With 18 films on their resume, the Coen brothers can be considered some of the most distinguished filmmakers working today. They have tried almost every genre – comedy, rom-com, drama, western, and dark noir – and somehow, they have managed to create an special trademark in every one of their works. Simply, it ain’t no film but a Coen brothers film.
Dry and dark humor, smart dialogue, complex stories with heavy use of irony, wide angle shots and frequent acting collaborations are part of this special trademark the Coens simply own.
However, when it comes to talk about acting, the directors have created some of the most intense, powerful and unusual performances from their actors. It doesn’t matter if that actor has worked with them in two or six films, they find a way to bring out the best in them once again and in a very different way.
With that in mind, we brought you 10 actors that we would like to find working with the Coens for a second round (considering that they have worked with them only once, thus far).
10. Hailee Steinfeld
At only 14 years old, Hailee Steinfeld’s first film of her career was directed by no other than the Coen brothers. This wasn’t just any film; it was a new version of a classic western that earned John Wayne an Oscar for Best Actor. That film, “True Grit”, now stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Steinfeld in the main roles.
To star in and drive a rough film among such heavy names, and yet still managing to perform naturally while handling these veteran actors, certainly isn’t easy. But Steinfeld did it and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress (yes, supporting, even when she is the main character).
This proves how the directors can combine their actors in order to create an intense film. It would definitely be interesting to find Steinfeld, now with more experience, dealing with another film and cast with the Coen brothers.
9. Nicolas Cage
Back in the beginning of his career, Nicolas Cage starred in a small, dark comedy called “Raising Arizona”, alongside Holly Hunter. Though Hunter had previously appeared in the Coens’ first film, “Blood Simple”, and re-teamed for a third time on “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, Cage hasn’t appeared on any other Coen brothers film since.
At that point in his career, Cage was a rising star and proved his talent, featuring an complex but funny character who helped to drive much of what is considered today as one of the best works by the directors. Keeping in consideration Cage’s current career trajectory, it should be interesting (and undoubtedly refreshing) to find the actor re-teaming with the directors who helped create one of his best performances.
8. Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson came to work with the Coens in the 2007 hit “No Country For Old Men”, having a supporting but key role that helped detonate a big part of the plot. But while important (and quite good), Harrelson’s appearance isn’t one of the most memorable parts of the film. In fact, not many people remember that they worked together.
This is sort of a shame, since Harrelson is an actor with a long career who has proven his talents in all kinds of films. From psychopaths to weirdly strange guys, Harrelson’s charisma is always welcomed in any film. Therefore, seeing him in a major role in another Coen brothers film could allow the directors to make a better use of the actor’s multiple talents.
7. John Malkovich
Often known for his portrayal of intense, crazy or maniacal characters, John Malkovich worked with the directors on the 2008 dark comedy “Burn After Reading”. Here, Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, a former CIA analyst whose memoirs end up in the hands of two personal trainers, unleashing an complex, unusual and stupid plot.
As Cox, Malkovich uses his explosive talents to create an intense and disturbed character who must deal with several crises throughout the film, but still remains within the dark comedic tone of the film. Certainly, under any other director, Cox could have easily be an dramatic plot point, but the Coens managed to turn the acting and plot into a great comedic element (just think the Malkovich-Pitt scene in the car).
Considering Malkovich’s intensity and the Coens’ love for using dramatic plots as comedic aspects, a second collaboration would be an very interesting exercise.
6. Tom Hanks
Considered one of the best actors working today, Tom Hanks teamed with the Coens for the 2004 dark comedy “The Ladykillers”. Here, Hanks gives an quirky but charming performance, as the leader of a group of criminals trying to steal a casino, who must deal with a strict, religious, elderly widow, whose house works as the place to do the crime.
As with every Coens brothers comedy, it’s filled with irony and unusual twists. While it may not be the best work of their career, Hanks’s performance was certainly great and seemed to fit with the director’s dark humor.
In a way, it could be said that Hanks worked with Coen brothers for a second time on the Cold War drama “Bridge of Spies”. However, that film was only written by the brothers (the film was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg).
Being that Hanks is an actor requiring no introduction, having proven his talents on drama and comedy, another collaboration between him and the directors would be an very interesting exercise to see. After all, it has been said throughout this article that the Coens always bring something different out of their actors, and with Hanks already having so many different characters in his career, it could surprise critics and viewers.