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No snow means no Oklahoma filming for Coen brothers' "True Grit"

by Brandy McDonnell Published: December 29, 2010

From Wednesday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.

Fickle weather turned “True Grit” directors away from Sooner State

LOS ANGELES – Brave as they are when it comes to their cinematic choices, Oscar-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen weren’t willing to take a chance on the Oklahoma or Arkansas weather when it came to making their adaptation of Charles Portis’ book “True Grit.”

The Arkansas author’s acclaimed Western novel is set in his home state and Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The Oscar-winning siblings considered shooting in the Sooner State, which prompted Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, to ask the state Legislature in November 2009 to lift the $5 million cap on the state film incentive program.

Oscar-winning filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen (AP file)
Oscar-winning filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen (AP file)

The brothers also considered filming in Colorado and Utah. But they ultimately shot “True Grit” in March and April around Santa Fe, N.M., and in Granger and Austin, Texas. One reason: The story is set in winter, and they couldn’t count on springtime snowfall in this part of the country.

“New Mexico does have a lot of incentives to film there. There was another thing actually … we knew we wanted to have snow in the movie,” Joel Coen told The Oklahoman at a press conference for the film at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. “And the trick was snow but not too much snow.”

The Coen brothers new film actually is the second cinematic take on Portis’ 1968 novel. The 1969 film starring John Wayne, Glenn Campbell and Kim Darby featured the same story and setting. According to IMDB, it was filmed in largely in Colorado, along with California and Mexico. The Rocky Mountains can be seen looming in the background of many of the film’s scenes.

While the Coens set out to make a movie that would more faithfully adhere to the language and tone of Portis’ book, Ethan Coen said the film’s landscapes are a “total cheat” and differ from the novel. But the brothers said they emphasized authentically portraying the characters and story over creating a traditional landscape Western or filming in the actual locales mentioned in the book, which have changed drastically since the 1870s, when the novel is set.

“It’s about the characters. The honest answer is that it kind of becomes this mish-mash of different considerations that go into where you’re shooting and how you want to sort of treat the landscape,” Joel Coen said. “They’re a little bit hard to sort out after the fact, but everywhere from sort of the practical to just, you know, what does the movie actually want to be about.”


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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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