Producer Scott Rudin made one of the greatest decisions of his life when he approached Joel and Ethan Coen about directing a project for him in 2005. He had purchased the film rights to “No Country for Old Men,” a new novel by Cormac McCarthy about a drug deal gone wrong on the United States/Mexico border in the 1980s. But they were hesitant to accept since they were known for writing their own original movies, including an Oscar victory for the screenplay of Fargo” in 1996.
The finished film brought them back to the Academy Awards 10 years ago and became the Best Picture of 2007 at the ceremony in 2008 (watch the video above). They would also take home trophies for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay that evening. With this triumph the Coen brothers joined James Cameron as the most recent three-time winners at the same Oscars ceremony. He had previously prevailed as writer, director, and editor of Best Picture champ “Titanic” at the 1998 show.
Since they were also nominated for Best Film Editing (under the name of Roderick Jaynes), they also matched the record of four personal nominations for one film held by Orson Welles for “Citizen Kane” and Warren Beatty for “Heaven Can Wait” and “Reds.” Both of those men had bids for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actor.
In total “No Country for Old Men” won four of its eight nominations:
Best Picture – Joel & Ethan Coen, Scott Rudin (winner)
Best Supporting Actor – Javier Bardem (winner)
Best Director – Joel & Ethan Coen (winner)
Best Adapted Screenplay – Joel & Ethan Coen (winner)
Best Cinematography – Roger Deakins (lost to “There Will Be Blood”)
Best Editing – Joel & Ethan Coen (lost to “The Bourne Ultimatum”)
Best Sound Mixing – Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, and Peter F. Kurland (lost to “The Bourne Ultimatum”)
Best Sound Editing – Skip Lievsay (lost to “The Bourne Ultimatum”)
Though they have had enormous success before and since, “No Country for Old Men” remains a unique part of the Coen filmography for several reason. At 122 minutes it is the longest of all their films and the only one to run over two hours. This was also one film where they cast none of their regular actors (George Clooney, John Goodman, etc.). Instead, they cast all the lead roles with actors they’d never worked with. Javier Bardem was very resistant to take the villainous role of Chigurh, saying he was totally unlike the character. The Coen brothers insisted that was exactly why they wanted him.
Since the night of their “No Country for Old Men,” the brothers have been back to the Academy Awards with three more films. They received nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay of A Serious Man” (2009), for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay of “True Grit” (2010), and for Best Original Screenplay of “Bridge of Spies” (2015).
The latest Coen project will be “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” a six-part limited series about the Old West set for release later this year by Netflix. The Emmy Awards might be next for the duo.
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