For the first time since their Oscar-winning 1996 film "Fargo" brought duck stamps, wood chippers and "you betcha" into the national consciousness, the Coen brothers are returning to Minnesota to make a movie.
"A Serious Man," set in their hometown of St. Louis Park, will begin shooting in the Twin Cities in March, Lucinda Winter, executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board, said Friday.
Joel and Ethan Coen helped scout locations this summer, Winter said. "They looked in Richfield, Brooklyn Center, maybe Hopkins -- neighborhoods that would match the one they grew up in."
The Coen-scripted dark comedy centers on "Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor in the Midwest during the 1960s," according to the website FilmJerk. Bedeviled by children who lift his wallet, a wife who wants a divorce, a too-intense grad student and a hot neighbor who sunbathes in the nude, "he starts to question the value of life."
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Coens' parents were college professors.
The Coen brothers could not be reached for comment Friday night. They are in New York City, filming their next feature, "Burn After Reading," which stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, the "Fargo" star and wife of Joel Coen.
Meanwhile, their critically praised bloody thriller "No Country for Old Men" will open in November.
After a drought in Minnesota film production alleviated only by "North Country" in 2005 and "A Prairie Home Companion" last year, Winter said she was "over the moon."This is a serious production," she said. "They'll be here from January [for preproduction] through June. There'll be jobs for about 100 Minnesotans."
Just as important, she said, it will "jump-start our visibility as a film location. Even now, people come up to me and say, 'Oh, Minnesota -- 'Fargo.'"
Producers also scouted locations in Wisconsin, but opted for the Coens' home state because of its "Snowbate" incentive program. Reinstituted in July 2006, it returns up to 15 percent of film production money spent in Minnesota.
"We're a player again," Winter said.
Tim Campbell 612-673-4865