Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Coen Brothers Repertory Role Call 1984-2008

In anticipation of the new Coen Brothers film BURN AFTER READING (opening next week!) I decided it was time to update the listing of their stock company of able bodied actors. Lets get right to it starting with: The Major Players

Steve Buscemi (MILLER'S CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, PARIS JE 'TAIME): The bug-eyed Buscemi is a perfect fit for the world of the Coens making. After making an undeniable impression in bit parts for the brothers in 3 films in a row, he graduated to major player as Carl Showalter in FARGO - a tour de force performance which should have gotten him an Oscar or at least a nomination. Next up as Donnie, the daft but incredibly lovable bowler/surfer in THE BIG LEBOWSKI he had many memorable moments (Im throwing rocks tonight!) before his untimely demise. He didn't show up for them again until their short segment of the colorful anothology film PARIS JE 'TAIME (2007) in which he played an unlucky tourist in the city of love. Heres hoping it wasnt his last time in front of the Coens camera.

George Clooney (O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, BURN AFTER READING): Many thought the square-jawed leading man if there ever was one would be like Nicholas Cage or Tim Robbins - i.e. a starring part one-off for the Minnesotan movie-makers but Clooney keeps coming back for more. Completing what he calls a trilogy of idiots with BURN AFTER READING it is rumored that he may be on board for the brothers long talked about Hercules project. Man, I hope that comes together!

John Goodman (RAISING ARIZONA, BARTON FINK, THE

HUDSUCKER PROXY (just a radio voice-over cameo), THE BIG LEBOWSKI, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?): One of the most reliable of the major players, Goodman brings a stern but dangerously stupid edge to every character hes embodied. From escaped felon Gale Snoats in RAISING ARIZONA to BARTON FINKs charming but murderous Charlie Meadows (who could tell you some stories) to the incredibly quotable Walter Sobchak (Mark it zero!, were talking about unchecked aggression here, Dude, this is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!, etc.) with his turn as Big Dan Teague in O BROTHER... being possibly his last film with the Coens. He told Rolling Stone: After a while, (my) characters got too similar. Their names were even similar, so we had to part company. I kind of miss those days. Theres a lot I would do differently, but you cant do that. Its against the laws of nature. Time travels on. Maybe so but I for one hope the Coens go for the Goodman goods again some day.

Holly Hunter (BLOOD SIMPLE, RAISING ARIZONA, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?): She was just a uncredited voice on a phone answering machine in BLOOD SIMPLE but Hunters ferociously feisty performances in the comedy classic RAISING ARIZONA and the Oedipal musical O BROTHER... definitely make her a major player in the Coen canon. Officer Edwina Ed McDunnough in RAISING ARIZONA was a breakthrough role for her and it paved the way for an Osacr nomination the following year for BROADCAST NEWS. She took home the Academy Award for THE PIANO in 1994 but that didn't mean she would turn her nose up at the prospect of reteaming with the Brothers. As the fierce Penny in O BROTHER... she seemed right at home. Like Goodman and, well, every one of these folks, I hope to see her in Coen country again someday down the road.

Frances McDormand (BLOOD SIMPLE, RAISING ARIZONA, MILLER'S CROSSING, FARGO, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, BURN AFTER READING): Obvious why she makes the grade. McDormand starred in the Coen brothers film debut BLOOD SIMPLE, she had brief but memorable bits in RAISING ARIZONA and MILLERS CROSSING before once again ruling the screen as pregnant Police Chief Marge Gunderson (which won her the Best Actress Oscar), she has a key part in THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, and she returns in BURN AFTER READING as gym employee Linda Litzke which I can't wait to see. Oh yeah, shes married to Joel Coen so theres that too. Fun fact: Pre-stardom McDormand once shared an apartment with both Joel and Ethan Coen as well as Sam Raimi, Scott Spiegel, and Holly Hunter.

Jon Polito (MILLERS CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE): A great under-rated character actor, Polito has stolen every scene he's been in under the Coens direction from the GODFATHER-esque opening monolgue in MILLER'S CROSSING right through to the sleazy businessman Creighton Tolliver in THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE.

Tony Shalhoub (MILLER'S CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE): Better known these days as Monk, Shalhoub was a great presence usually playing a slick fast talking insider in a brief but sweet sideline role. As Hollywood producer Ben Geisler in BARTON FINK he constantly admonishes Fink (John Turturro) about his struggles with writing: Wallace Beery. Wrestling picture. What do you need, a roadmap? As defending lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (great name) in THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, Shalhoub is no less harsh: I litigate. I don't capitulate.

John Turturro (MILLER'S CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?): Turturro is IMHO the finest actor present as a major player and each of his roles are works of beauty. His powerfully intense performance as BARTON FINK is of course a stand-out being that it is a starring role but oddly THE BIG LEBOWSKIs Jesus Quintana (which pretty much just counts as a cameo) may be his most lasting creation for the Coens. In a recent interview Turturro spoke of wanting to do a LEBOWSKI spin-off sorta sequel that focused on Jesus getting out of jail and landing a job as a bus driver for a girls high school volleyball team. It will be a combination of ROCKY and THE BAD NEWS BEARS. At the very least we'd have to have a Dude cameo. I wouldnt hold my breath on that happening but it is a funny thought.

And The Rest: Bruce Campbell - THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, FARGO, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, THE LADYKILLERS: 2 small parts and 2 as soap actor on TV - all 4 are uncredited.

Blake Clark - INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, THE LADYKILLERS

Charles Durning - THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU

Richard Jenkins (Pictured left) - THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, BURN AFTER READING

John Mahoney - BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY

John McConnell - MILLER'S CROSSING, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, THE LADYKILLERS

Stephen Root - O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU, THE LADYKILLERS, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - Another personal favorite of mine. Root, best known as Newsradios Jimmy James and OFFICE SPACEs Milton (pictured right) has only had a few very small parts in the Coens work. I really hope they throw something more substantial his direction because he seems like he was born to be in their world.

J.K. Simmons - THE LADYKILLERS, BURN AFTER READING - Another hope to be regular in my book (on my blog more like).

Hallie Singleton - THE MAN WHO WASNT THERE, THE LADYKILLERS

Peter Stormare - FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI - A Pancakes House loving nihilist through and through.

Billy Bob Thornton - THE MAN WHO WASNT THERE, INTOLERABLE CRUELTY - Hope he gets used again too.

M. Emmet Walsh (pictured on the left) BLOOD SIMPLE, RAISING ARIZONA - A key player in the first 2 Coen bros. flicks Walsh couldve easily slipped into the cast of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

Okay! Did I miss anybody?

More later...

7 comments:

Fletch said...

This list pretty much equals my list of favorite character actors. Coincidence? I think not.

Kirby said...

John Mahooney?

Dan said...

D'oh! Thanks Kirby - I fixed the mis-spelling of the man best known as Frasier's father Marty Crane. His W.P. Mayhew in BARTON FINK is another definitive character actor performance so I'm ashamed to have not gotten his name right. Sigh - live and learn.

darkcitydame4e said...

Hi! Daniel Johnson,
This will be my first time posting on your eBloggerpage. And it looks to me as if you covered
the Coen's (Cast of characters or "usual suspects!") who(m) assisted the Coen's create their body of artistic work
to date!...that is!
Btw, I just recently "discovered" the Coen bros. after watching NCFOM and now I am watching their films in "reverse" order!...going backward!

Thanks,

Ivan said...

What? No love for Jimmy the Grunt? Michael Badalucco was in Miller's Crossing (getting harangued by Caspar about shaving), O Brother (Babyface Nelson) and The Man Who Wasn't There as Billy Bob's brother-in-law.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me how I could get in touch with the Coen Brothers?

Cameron West said...

He did it! HE DID IT! NICK REEVES has released his actual footage from what he plans to do to no Country for Old Men.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9HaTG9hlnA&feature=channel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4m_3SxuHNA&feature=channel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_sHodfcGb8&feature=channel
Just watch