It's not particularly a new idea that the Coen brothers' next will be a project titled “Hail Caesar,” as Deadline is claiming “exclusively.” But we haven't written about it around these parts yet, so let's do that…
I'm actually coming off a Coen binge in recent months. After what was one of the filmmaker siblings' absolute greatest achievements, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” I felt a desire to dig back through the catalogue. A number of their films I had not actually seen in some time, so it was good to explore them again. These guys simply remain on another level, and it started right out of the gate with “Blood Simple” in 1985.
“Hail Caesar” will tell the story of a Hollywood fixer in the 1950s who works for the studios and protects the stars. So immediately, there is a whiff of “Barton Fink” here, the Coens' masterful, esoteric Palme d'Or winner from 1991 that remains one of the highlights of their career. Deadline is comparing the central character, Eddie Manniz, to '50s PI Fred Otash, and notes that the material will deal in the studios' internal security concerns, aiming to keep a certain fresh image for the public.
This is right in the Coens' purview. Many of their films often deal with dark or seedy underbellies and the concealment of not-so-clean behavior behind a devilishly squeaky facade. That's in both the macro and the micro, whether an element of plot or character.
Again, the news of this likely being the Coens' next was already out there back in December when my colleague Anne Thompson questioned the pair about the script. Joel indicated at the time that there was a good possibility it would be their next film, so there's nothing particularly additive here, but it will be interesting to see what tone the script takes.
Generally it seems the Coens maintain an even keel and never get bogged down in one tone or another. “Barton Fink” was followed by “The Hudsucker Proxy.” Then we got “Fargo,” but then we got “The Big Lebowski.” “The Man Who Wasn't There” was followed by “Intolerable Cruelty,” and it was “Burn After Reading” that came on the heels of Oscar winner “No Country for Old Men.”
Basically, they tend to cleanse the palette with something (comparatively) broad when they've cranked out something so deeply and richly felt as an “Inside Llewyn Davis.” The genius of the Coens is that even those broad strokes tend to carry more weight than a run of the mill comedy, so I would expect “Hail Caesar” to tilt closer to zany on their general spectrum.
Indeed, George Clooney has long been thought to star in the film, and he once said it would round out an “idiot” trilogy with two of his other collaborations with the duo: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Intolerable Cruelty.” Though I'd say “Burn After Reading” qualifies in such a trio more than the latter, but I digress.
Okay, lightning round. Top five Coen brothers films:
1. “A Serious Man” (2009)
2. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)
3. “Fargo” (1996)
4. “Barton Fink” (1991)
5. “No Country for Old Men” (2005)