Coens find an old friend

Barenholtz aboard for next pic

O brothers, what is thy plot?

Joel and Ethan Coen have begun developing an untitled new project with producer Ben Barenholtz. But the publicity-shy duo are still noodling with the plot and refuse to divulge any details.

The Coens have a first-look deal with Working Title, the shingle owned by Universal. But Working Title has gone elsewhere for distribution in the past, releasing last year’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou” through Buena Vista. The Coens’ latest effort, crime drama “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” will be distribbed by Universal-affiliated USA Films following its Cannes preem.

The untitled project marks a reunion of the Coens with Barenholtz, who helped secure financing for their first feature, “Blood Simple,” before serving as exec producer of “Miller’s Crossing” and their Palme d’Or winner “Barton Fink.”

A Gotham film biz stalwart, Barenholtz opened the Elgin Cinema in 1968, distributed pics including “Eraserhead” and John Woo’s “The Killer” under his Libra Films and Circle banners and recently served as an exec producer of Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream.”

Key players in process

Barenholtz said it’s not yet clear whether the project will be developed with Working Title, but either way, he expects the Coens to play an extensive role in all production matters. “They probably know more about marketing than most marketing people,” he said. Unlike many filmmakers, he added, “they never thought the business end was dirty.”

Next up for the Coens is “To the White Sea,” a feature starring Brad Pitt and based on a James Dickey novel. It follows the journey home of an American pilot shot down over Japan during World War II. A Hollywood work stoppage could stall “Sea,” currently set to be shot in Japan and Canada.

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