The Coen Brothers - A History of Classics
Feature by Jack Foley
THE Coen Brothers have veered between madcap screwball comedies and sinister thrillers in a career which has seen them redefine the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars as well as launching a whole new selection of actors into the limelight.
In Burn After Reading, out on DVD and Blu-ray on February 9, 2009, film fans get to see Brad Pitt and George Clooney in a new light and it’s not the first time the brothers have worked their magic with the stars, as we can see below:
Blood Simple (1984):
Tensions rise in a small town when jealousy leads to murder.
Breakthrough role: Frances McDormand’s performance as the wife accused of having an affair.
Career-defining part: M Emmet Walsh became the actor of choice to play seedy detectives for the next decade in Hollywood.
Raising Arizona (1986):
Quirky kidnap adventure in which an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintuplets.
Breakthrough role: Nicolas Cage went from being one of the boys to a bona fide leading man and displayed the oddball qualities that made him an audience favourite.
Miller’s Crossing (1990):
The Coens’ first foray into the gangster film saw warring crime bosses fighting it out.
Breakthrough role: Gabriel Byrne shot to international fame in this Prohibition-era mob movie.
Barton Fink (1992): Visually stunning Hollywood parody in which an aspiring writer’s Hollywood dreams are gradually destroyed.
Breakthrough role: John Turturro as the titular playwright.
Career-defining part: John Goodman as the cheery next-door neighbour – his stock rose and rose in Hollywood over the next few years.
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994):
Madcap business satire in which a foolish man (Tim Robbins) is promoted to the top of his company, and begins to have brilliant ideas.
Career-defining part: A late role for Paul Newman in this screwball comedy as the company director who comes up with a foolish scam.
The classic Coen Brothers’ film – murder in frozen Minnesota.
Breakthrough role: As the indecisive Jerry, William H Macy was an instant hit with audiences and has not been out of work since.
Career-defining moment: Frances McDormand, by now Mrs Joel Coen, will forever be associated with Marge Gunderson, the pregnant policewoman investigating a grisly murder.
The Big Lebowski (1998):
Bowling buddies get into trouble in one of the classic cult films of the 90s.
Career-defining part: Jeff Bridges is often simply now referred to as the ‘Dude’, after the slacker character he portrayed in the film.
Career-defining part: John Turturro as the Dude’s sworn bowling enemy, Jesus Quintana.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000):
Convicts on the loose in the Deep South in this throwback comedy. A visual triumph with a bestselling soundtrack.
Career-defining part: Who knew George Clooney was such a good comic actor?
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2002):
Black and white suspense masterpiece in which a murder rocks a small town.
Career-defining part: Billy Bob Thornton as the craggy barber in this superior Hitchcockian thriller.
Breakthrough role: Scarlett Johansson as the young girl who strikes up a relationship with Thornton’s character.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003):
Screwball comedy homage to the works of Grant and Hepburn as a gold-digger marries a divorce lawyer.
Career-defining part: Catherine Zeta-Jones was given a new lease of life after her turn in this screwball comedy.
The Ladykillers (2004):
Remake of the Ealing comedy classic. A group of villains take on an unusual foe in an ageing landlady.
Career-defining part: Tom Hanks strayed away from his usual type of character by playing an eccentric Southern Professor.
No Country For Old Men (2007):
Regarded by many as the brothers’ masterpiece, an epic screen version of Cormac McCarthy’s violent and bloody novel.
Career-defining part: Javier Bardem walked away with an Oscar® for his role as Anton Chigurh, the vicious killer.
Breakthrough role: Josh Brolin stepped out of his father’s shadow and became a sought-after figure in Hollywood thanks to his terrific performance.
Burn After Reading (2008):
Hilarious wacky comedy. Serial daters, CIA agents and goofy fitness instructors get their wires and much more crossed.
Career-defining part: Choose from John Malkovich’s uptight and pretentious CIA official, or Brad Pitt’s ultra-dorky gym worker.
Burn After Reading is out on DVD and Blu-ray on February 9. Watch the trailer and an exclusive clip
- Read our review
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- Burn After Reading photo gallery
- Burn After Reading tops US box office
- Burn After Reading preview
- Watch the trailer