News / USA

Coen Brothers Bring New Perspective to Classic American Western, 'True Grit'

Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, Matt Damon plays LaBeouf, and Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”
Left to right: Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, Matt Damon plays LaBeouf, and Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”

Multimedia

Audio
Alan Silverman

Oscar-winners Joel and Ethan Coen set their sights on a classic American western novel for their new film: a story of outlaws and lawmen, murder, retribution and redemption ..…a story that was made into a movie once before. Here's a look at the Coen brothers' new adaptation of True Grit.



Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn is a shambling wreck of a man: a grizzled veteran of a few too many shootouts, he wears a black patch over one eye and has the unmistakable whiff of stale whiskey about him. Mattie Ross is barely a teenager in tightly braided pigtails, but she is determined to get justice.

"I'm looking for the man who killed my father. That man's name is Tom Chaney and I need someone to go after him."

"Do you have a lot of experience with bounty hunters?"

"That is a silly question. I am 14."

Impressed by Rooster's reputation for shooting first, Mattie offers him a reward to find her father's killer, thus beginning the biggest adventure of her young life.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”
Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”

It's the first film role for Hailee Steinfeld who was 13 when the Coens cast her as Mattie.

"I had to learn how to shoot a gun and roll a cigarette. Those were the two main things that I had to learn," she says.

Steinfeld had to get comfortable with the ornate and formal dialogue that comes right from the pages of the novel by Charles Portis.

"When I first got the script that was the first thing that I really had to work on: making sure that I really understood what everything meant," Steinfeld says,  "and then I had to go back through and make sure that I understood what it meant to me emotionally and how I could relate to it in my own life. The accent, just getting on set with everyone talking, it kind of happened naturally."

Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”
Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”

Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges co-stars as Rooster, a man at ease in the saddle and deadly fast with his six-shooter.

"You know, I used to love it when my dad would play a western," Bridges recalls.  "When he would appear at the front door all dressed up in his cowboy clothes it was a thrill to me, so I guess there was some of my dad in there.

His dad was Lloyd Bridges, whose many western roles included several upstanding men with badges; but as played by Jeff Bridges, Rooster is a different breed of lawman.

Left to right: Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon plays LaBeouf in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”
Left to right: Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon plays LaBeouf in Paramount Pictures’ “True Grit.”

"I was curious why these guys wanted to make that movie again and I think it was Ethan [Coen] who corrected me and said 'No, we're not making that movie, we're making the book' as if there was no other movie made from it," Bridges says. "I wasn't familiar with the book and he said 'Check that out and tell me what you think.' I read the book and then I saw what they were talking about because it is such a wonderful book and what a great character. Most westerns have that strong, silent type and here is this boorish guy ...so I thought it was going to be a lot of fun."

Of course, it was adapted for the screen once before and John Wayne - "the Duke" - won an Oscar for his performance as one-eyed, drunken Rooster in the 1969 film.

"I never thought about filling the Duke's boots until somebody asked me 'how do you feel about that?' I wasn't thinking about it when I did it. I just did the best I could with the part - what I always try to do," he says.

Left to right: Directors/Co-Writers Ethan and Joel Coen on the set of their film, TRUE GRIT.
Left to right: Directors/Co-Writers Ethan and Joel Coen on the set of their film, TRUE GRIT.

The Coen brothers insist theirs is not a remake, but a more faithful adaptation of the book which, Joel Coen explains, centers on the journey of young Mattie.

"What we took away from it more than a western was almost the sense of it being this youthful adventure story or kind of fitting into the genre of what you might call 'young adult adventure fiction.' That was something really interesting to us, actually, just in terms of how the story worked," Coen says.

In fact, Ethan Coen only reluctantly calls True Grit a 'western'.

"It is a western inarguably. There are guys with six-guns on horses, but it's not a 'Zane Grey' story. It's not a western in that sense and really we were thinking about the novel more than doing a western, per se," he notes.

"What is your intention, Rooster?"

"I am to kill you in one minute, Ned."

"I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man."


True Grit also features Barry Pepper as the bandit 'Lucky Ned.' Matt Damon plays puffed-up Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who joins Mattie and Rooster in their quest to find killer Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. The frontier sensibility is captured by cinematographer Roger Deakins, a frequent Coen brothers collaborator, as is musical score composer Carter Burwell.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid