The Coen Brothers May Be Done Making Movies Together
When The Tragedy of Macbeth premieres at the New York Film Festival next month, it will do so with a directing credit that hasn’t been seen in many years: “Directed by Joel Coen” — no Ethan. Since 2004, every movie made by the Coen brothers had both their names listed together. Prior to that, Joel was the credited director and Ethan was the credited producer, but they shared all the responsibilities. (There are guild rules against multiple directors receiving credit together, which is why Joel was credited solo for many years.)
The Tragedy of Macbeth, though, was made by Joel without Ethan; he’s not credited as director or writer or producer because he didn’t work on the film period. It’s a first in either of their careers, and while it was initially described as a temporary separation, it looks like it could be a more permanent dissolution of one of the greatest sibling tandems in film history. The Coens’ longtime composer Carter Burwell was a guest on Score: The Podcast (via Los Angeles), and he revealed that Ethan doesn’t “want to make movies anymore.” He added:
Ethan seems very happy doing what he’s doing, and I’m not sure what Joel will do after this. They also have a ton of scripts they’ve written together that are sitting on various shelves. I hope maybe they get back to those. I’ve read some of those, and they are great. We are all at an age where we just don’t know… we could all retire.
Burwell says “it’s a little different” to have only one Coen brother directing a movie without the other. As for why Ethan didn’t participate in The Tragedy of Macbeth, Burwell said simply that “Ethan didn’t want to do it. He wants to do other things.”
If this really is the end of the Coen brothers as a team, it’s an anticlimactic finish to an incredible creative partnership. What kind of a world is it if there aren’t new Coen brothers movies to look forward to? Their final film together, at least for now, is the Western anthology The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Which was a really good movie! If they were sick of working together, or working on movies entirely, it certainly was not evident in the final product.
Will there be any obvious differences in a Coens movie without one of the Coens? We’ll find out when The Tragedy of Macbeth premieres next month. In the meantime, you can watch Burwell’s entire appearance on Score: The Podcast below: