Coen brothers take a chance with "True Grit"
From Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Coens willing to take chances
Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen prove again they aren’t afraid to take risks with “True Grit.”
LOS ANGELES – Over the past quarter-century, Joel and Ethan Coen have proven that they have the grit to take big risks in the course of crafting ambitious cinema.
The bold brothers brought black-and-white to the new millennium for their film noir drama “The Man Who Wasn’t There”; transformed Homer’s “The Odyssey” into a Great Depression comedy with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”; and put a pregnant sheriff on the case in the darkly comic crime thriller “Fargo.” While most of Hollywood insists on playing it safe, the Coens have even dared to reimage the Raymond Chandler-style detective tale with a laidback slacker known as The Dude (Jeff Bridges) standing in for hard-boiled Philip Marlowe in “The Big Lebowski.”
But their most courageous project to date may be their latest, an adaptation of Charles Portis’ acclaimed 1968 novel “True Grit,” which already has been made into a beloved 1969 movie starring John Wayne. When the Coens tapped the man who played The Dude to take on the iconic role that won The Duke his only Oscar, the brothers assured Bridges — and the scores of scoffers who were quick to criticize them for having the audacity to treading on cinematic sacred soil — that they were interested in re-adapting the book, not in remaking the 1969 film.
“We had seen the movie … when it came out, but we were kids then and we haven’t seen it since and only really vaguely remember it,” Ethan Coen said of the 1969 version during a press conference for their “True Grit” at the swanky Four Seasons Hotel.
Both movies follow the same memorable storyline: In 1878, headstrong Mattie, 14, arrives in Fort Smith, Ark., to identify the body of her father, who has been gunned down by cravenly Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). When she gets the news that Chaney stole her father’s money and horse then fled out of local reach into Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), the outspoken Arkansas lass hires U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Bridges), a trigger-happy, one-eyed drunk, to bring the outlaw to justice.
Although their 2008 Oscar-winning thriller “No Country for Old Men” was set in Texas, “True Grit” marked the first foray into Westerns for the Coens, who famously write, direct, produce and edit their films as a team. But making a Western wasn’t the focus for the filmmakers.
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