After making movies for more than three decades, Joel and Ethan Coen still don’t wear the auteur mantle comfortably—they seem to be having too much fun to see their brand of filmmaking as a proper job. They say many of their …
Since graduating from Juilliard in 2005, Guatamalan-born and Miami-bred Oscar Isaac has been on a steady rise. With noticeable roles in films such as Robin Hood, Drive and The Bourne Legacy, Isaac has been proving his worth as a film actor with something extra. That “something extra” has been fully realized with his breakthrough role as the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s tale of a struggling folk singer in the early 1960s, Inside Llewyn Davis. Since winning the Grand Prize at Cannes in May, the film has been building a high profile this season and promises to put Isaac, who does all of his own singing, right in the heart of the race.
AwardsLine: Recount how you got this role, because the audition process was drawn out for the film. The Coen brothers thought the movie wouldn’t get made if they didn’t find the right actor.
Oscar Isaac: I heard about the audition process early on, and I was like, “I have got to get into this thing because I love the Coen brothers, I play music and I can sing.” I went in (to the audition) knowing that it was loosely based on (folk musician) Dave Van Ronk’s memoirs, and I knew he was this huge 6-foot-5, 200-pound Swede. I knew (I would be) a stretch, if they were trying to do a biopic. So I came in and I had a beard and I saw a photograph of this well-known musician—dark hair, dark beard. Suddenly, I calmed down and said, “So is this a reference shot? You guys are looking for people like that?” (Someone in casting) says, “Oh, no. He came in; he killed it.” It was like all the blood being drained out of my veins. They had been looking at a lot of really great musicians for the part because they wanted to have full songs performed live in the film, which is very unusual. I learned three songs and did the audition, and about a week later, they called me in to meet with the Coens. They’re the best to audition for. They are incredibly generous, and they’re quick to laugh, even just in conversation. So it was impossible to tell how it went because, apparently, they’re like that for everybody. A month went by, and I was just begging the universe to give me this one shot. Then I got a call (from) Joel. I remember him talking for a while before saying it, but then he finally said, “We’d love for you to do (the film), if you’d want to be a part of it.” I couldn’t believe it.
Joel and Ethan Coen have a ton of Oscars and other awards on their shelves, but the duo is fairly elusive when it comes to touting themselves and their work. So it isn’t exactly surprising that they’d never agreed to a Telluride Film Festival tribute, until this year. And the only way — a smart and entertaining one as it turns out — to lure them here was to wrap it around the use of music in their films and in particular the remarkable work they do with T Bone Burnett, who is getting equal treatment with the Coens here at the tribute shows on Friday night and this morning. The trio received the Festival’s much-prized Silver Medallion last night from their friend Barry Sonnenfeld right after a lively musical performance of Coenesque tunes by a group called The Americans and a half-hour of superbly-chosen clips from the T Bone-infused films The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Ladykillers and their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, a grand prize winner at Cannes and set to open in December via CBS Films. It is also playing here this weekend.
A 35-minute onstage conversation followed the Medallion presentation which was placed on a chain around their necks. “I’m feeling like Mark Spitz,” joked Ethan about the latest award they have received. As I said in Cannes, this film, set in the folk singing scene of the early ’60s, is one of their best. Needless to say, it has great music in addition to a terrific cast including star Oscar Isaac, who should be a contender for awards (along with a scene-stealing cat). In fact one of those “stolen scenes” was an extended sequence with Isaac forced to carry the cat through New York City after he dashes out the door of his apartment. As with the other clips shown, it really demonstrates the power of music in the films of these iconic filmmakers.
Hammond On Cannes: Wet Fest’s Official Competition Finally Heats Up With Coen Brothers’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
The first purely American entry in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival competition (opening nighter The Great Gatsby was Out of Competition), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen‘s terrific Inside Llewyn Davis had its first press screening Saturday night to strong response and big buzz on the very rainy Croisette. This tale of a talented folk singer unable to balance art and commerce, and who never quite hits the big time in the late ’50s/early ’60s emerging folk scene, is pure Coen Brothers with a winning mixture of brilliantly observed comedy and darker moments that give it an edge most reminiscent of Coen movies like Barton Fink, which won the Palme d’Or on their first try at Cannes in 1991. Joel Coen also took the Director award that year and again for The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) among the seven previous times they have been in the Cannes competition. 1994′s The Hudsucker Proxy, 1996′s Fargo, 2000′s O Brother Where Art Thou, 2004′s The Ladykillers and 2007′s No Country For Old Men represent their other numerous chances to reap a second Palme d’Or since Barton Fink but none of them did the trick.
Judging from initial reaction, at least among the press, Inside Llewyn Davis probably makes them an early front-runner for that second Palme. We say early since the film doesn’t have its official black tie premiere at the Palais until Sunday night, only the fourth day of the competition. But with its superb acting including leading man Oscar Isaac as the morose but oddly engaging Llewyn and a great supporting cast including Carey Mulligan, John Goodman (just great), Justin Timberlake, Stark Sands and a scene-stealing cat (or cats? – you’ll see) among others, plus the Coens’ knack for catching this era in all its glory, I suspect this will remain a contender for the entire week of debuts to come.
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has landed domestic distribution rights to Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis. The film attracted heavy interest after its first screening was held last week on the Sony lot, one that drew a music crowd, a constellation of movie stars and numerous studio execs. The result was, everybody got hot and bothered about the film. I’m hearing there were three bidders for the pic and CBS Films got the film for close to $4 million for U.S. rights. Oscar Isaac stars in the pic, which takes place in the folk-music circuit in downtown New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham and Justin Timberlake co-star.
The Coens and producer Scott Rudin, reteaming after True Grit and No Country For Old Men, made the film without a domestic distributor; Studio Canal fully financed and is releasing in some international territories and brokering offshore deals in other territories. UTA negotiated the CBS Films deal on behalf of the filmmakers.
The first screening of Inside Llewyn Davis quietly took place last Saturday night in a screening room on the Sony lot. That’s the new film by …
EXCLUSIVE: Joel and Ethan Coen are bringing one of their signatures movies to television. FX has closed a deal to develop Fargo, an hourlong project loosely based on the Coen brothers’ 1996 comedic crime drama. The Coens will serve as executive producers on the project, which will be written/executive produced by The Unusuals and My Generation creator Noah Hawley. Warren Littlefield also will executive the project, which will be co-produced by MGM Television and FX Prods.
The Fargo movie starred Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief who follows the trail of two bumbling criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) hired by a car salesman (William H. Macy) to kidnap his wife. The indie earned seven Oscar nominations, winning two statuettes — for the Coen brothers’ script and McDormand’s performance. (The Coens won three more Oscars for No Country For Old Men.) The title belongs to MGM’s library, making the project part of MGM TV’s strategy to mine the company’s catalogs for properties suitable for series adaptations/remakes. The company has the Teen Wolf reboot on MTV and recently announced it was teaming with American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe for Fame, a scripted series based on the 1980 MGM film and 1982 MGM TV series. MGM TV first attempted to adapt Fargo in 2003 with a pilot starring Edie Falco and directed by Kathy Bates, which was done without the Coen brothers’ participation.
EXCLUSIVE: In the highest-profile migration of feature talent to television so far this development season, Oscar-winning filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen are set to executive produce an hourlong single-camera comedy for Fox, which the two co-created with another feature writer, Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids). The project, titled HarveKarbo, has received a script commitment with significant penalty from Fox. It hails from Imagine TV, whose principal Brian Grazer is credited with luring the Coen brothers to television. (Ethan and Joel Coen did their 2003 feature Intolerable Cruelty with Imagine). HarveKarbo, which will be written by Johnston, features the type of quirky, offbeat characters that have become a staple of the Coen brothers’ movies. It follows the title character — an ill-tempered LA private investigator whose cases frequently involve the depraved doings of the Hollywood elite — and his deadbeat friends in Los Angeles’ El Segundo. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Johnston, Grazer and Francie Calfo are executive producing for Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV.
UPDATE 2, 7:03PM: CBS Films has just issued a press release confirming the acquisition:
TORONTO (September 12) – CBS Films announced today that they have acquired the U.S.distribution rights to SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN which made its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival this week. The announcement was made jointly today by CBS Films’ COO Wolfgang Hammer and EV Pof Acquisitions Scott Shooman.
Directed by Oscar©-nominee Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is an extraordinary, beguiling tale of fly-fishing and politicalspinning, of unexpected heroism and late-blooming love and of an attempt toprove the impossible, possible. Ewan McGregor (Beginners) and Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau) star in the feature film alongside Oscar©-nominee Kristen ScottThomas (I’ve Loved You So Long).
Based on Paul Torday’s acclaimed novel, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN is written by Oscar©-winner Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and produced by Paul Webster (The Motorcycle Diaries) and executive produced by Jamie Laurenson, Stephen Garrett, Paula Jalfon, Zygi Kamasa and Guy Avshalom.
“I am so happy to have the support of the team at CBS Films for the distribution of our labor of love, ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. ’I had the best of times working on it with producer Paul Webster, writer Simon Beaufoy and the cast, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Amr Waked and Kristin Scott Thomas,” said Hallström.
“Lasse Hallström has done it again with this beautiful, heartwarming, and elegant picture. The performances are amazing from top to bottom,” commented Shooman who continued, “We are honored to have the opportunity to bring this extraordinary film to American audiences.”
UTA Independent Film Group set up the film’s financing and brokered the dealwith CBS Films.
UPDATE, 6:11PM: The deal has closed, and CBS Films has acquired U.S. rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Sources close to the buyer say it’s the $4 million that the sellers asked for, while sources close to the seller say it’s $5 million. Summit got the deal to that level. What’s clear is this is a healthy deal.
EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, 12:26 PM: CBS Films is in advanced negotiations to reel in U.S. distribution rights to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed film that premiered last night at the Princess of Wales Theater. Fox Searchlight, Summit, Focus and Miramax have been circling, but CBS appears to be tying down the property for a low-seven-figure deal. Adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the Paul Torday novel, the film stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The sheik believes that fishing brings him closer to God, an experience he wants to share with his countrymen, despite the dangerous fact that some local leaders oppose it; there is a burgeoning love story between his British legal rep (Blunt) and the stuffy fisheries scientist (McGregor) who is locked in a dull marriage.
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.