Coen brothers

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Joel and Ethan Coen

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
Born Joel David Coen
Ethan Jesse Coen

November 29, 1954 (1954-11-29) (age 59) (Joel)
September 21, 1957 (1957-09-21) (age 56) (Ethan)
St. Louis Park, Minnesota, U.S.
Other names Roderick Jaynes
Occupation Film directors, producers, screenwriters, editors, cinematographers
Years active 1984–present
Notable works Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, True Grit
Influenced by Stanley Kubrick, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Sam Peckinpah, Sam Raimi
Spouse Frances McDormand (Joel)
Tricia Cooke (Ethan)

Joel David Coen and Ethan Jesse Coen are movie directors, producers and screenwriters. They are brothers and always work together. They have won many awards including the Academy Award (Oscar) four times and the Palm D'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. Their movies are different genres. They sometimes make movies that are funny like Raising Arizona or movies with a lot of violence like No Country For Old Men. They can also mix both styles like, for example in Fargo.

They write, direct and produce their movies and they share the credits. People sometimes call them "A two-headed director"[1] because when actors who work in their movies have a question they can ask either Joel or Ethan and get the same answer.

Biography[change | edit source]

Joel was born on November 29, 1954 and Ethan on September 21, 1957 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota near Minneapolis in the United States. Their parents were teachers, their father taught economy and their mother art history. Joel bought a camera and with it they started making new versions of the movies they saw on television.[2]

When they finished high school, Joel studied movie at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Massachusetts and Ethan studied philosophy at Princeton University.

Personal life[change | edit source]

They are married. Joel married actress Frances McDormand in 1984 (she has acted in six of their movies). Ethan is married to Tricia Cook who edits their movies. They live in New York with their families.[3]

Career[change | edit source]

Their first movie, Blood Simple (1984), follows the story of a bar-owner who asks a detective to murder his wife and her lover. The Cohens directed, but only Joel appears in the credits and he accepted awards at Sundance and Independent Spirit.

They wrote the screenplay for the Sam Raimi movie, Crimewave in 1985.

In 1987 they wrote and directed Raising Arizona. The movie is about a couple that cannot have babies and decides to steal one. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter played the married couple. The movie was not very successful and it did not make a lot of money in the box offices but many people consider it a cult movie (a movie that has a relatively small number of fans who constantly repeat lines from the dialogs, buy or create merchandise and gather to comment on it).

Their next movie was Miller's Crossing. It is about gangsters and was made in 1990.

After Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona and Blood Simple, the brothers received good comments on their movies and their directing style as well as the dialogs in their movies. It was not until they made Barton Fink in 1991 that the brothers achieved international fame. The movie was nominated for Academy Awards. It won three awards at Cannes International Film Festival (the Palme d'Or, best director, and best actor). The story is about a playwright (a person who writes plays) whose name is Barton Fink and he moves to Los Angeles to write movies. Fink is played by John Turturro.

After Barton Fink's success, the brothers had the chance to make a big-budget movie (with more money than the previous ones). That movie was The Hudsucker Proxy. The story talks about a man who is given the opportunity to be the director of a big company because the other people in the company (the board) want to buy it at a low price so they intend to have him ruin it. Instead of ruining the company, the man invents the hula hoop and becomes famous. The Coens had 25 million dollars to make this movie but it only earned 3 million so it is considered a commercial failure (not successful). The critics said the movie was not good because it had nothing new to offer the viewers.

The brothers made another movie in 1996 with a little money. The name was Fargo. It was universally praised (almost everybody said it was good). They returned to Minnesota because the story takes place there and in North Dakota. The story is about a man who needs money to start his own business so he pays other men to kidnap his wife and plans to ask his rich father-in-law for the ransom (money given in exchange for the woman). Everything goes wrong and a series of violent events starts. Experts say the movie was very good because of the dialog used by the actors (they used different accents) and Frances McDormand's performance (acting). She won the Best Actress Oscar. The brothers also won Best Original Screenplay and the Palme d'Or for Best Directing for a second time.

By 1998 they were famous for their style and talent and they made another movie The Big Lebowski, a comedy about a man who does not work and spends his time bowling. The man's name is Jeffrey Lebowski so some guys mistake him for a millionaire who has the same name. Fans of the movie consider it a cult movie.

Inspired by parts of Homer's Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), received wide critical acclaim.

In 2001 they created The Man Who Wasn't There. The movie is supposed to be in 1940's in California.

In 2003 they directed Intolerable Cruelty. It is their most mainstream movie (the movie that is closest to the most common or popular genres). The leading roles are played by George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

They worked with Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers in 2004. A previous version had been made before (not by the brothers) in 1955.

No Country for Old Men came out in 2007. The movie is based on the book with the same name written by Corman McCarthy.

A Serious Man, set in the 1960s in the suburbs of Minneapolis, came out in 2009.

Awards[change | edit source]

Academy Awards[change | edit source]

The Coen brothers are two of only seven directors with three Oscars for the same movie.[4]

1991: Barton Fink

1996: Fargo

2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001: The Man Who Wasn't There

2007: No Country for Old Men

2009: A Serious Man

2010: True Grit

BAFTA Awards[change | edit source]

1996: Fargo

2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001: The Man Who Wasn't There

2007: No Country for Old Men

2008: Burn After Reading

2009: A Serious Man

2010: True Grit

Berlin Film Festival[change | edit source]

1998: The Big Lebowski

Cannes Film Festival[change | edit source]

1991: Barton Fink

1994: The Hudsucker Proxy

1996: Fargo

2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001: The Man Who Wasn't There

2004: The Ladykillers

  • Jury Prize (Irma P. Hall, won – for her acting)
  • Palme d'Or (nominated)

2007: No Country for Old Men

Filmography[change | edit source]

Year Movie Director
credit
Academy Award Golden Globe BAFTA
Nominations Wins Nominations Wins Nominations Wins
1984 Blood Simple Joel
1987 Raising Arizona
1990 Miller's Crossing
1991 Barton Fink 3 1
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy
1996 Fargo 7 2 4 6 1
1998 The Big Lebowski
2000 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2 2 1 5
2001 The Man Who Wasn't There 1 3 1 1
2003 Intolerable Cruelty
2004 The Ladykillers Joel & Ethan
2007 No Country for Old Men 8 4 4 2 9 3
2008 Burn After Reading 2 3
2009 A Serious Man 2 1 1
2010 True Grit 10 8 1
2012 Inside Llewyn Davis
Total 33 6 17 3 36 6

References[change | edit source]