« All Features

Joel and Ethan Coen Discuss the Making of Their Debut Feature ‘Blood Simple’

Written by on September 20, 2016 

Blood Simple_1

The Coens have used extensive storyboards from the start.

While they often don’t see the light of day, it’s no secret that the Coens rely heavily on storyboards to help prepare for the shoot — something they started from the very beginning of their career.  “Our storyboards were so elaborate. There was one that was a floor plan that showed where the cameras and the actors were for each single shot. Another corner was a normal storyboard and on the bottom was an area for comments like car, lighting effect, or rain,” Sonnefeld says about the film they shot in 42 days.

“Some directors want to throw everything up in the air and see where it lands and they can make great stuff out of that. It’s really how they work fundamentally and get great results. We’re kind of the other end of the spectrum, where we’re more comfortable if we have a plan even if we strike a distance from that plane if we’re shooting, given circumstances,” Joel adds.

Endless rewatches of Mad Max: The Road Warrior proved useful.

While they’ve never made a full-on action film, one of the staples in the genre was a major inspiration for the directing duo. Referencing the way they shot the handful of driving sequences in the film, Ethan says, “You know that low-angle sort of bumper stuff was very much inspired by the second Max Max movie, The Road Warrior, which we saw right before shooting the movie.” Sonnenfeld adds, “I think we had a Laserdisc of it and watched it over and over again and noticed a lot of stuff, like the truck was barely moving, but the camera moved so fast and we learned a lot from watching that movie over and over again in slow-motion.”

Blood Simple’s key grip inspired Burn After Reading.

In creating a contraption to be used to in the scene in which Frances McDormand goes from staring at the fish in the office to her head hitting her pillow, little did the Coens know it would relate to one of their features over two decades later. Their key grip Tom Prophet came with a lot of experience — “It would be like getting Leonardo DiCaprio to suddenly be in your first movie. He was the Leonardo of grips,” says Sonnefeld — and told them he saw a $300 dollar sex machine in Hustler magazine, but he thought he could make it for his wife for just a few bucks. So, with this knowledge, the directors figured Prophet could also create something to use for McDormand to fall back on while the camera follows her. “A couple of decades later we got more use out of it. It’s basically where George Clooney’s character in Burn After Reading came from,” Ethan says. “He’s a home hobbyist who makes sex machines in his basement.”

The Coens attribute much of their success to luck.

Even while nitpicking their debut, reflecting on the overall journey of making it, “as an experience making the movie, it was great,” Ethan says. “I’m sure Joel would agree, [it was] by far the most fun, because it was all new. It was stimulating when it’s new.” His brother concludes, “Luck plays such a huge role in every aspect of making movies, from whether or not you’re lucky enough for the right person to see it or write the right thing about it in the end to whether or not you get fucked by the weather on something you only have four hours to shoot. It’s both part of what makes making movies very exciting and also part of what makes it hairy. Generally speaking, we’ve been very lucky.”


Blood Simple is now available on The Criterion Collection.

« 1 2»

See More: , ,

blog comments powered by Disqus

News More

Trailers More

Features More
Twitter icon_twitter Follow