about their plans for Old Fink- their much-mooted sequel to Barton Fink. See Ethan pick at his fingers.
Hit this link to view the clip (it has no embed options).
I have been trying to formulate this into an article myself but I only go as far as making some notes. Vanity Fair has done a much better job than I would have done with a fun article about the chronology of the Coen brothers’ movie output to date and observes that, while they love to trip through time and period, they are yet to make a movie set in the 1970’s. To wit;
1920’s – Miller’s Crossing
1930’s – O Brother, Where Art Thou?
1950’s – The Hudsucker Proxy
1960’s – A Serious Man
Now, obviously some of these movies aren’t period movies at all but contemporary movies set during the time they were made. Interesting none the less.
What historic theme do you think they could tackle to fill this 1970’s-shaped void in their oevre? Watergate? The Beatles breaking up? The founding of Microsoft?