Mike Fleming

If there is one thing that buyers at the Toronto Film Festival have lamented so far, it’s that many of the strongest titles were bought by distributors at script stage. Imagine the bidding that would occur if a Coen Brothers film would bring if it came to a festival without a partner? It could happen. Joel and Ethan Coen have their next film, and while the project has been on the rumor mill, the surprise is that Inside Llewyn Davis will be made without a domestic distribution partner. The film’s focus is the early folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the 60s, and the Coens and their producing partner Scott Rudin are making it with only an alignment with Studio Canal, which will distribute in France and some other territories, and look to sell the rest of foreign down the line. 

The Coens wrote the script, and they have the usual number of stars lining up to play characters loosely based on folk singers like Dave Van Ronk and Tom Paxton. The brothers are also back in business with Rudin, their producing partner on the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men and their last film, True Grit. Shooting will start early next year in New York.

The brothers usually have a studio in place when they go into production, but they and Rudin are trying something different. “We are delighted to have Studio Canal as partners in making a movie of ours, since they have distributed so many of them over the years,” Ethan Coen said. “This is the logical next step for both of us.”

Studio Canal’s Olivier Courson said the French company has a history with the Coens that covers films that include Burn After Reading and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and he said their films have always perform exceptionally well in France. So he jumped at the chance to finance the film. “We really believe in the script, because no matter what they do, it’s always original, you always get a surprise, and they just don’t fail,” he said. “This one is set in New York, and even though they live there, Joel and Ethan haven’t really made a movie in New York City. Their vision of downtown New York in the 60s will be unique, the script has a feeling of fun like The Big Lebowski, and there are four great core characters.” When I asked Courson if the French have an affinity for 60s folk singers, he said, “There are iconic images of Bob Dylan walking down the streets of France,” he said. “The origin of that music is of great interest, and there is going to be an original soundtrack that reflects that era.” The Coens are repped by UTA.