Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Coen Brothers Talk True Grit, Intimidating Javier Bardem, and the Compulsion of Making Movies

The notoriously tight-lipped Ethan and Joel Coen hit the Apple Store Soho Monday for a Q&A about their new movie True Grit with Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers.

"It's impossible for us to enjoy a movie," said Ethan.

"[We] work on it for a year and a half... We're so sick of it... Well, the pay is good. It's like life. It's a little bleak."

"I don't know what we're trying to do... you make all these movies. Why?" Joel said, when a young fan in the audience asked what the pair seeks to achieve from making films.

The combination of dodginess and stoic was penetrable, but seemingly rang true to the thematic darkness of their films.

"You only make movies out of compulsion, and once they're passed, you're like, I'm glad that's over," Ethan responded, when a member of the audience asked which film they were most proud of over the course of their career.

Check out some more answers responses from their interview with Travers, below.

On remaking 1969's True Grit: "We knew that the movie had a reputation and an image, and it's kind of a threshold decision about whether to proceed despite that, and once you have, you've sort of jumped off the cliff and you can [say], that decision was made, so let's not dwell on it." [Joel]

On why they chose to turn Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men into a film: "[We thought], this could be a movie, unlike some of his other stuff. It's much pulpier... It actually has a plot in many ways his others don't." [Ethan]

On why they get along so well as co-directors: "It's like any other collaboration, you proceed from a point of view about the material, which is pretty much in sync otherwise you couldn't have gotten as far as the first day of shooting. Because... you're proceeding from a fairly close in-sync point of view about the material, there's not that pretense of advice or editing or opinion when it comes to what we're telling the actors. I'm not saying that you choose any two people and you bring them through that process that that's going to happen, but after however long since we've been doing this, about 25 years, it's really not much of an issue." [Joel]

On how they direct the actors: "To tell you the truth, we don't talk to the actors much. Most of the time we spend on the set with the actors, 98% of it is socializing." [Ethan]

On any actors who were intimidated to make suggestions to them: "I'm trying to think of any actor who's ever suggested something to us... um... [laughs]... Javier [Bardem] was terrified of us. There's one." [Joel]

Watch their bit about Bardem's fear, below.

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