Joel Coen On Why He Made ‘Macbeth’ Without His Brother Ethan

Joel Coen On Why He Made 'Macbeth' Without His Brother Ethan

For three-and-a-half decades, Joel and Ethan Coen were inseparable. They were “the Coen brothers,” and together they wrote and directed 18 films (though only Joel was credited with director until their 2004 remake of The Ladykillers.) But a funny thing happened this fall: We got The Tragedy of Macbeth, a take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays made by Joel but not Ethan. It was of course very different from past Coen brothers movies, and not only because Joel was adapting the Bard. And now Joel is opening up about going it alone.

In a new interview with The Los Angeles Times, Joel Coen reflected on collaborating with his brother over so many years, over so many acclaimed films. He spoke about the comfort of working with someone else, saying, “you’re pursuing things that are mutually interesting, which is what we’ve been doing for 35 to 40 years.”

But after their previous film together, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Ethan told Joel, “I think I’m going to change it out and do some other things for awhile.” He then came to terms with “directing the next one by myself.” What’s more, there probably wouldn’t have ever been a Macbeth done by both Coens. “If I was working with Ethan I wouldn’t have done ‘Macbeth,’ it would not be interesting to him.”

Joel also revealed that the initial idea came from his wife, three-time Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand. She wanted to play Lady Macbeth, perhaps on stage. So she approached her director husband. “I said I wouldn’t do it on stage,” he recalls, “but if you want to think about it as a movie we can do something interesting.”

The result is The Tragedy of Macbeth, which stars Denzel Washington as the scheming Scot, who, along with his wife, murders their way to the top of the kingdom. You can stream it on Apple TV+.

So will Buster Scruggs be the last Coen brothers movie? Maybe, maybe not. After all, Ethan only said he was going to do “other things for awhile.” We may hear from both of them again, and we don’t mean a postcard.

(Via LA Times)

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