Twenty-five years after supervising Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Raising Arizona” as a production executive at Fox, producer Scott Rudin finally found the right project to reunite with them.
Cormac McCarthy’s elegiac Western novel “No Country for Old Men” was “the perfect union of material and filmmakers,” says Rudin, who has found his niche as a New York-based theater and film producer at Disney/Miramax.
He sets up six or so movie projects a year with the world’s brainiest, most challenging filmmakers at Disney’s Miramax (Stephen Frears’ “The Queen”), Paramount Vantage (Noah Baumbach’s “Margot at the Wedding”) and Fox Searchlight (Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited”).
“The Coen brothers are the filmmaking-language equivalent of what McCarthy does in his books,” says Rudin. “They had dealt with these Melville-like themes of fate and destiny in their films. I bought the book, but the only way I was interested in making it was with the Coens. They committed to write, but down the road I’d hoped they’d want to make it, too.
“When the script came in, I was still at Paramount, but I was moving to Disney and Miramax. I approached (Paramount Vantage head) John Lesher and Disney to take half the movie. It was at the same time that Lesher was trying to raise half the money on ‘There Will Be Blood.’ I wanted to see if they’d do these two filmmaking teams and great pieces of material together and kickstart both Vantage and Miramax.”
Stars Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem were the first to be signed, but casting the film’s laconic antihero Llewelyn Moss turned out to be more involved.
“They wanted an ordinary guy, while all the guys who wanted to do it were stars,” explains Rudin. “As it became obvious that there was not going to be a big star playing Moss, which caused anxiety at both companies, I felt obliged to keep the pressure away from the Coens; I wanted to preserve their enthusiasm. A short time before the Coens started, they met Josh (Brolin) and loved him. It was really the only genuinely enthusiastic response they had to anyone in that part, it was impossible to ignore.
“When you work with filmmakers like this you end up being led by their instincts: They’re incorruptible. It’s very easy. You go down the road behind them and make sure the brush is clear in front of them.”
NUTS & BOLTS
Talent: “The whole idea is the Coen brothers and (novelist Cormac) McCarthy together. That’s what the whole marketing strategy has been.”
Biggest hurdle: “Figuring out the relationship between the two studios (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) just as everyone was finding their way. It was a confusing time.”