Dodge College was able to host an intimate Q&A with renowned director – and half of one of the best filmmaking duos in Hollywood – Joel Coen including a screening of Fargo on February 8.

When I hear the last name Coen, I immediately think of brothers. While we only had half of the duo, Joel Coen made sure we knew that he and his brother are always working together, constantly weaving “we” “ourselves” and “us” into his responses. Filmmaking is a huge group effort, especially when you are working with your brother. Joel Coen has done quite a few solo directing projects since becoming a big time Hollywood director: Fargo; The Big Lebowski; O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Almost every single time, his brother Ethan was on the project as a writer. “Our collaboration is long-standing. The most important part of collaboration, the key to it, is to know when the other person is right. It is a business of working things out. We are making something more than the sum of its parts.”

I am a huge fan of book to movie adaptations, so it was news to me when I heard Joel Coen say No Country for Old Men was adapted from a book. What was an even bigger shock to both the audience and me was to hear that Cormac McCarthy – author of the novel of the same name – originally wrote the story as a screenplay in its original form until just a bit ago. It is widely known that most of Cormac McCarthy’s books are unadaptable, but the Coen Brothers proceed to prove everyone wrong. 

It was a big departure from what they had done before, but the risk clearly paid off. After that, the duo directed Burn After Reading; True Grit; Inside Llewyn Davis; Hail, Caesar!; and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Most recently, Joel Coen directed the Academy Award-nominated The Tragedy of Macbeth starring his wife Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington. Who knows what’s in store for the Coen Brothers next, whether it is a joint project or a solo film for either of them, Dodge students will be front and center ready to watch and with a poster ready to sign. 

“You can do it if you want to do it. It’s all possible.” A piece of advice I know that students will carry with them forever. Thank you to Joel Coen for coming and sharing what it’s like to collaborate in the industry with his brother and what inspired them to start creating films together. 

Keep an eye out for the rest of Dodge’s Master Classes this semester!