The Coens grew up in a
The Coens, who have been nominated for 10 Oscars (and won in the best director and best picture categories for 2007's "No Country for Old Men"), are students of film history but say the 1969 version of "True Grit," which won Wayne his only Oscar for lead actor, is a bit of a blind spot.
"We both saw the movie as kids when it first came out, but we don't really remember it very well, honestly,"
Regardless, the title is the same, and for moviegoers of a certain age, this
Bridges, who at 61 is about the same age as Wayne
was in his "True Grit" days, knows the headlines are coming — "The Dude
"It never crossed my mind when we were making the film," Bridges said of the shoot in
The core story is the same in the novel and both films: A 14-year-old girl,
Bridges may find himself in the Oscar race again, but this film lives and dies on the performance of
"If the actors had not been great riders, we would
have been screwed and if we didn't have the right person in that role
we would have been screwed,"
Two casting directors hopscotched across the U.S.
for a year and meeting with young rodeo riders and country girls. "They
looked at thousands of people, literally, through online submissions,"
Bridges admits he was worried about the late arrival: "Right up until the first day of the shooting, I didn't know if she had the goods. She is a lovely person, but I didn't know if she could handle this role. You have to have chops. You have to have talent. And she does."
Steinfeld, talking about her character, could have been describing herself among the "Grit" ensemble: "She's this tough, witty, savvy girl but — as much as she is all that — she still is a 14-year-old girl away from home. She stands up to these guys and that's what I love about her most."
The Coens are known for blue language and black humor that often runs red with blood; most of their movies to date have been R-rated affairs. "True Grit," though, is PG-13.
"A movie that younger audiences wouldn't be excluded from — that was important,"
His brother added: "I think it's a movie that 14-year-olds should be able to see and would want to see."
There's something about "Grit" that carries a Mark Twain texture — maybe it's the way Brolin's character channels the guttural malice of Injun Joe or the way Mattie has a bit of Tom, Becky and Huck in her persona.
"Mattie is a bit more of a pill than
It's not clear, however, if the film's moments of wrenching violence will make it the holiday movie choice for families. And then there's the language barrier: Dying characters who announce "I am shot to pieces!" may make some contemporary audiences giggle and mainstream America might not be as excited as the Coens about Portis' oratorical curlicues and contraction-free speechifying of the 19th century.
Bridges, however, thinks people will be charmed to hear his crowing Rooster.
"Rooster has all these wonderful long monologues — you think he'd be the strong silent type, but instead he's this blustering boor in a way. He wants to tell his life story and you can't shut this guy up. Everybody in the film is a talker, and it's fascinating stuff, really, these lives and voices that feel like part of another time."
The film is full of sweeping vistas and haunting textures, much of that the work of
There's one especially intense scene where Cogburn gallops into gunfire and, facing superior numbers, puts his tether between his teeth so he can use both hands to shoot. It's a high-adrenaline moment and it was done without a stunt double or CG, a fact that the cast and crew are still talking about.
"For me it was the excitement of being a kid and the fear of falling off, but we did it," Bridges said. "It was a hot, windy, gusty day. It was one of things I'll remember about making the movie, that and seeing the Coens in cowboy hats. That put a smile on my face."
Wearing hats was about as far as Western adventure went for the citified Coens. "I did not get on a horse, not once,"
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