When audiences leave the new Coen Brothers movie “Inside Llewyn Davis,” they’re not just humming the classic folk songs, or mulling over Llewyn’s journey: they’re humming a ridiculous novelty tune called “Please Mr. President.”
In the scene, Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is hired by Jim (Justin Timberlake) to record the song, along with singer Al Cody (Adam Driver). While Jim and Llewyn try to rehearse, they’re interrupted by Cody’s increasingly insane sound effects… Which, it turns out, were just as funny on set.
“It was f***ing hilarious, that’s what I recall,” Isaac told MTV News’ Josh Horowitz. “I mean it was hard to get through it. I just remember Ethan [Coen] just getting Adam to make weirder and weirder sounds.”
Driver, on the other hand, just felt the pressure of trying to fit in with the musically talented group. “We had a version of it in the pre-records, but they weren’t really happy with it,” Driver recalled. “They were like, it needs to be faster, it just needs to be something different. I don’t quite remember, I think it was Joel [Coen] or Ethan at that time who said, maybe you should warm up a bit. If there was a video taken at that moment, I think everyone in the room was maybe making sound effects.”
Even music producer T. Bone Burnett got in on the act, though his focus was on how to make a bad song… Good.
“That was the most difficult and worked on song, for sure,” Burnett said. “One of the interesting things about movies is that even if the song is supposed to be bad, it has to be great. Just all a character has to do is say, man that’s a bad song. And the audience will go along with it. But if it’s actually a bad song, the audience will just go, uh, that’s a bad song.”
So how do you make a bad song good? By, er, making it good.
“What makes it funny is if the audience agrees it’s a bad song, and its great,” Burnett continued. “And they know its great, too. And then they’re caught, the audience are caught in that place that makes us laugh. Cause we’re neither one place or the other.”
“Inside Llewyn Davis” hits select theaters today.