Over the course of the past 25 years, [url id=”http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2009/09/30/on-the-eve-of-a-serious-man-the-strange-appeal-of-the-brothers-coen/”]Joel and Ethan Coen[/url] have unleashed scores of beleaguered and bedeviled men on an adoring group of fans. No filmmaker can torture a man quite the way these two can. From the Dude (just how many times did his head get pushed into that toilet?) to Llewelyn Moss’ bloody end, angst is never so much fun as it is in a Coen brothers film.
And now we can add Larry Gopnick, the protagonist of “A Serious Man,” to the mix. Michael Stuhlbarg stars in the new release as a professor vexed by his wife (leaving him for one of the great names in film this year, Sy Abelman), his son (nagging and “F Troop” obsessed) and brother (an out-there Richard Kind), among others.
MTV News sat down with the Coen brothers to discuss their latest work (by far their most personal and, yes, Jewish), why George Clooney was born to be an idiot and what sequel they’re eyeing.
MTV: This film would seem to have more personal connections to your lives than most of your others. Would it be fair to call this a “personal film”?
Ethan Coen: There’s some truth to that. We grew up in suburban Minneapolis in a Jewish community, and this period is when we were kids. But the story itself is all made up.
MTV: This is certainly your Jew-iest film to date. Is the world ready for something so Jewy?
Joel Coen: Someone remarked that it made “Yentl” look like “Ordinary People.” [Laughs.] I think the Jewish community is going to find it interesting and hopefully funny and completely non-threatening. Some people might find it too exotic, but most people are pretty open to things.
MTV: I appreciate any film with so many references to “F Troop.”
Joel Coen: We were big Larry Storch fans.
Ethan Coen: Jefferson Airplane plus Yiddish songs plus the “F Troop” theme, that’s not just a potent one-two.
MTV: There seems to be a running thread in your work of put-upon men.
Ethan Coen: I don’t think it’s an obsession, but I think it’s something we find fruitful when we’re trying to find the story. It’s a good thing to hang a story on. It’s like, “What would be good here? Let’s heap some more abuse on him. That would be good.” [Laughs.]
MTV: Why was it important to you to not cast a recognizable actor in the lead role?
Ethan Coen: You don’t want to break that spell. George Clooney would not sit well in this particular shul.
MTV: Has he completed his tour of duty with you in playing idiots?
Joel Coen: I hope not.
Ethan Coen: Right after he wrapped on “Burn After Reading,” and he was on his way home, he said to us, “That’s it, boys, I’ve played my last idiot!”
Joel Coen: Some people have the chops to play great idiots. George is one of those people.
MTV: I’ve talked to your “Lebowski” stars a lot about the supposed spin-off film. I never know if John Turturro is joking about it or if he’s serious.
Ethan Coen: Oh, he’s serious. He’s onboard.
Joel Coen: He’s very serious.
MTV: He told me he wants you guys to write and he could direct it.
Joel Coen: Oh, is that right?
Ethan Coen: Yeah, it could happen.
MTV: Do you guys think there’s a chance of that happening? Could there possibly be 100 minutes of Jesus?
Joel Coen: That could be a good name for the movie, “100 Minutes of Jesus.”
Ethan Coen: We don’t see it yet.
Joel Coen: That movie has more of an enduring fascination for other people than it does for us.
Ethan Coen: We did talk to Turturro about doing [a “Barton Fink” sequel] “Old Fink.”
Joel Coen: Yes, that’s one that would actually be fun to do. We told Turturro this is one sequel we’d actually like to make but not until he was actually old enough to play the part.
Ethan Coen: He’s getting there.
Check out everything we’ve got on “A Serious Man.”
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