The Coen brothers have successfully established themselves as one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers in the world, with multiple masterpieces like The Big Lebowski and Fargo in their illustrious filmography. Over the course of their career, the directing duo has received multiple prestigious accolades, including the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for their 1991 gem Barton Fink.
When it was announced in 2019 that Joel Coen would film his interpretation of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy Macbeth and that it would be his first directorial effort without his brother, many wondered what was going on and whether there had been a falling out. However, sources close to the brothers confirmed that the split had been “amicable”.
“Ethan just didn’t want to make movies anymore,” longtime collaborator Carter Burwell revealed in the podcast Score. “Ethan seems to be very happy doing what he’s doing, and I’m not sure what Joel will do after [Macbeth].”
While adding that the filmmaking duo has “a ton of” scripts that haven’t been produced, Burwell said: “I hope maybe they get back to some of those because I’ve read some and they’re great… 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.”
In a separate interview, Ethan Coen explained the reasoning behind his exit from the world of cinema and why he wanted to focus on the theatre: “I feel totally comfortable with movies. My brother and I have been making movies since we were kids… But working on movies is such a piecemeal, technical thing. This is the exact opposite of that — this is a fluid, fragile thing where everything affects the next thing.”
Adding, “What’s terrifying about that is it can all go to hell in an instant. You make a wrong decision in rehearsals, and it’s just not like making a movie, where you can always retrieve errors and slap stuff together and make sense of it in a different way. This, my God, it’s really different.”