Are the Coen Brothers Done as a Directing Duo?

The brothers have written several unproduced scripts, but a close collaborator says Ethan simply doesn’t want to make movies anymore

It seems Ethan Coen’s “rest” from making movies may be more permanent than previously thought.

The writer and director, who’s made several acclaimed and Oscar-winning movies alongside brother Joel Coen, could be done with directing for good, according to a longtime collaborator who may have let slip during a podcast interview.

Carter Burwell, the composer who’s scored every Coen brothers movie, spoke last week on the podcast Score about his work with the duo over the years. But when asked about Joel’s upcoming The Tragedy of Macbeth, the first movie written and directed by one Coen, Burwell explained that “Ethan just didn’t want to make movies anymore.”

The slightly younger Coen did say in fall 2019 that he was “giving movies a rest” in order to focus on his solo playwriting. But Burwell’s explanation after about two years of Ethan not participating in the making of any movies sounded more definitive than a simple break.

“Ethan seems to be very happy doing what he’s doing, and I’m not sure what Joel will do after [Macbeth],” Burwell added. He expects the movie to be released sometime this year after filming was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Burwell, who has also scored films for directors Martin McDonagh and Todd Haynes, didn’t say there would be no movies written by both Coens to ever appear on screen again. He noted the brothers have “a ton of scripts they’ve written together that are sitting on various shelves.” None are currently in production.

“I hope maybe they get back to some of those because I’ve read some and they’re great,” Burwell went on. “But I don’t know. We’re all at an age where we could retire, but I don’t think that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It’s a wonderfully unpredictable business.”

A cowriting credit certainly does not mean the duo would co-direct again, meaning the last full Coen brothers movie that they both wrote, produced, and directed would be 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the first time the brothers worked with streamer Netflix. Their last Oscar win was in 2008 for No Country for Old Men.

Representatives for the Coens couldn’t be reached for comment.

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