Some news stories bury the lede. There was one this week that left the lede out entirely.
Deadline reported this week about an upcoming film project based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Reported as an exclusive by Michael Fleming, Jr., the piece had the headline “Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Joel Coen Teaming For ‘Macbeth’ Movie.”
The story says that Washington and McDormand are starring in the film, which Joel Coen (who is married to McDormand) is writing and directing, with Scott Rudin producing and A24 the distributor. The film sounds exciting and intriguing, and the news article announcing it is structured exactly like the kind of story written in one of the Hollywood trade publications probably 20 times each week.
But the Macbeth story leaves out something pretty crucial: The name “Ethan Coen.”
In other words, for as long as the Coen Brothers have been making movies – their first film, Blood Simple, came out in 1984 – neither of them has ever made a movie without the other, until now.
For all of their films until The Ladykillers in 2004, Joel was credited as director and Ethan as producer, with both credited as writers. But that had more to do with Directors Guild rules that discouraged the use of co-directors than anything having to do with their individual rules.
Everyone who considers the Coens’ work – and, over the years, a whole lot of people have – considers them a team that is more or less equally responsible for each one of their works, which have included such masterpieces as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Inside Llewyn Davis, No Country For Old Men, and A Serious Man.
So for one of the Coens to make a movie without the other, for the first time in their careers… that’s somewhat newsworthy, is it not? Shouldn’t a Hollywood trade website at least comment upon something so significant? Or was the story given exclusively to this reporter, with the condition that no questions be asked (or shared) about the reason for Ethan’s absense?
This can’t help but lead to speculation, especially since, upon the release of their film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs last year, the Coens had no follow-up project announced.
Did the Coens have a falling out? Did they have a friendly disagreement over whether or not to make the Macbeth film, leading Joel to make it without Ethan? Is Ethan sitting out the project for personal reasons? I suspect we’ll eventually get an answer to all of those questions, I just find it strange that neither Deadline, or any other Hollywood outlet, has thought to explore why this is happening.