LOS ANGELES: For over 30 years, filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, or the Coen Brothers as they are often called, have tackled a variety of film genres. From stoner comedies like The Big Lebowski to the revenge saga True Grit – they have done it all. But for their latest caper, the brothers sought inspiration from something closer to home: Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Hail, Caeser! hits theatres in the US on Friday (today). It follows a stressful couple of days in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a fixer at a big Hollywood film studio, dealing with the kidnapping of his leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). Amidst the hullabaloo, Mannix must also deal with two twin gossip columnists, both played by Tilda Swinton, a pregnant lady (Scarlett Johansson) and a punctilious director (Ralph Fiennes) who is trying to make a star out of a young, bumbling cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich). Adding to the mix are the suspicious movements of a singer/dancer Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum).
Besides Mannix, who is inspired by the real-life Eddie Mannix who worked at Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer from the 1930s to 1960s, all of the characters are fictional hybrids of real Golden Age stars. Clooney’s Whitlock has roots in Cary Grant and Johansson’s in DeeAnna Moran, Ester Williams and Lana Turner. Swinton’s role is derived from influential Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Tatum channels the charms of Gene Kelly.
Ethan claimed he views Mannix as a “Christ-like figure” for he takes on everyone’s problems. “He’s the sane person in an insane universe. The one person not kooky in a kooky world,” added Joel. “That is probably relatable for a lot of people.”
Although Hollywood glamour is a world apart from their previous work, the Coen Brothers remain hopeful about Hail, Caeser!. “The exotic nature of Hollywood is part of the attraction,” said Joel. Ethan added, “So much of it has gone but there is enough left to suggest what it might have been like. It’s hard to be in LA and not feel like it must have been great in the 40s and 50s.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2016.