The Coen brothers get serious about their serious new film, "No Country for Old Men."
Joel and Ethan Coen are in almost constant motion. Three days after completing photography in New York City on their upcoming spy comedy "Burn After Reading," in the lull before beginning preproduction on their spring feature "A Serious Man," they were in Los Angeles to discuss "No Country for Old Men," their working methods and the importance of movie stars' haircuts.
Q Critics are saying this is the best movie of the year, the best movie you've ever made, but it's extremely violent.
JC We don't agree with any of that. (Laughs.) Violence is an important element in many of the books [Cormac McCarthy] writes, and it seems to us completely misguided to try to soften that in the adaptation. It became just a directorial problem to figure out how to do it, what to show, how much to show, to find a reasonable, appropriate approach to it.
Q This is the least mannered of the films you have made. Was that dictated by the source material, or did you make a conscious decision?
EC To knock it off? No. We never make those overall abstract decisions or calculations. It was an adaptation of the book. We liked the story so we tried to serve the story. You try to treat it the way it feels to you how it wants to be treated.
JC This was not a story about buffoons, so they weren't treated that way or portrayed that way.
Q This is your first adaptation, and you're working with a book by a well respected author. What challenges did that present?
JC The initial challenge was what to do in those alternating chapters in the book. You get monologues from the sheriff essentially unrelated to the story. We didn't want to eliminate it entirely.
EC Cormac visited the set a couple of times, living as it happened not far from where we were shooting a lot of the movie in New Mexico. They were social visits, not working visits.
JC He's seen the film. He didn't complain.
Q It's being categorized as a crime drama but it doesn't build to a tidy resolution.
JC That's very much a reflection of the way the book works. It had to be modified from the book in service of the drama, but those particular things didn't bother us. That was part of the reason we thought the novel was interesting and interesting to adapt into a movie. It's a crime story, but it doesn't resolve itself like a conventional crime story. We're aware when we're making a movie that we might not be making a movie for everybody. But we're convinced we're making it for enough people who can see it as an interesting thing that we don't worry about it.
Q Do you think of this as a crime movie or one with something more philosophical to say?
EC The fact that it was both was appealing.
JC It's a big soup. You can't parse the soup.