Before meeting Tim Blake Nelson at a Manhattan hotel, I quickly did the math in my head. Now, this is far from scientific, but I couldn’t think of an actor I’d seen more in movies – Nelson has been in over 50; from everything from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, to Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, to even a short run (that was going to be longer) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – yet I know the least about personally.
To be fair, from the outside looking in, this seems to be the perfect level of fame: to be consistently working, yet also being able to just live a normal life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where his big Saturday plan was to watch the Oklahoma-Texas football game. (Nelson grew up in Oklahoma and is a huge Sooners fan. The most comfortable he looked over the course of this interview was when he was talking about Oklahoma football.)
Nelson is currently starring as the title character in the Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (which just had its American premiere at New York Film Festival). That said, “title character” may be a little misleading since Buster Scruggs is only one of six completely separate short films that make up the film. There’s no sly way these stories all fit together other than they all take place in the Coen’s version of “the Old West.” The Coens tapped Nelson way back in 2002 to play Buster Scruggs, an extremely accurate gunslinger who loves singing about clean water and shooting ornery cusses before they have a chance to shoot him. Honestly, I could have watched a whole movie about Buster Scruggs.
Ahead, Nelson explains why he likes being an enigma to most of us (though he swears it’s unintentional, but he does seem to like it this way), expresses his excitement over his still unknown role (see, an enigma) in HBO’s Watchmen series, and does seem legitimately disappointed that he never got to continue his role as Dr. Samuel Sterns, who later becomes the Leader, in The Incredible Hulk.
We have a lot of time together. I’ll know everything about you before this is over.
You may not want to spend five minutes with me.
You’re an enigma to me. Do you like being an enigma?
Yeah, I suppose so. It’s not intentional.
I’ve probably seen you in more movies than any other actor that I know the least about personally.
Yeah, I’m a husband and a dad. And I live on the Upper West Side and that life is very discrete.
And you’re originally from Oklahoma. We’re from bordering states originally…
Are you Kansas?
Missouri, actually. Which I think has the record for the most states that border it.
Let me see if I can name them.
All right, so there’s Arkansas.
Okay, so Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois. Would it be Tennessee? So then Kentucky? So it will be Iowa?
There’s one more after that.
Do you watch the Tigers football?
Missouri? I do.
I’m going to be watching the Sooners and Texas at noon.
Yeah, it’s Mizzou for me Saturday then the Chiefs on Sunday.
I’m so excited.
This will be my new series, “Talk to famous actors about their feelings about Patrick Mahomes.”
Well, I am now a Cleveland fan of course.
Oh, because of Baker Mayfield?
Yeah, he’s gonna be great. And Kyler Murray might win the Heisman. You’d have two Oklahoma quarterbacks winning back to back Heismans.