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Film

How Joel Coen seduced Frances McDormand for the first time

Frances McDormand is routinely ranked among the most talented contemporary actresses, known for her powerhouse performances in cult classics like Fargo as well as modern masterpieces, including the recent hit Nomadland. She quickly rose to the top of her field, starting her career with the Coen brothers’ 1984 neo-noir gem Blood Simple, which taught her how important filmmakers are to the artistic vision of the project.

“Even if I never see them [storyboards], to know that a director is thinking about how it’s going to be edited, that’s what I learned from Joel and Ethan,” McDormand explained. “Then I know what I’m serving. I do not believe that it’s an actor’s medium nor a director’s medium, I believe it’s an editor’s medium, so as an actor if I’m serving the final edit of a film, which is what I believe storyboards prepare you for, then I know the person knows what they’re doing.”

She also said that the director’s ability to interact with the actors is irrelevant, insisting that there is only one job for the filmmakers to focus on, and that is to orchestrate the final product: “If someone comes to me and says, ‘This director is really great with actors,’ I don’t care. Because I know how to do my job, I don’t want them to help me do my job. Do they know how to edit the film? Okay, great, I’d love to work with them.”

McDormand learnt many things about the world of cinema while working on Blood Simple, but she also learnt a lot about life. On the set of Blood Simple, the actress fell in love with one of the directors – Joel Coen. In an interview with the Daily Beast, McDormand revealed how Joel Coen successfully wooed her during the production process, which led to their eventual marriage.

“I’d only brought one book to read to Austin, Texas, where we were filming, and I asked him if there was anything he’d recommend,” she said. “He brought me a box of James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler paperbacks, and I said, ‘Which one should I start with?’ And he said, The Postman Always Rings Twice.”

Adding, “I read it, and it was one of the sexiest fucking books I’ve ever read. A couple of nights later, I said, ‘Would you like to come over and discuss the book?’ That did it. He seduced me with literature. And then we discussed books and drank hot chocolate for several evenings. It was fucking hot. Keep it across the room for as long as you can—that’s a very important element.” For all you literature nerds out there, there might be hope for you yet.

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