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Why have the Coen Brothers split up for new 'Macbeth' movie?

Throughout their movie career, the Coen Brothers have existed almost as a single entity, like one strange mass of divine sui generis cinematic talent. Onset stories might have illuminated the difference, but the first-hand experience of punters pairs them like the proverbial peas in a pod. 

However, after 37 years of making movies together, the cinematic atom has split, and they have parted ways ahead of Joel Coen’s solo directorial debut on The Tragedy of Macbeth. This got many fans asking how, why and what? A fall out seems incredulous, it would be like Burt falling out with Ernie and on the rare occasion that they have ventured off the leash, like with Ethan Coen’s short story anthology, it was clear that they remain firmly on the same creative page, so, what exactly has happened?

It seems that the answer is simple, Ethan wanted to do something else. As Carter Burwell, the composer who has scored just about every single Coen Brothers movie, told Collider: “Ethan didn’t want to do it. He wants to do other things.” It’s as simple as that. There hasn’t been a grand row or a creative rift, they are, after all, separate guys and creative legends in their own right, and after nearly 40 years they’ve taken a slight detour. 

However, this hasn’t stopped the transition from feeling a little bit strange all the same. “It’s a little different, even just the conversations I’ve had,” Burwell said. “Yeah, it’s a little different to have one of the brothers there. And I know Ethan, I saw him towards the end of last year and Joel was out prepping the shoot in LA, he said it felt strange that Joel is out there getting ready to make a movie.”

With the Coen’s nearly always working within the same cinematic family before on screen and behind the camera, it has been an adjustment period for much of the crew. “It’s going to be a little bit different for all of us,” Burwell continued. “I think it’s safe to say, but I think it’s still going to be a very recognizable voice that you’re familiar with, a look that you’re familiar with, I think. I think you’ll find that.”

While taking on William Shakespeare might not seem like a typical Coen-Esque modus operandi, Burwell also took the opportunity to tease that there’ll most likely still be some spots that even Shakespeare can’t change. “We all know the story. So the surprises won’t be in the story, but it’s about the way it’s shot and the things we choose to accentuate, and the angle we take with it.”

As far as new starts go Denzel Washington will be making his Coen debut in the lead role of Lord Macbeth, while the familiar face of Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand, hot off her Nomadland Oscar win, will take portray Lady Macbeth. Elsewhere Brendan Gleeson stars as King Duncan and following his stellar role in the Coen Brother joint The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the up-and-coming Harry Melling will make a return. 

As of yet the production company, A24 is yet to announce a release date, but it is understood within the industry that post-production is now underway. We’ll be sure to update you with one as soon as we know. For now, you can enjoy a cut of perhaps the oddest trait that the pair propagated in their time together below.

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