By Jack Rico
NEW YORK, September 8th, 2008 – Production begins today on location in Minnesota on A Serious Man, for Focus Features and Working Title Films. Joel and Ethan Coen, Academy Award winners for No Country for Old Men and Fargo, are writing, producing, and directing the film. Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are executive-producing the film with Robert Graf, who has worked on the Coens’ last six features in various producing capacities.
The director of photography on A Serious Man is seven-time Academy Award nominee Roger Deakins, who is marking his tenth feature collaboration with the Coens. Mary Zophres is the film’s costume designer, marking her ninth feature collaboration with the Coens. Jess Gonchor is the production designer, marking his third feature collaboration with the Coens.
A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary man’s search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman, who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry’s unemployable brother Arthur is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person – a mensch – a serious man?
Tony Award nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (whose films include The Grey Zone) stars as Larry; Fred Melamed (Suspect) plays Sy; Richard Kind (The Visitor) portrays Arthur; and Minnesota actors Aaron Wolf, Sari Wagner, and Jessica McManus are cast as Danny, Judith, and Sarah, respectively.
The Coens’ comedy thriller Burn After Reading, also from Focus Features and Working Title Films, world-premiered last month as the opening-night film of the 2008 Venice International Film Festival; made its North American premiere last week at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival; and will be released by Focus nationwide on Friday, September 12th. The film stars George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and Brad Pitt.
Focus president of production John Lyons, who is overseeing A Serious Man and oversaw Burn After Reading on behalf of the company, has previously collaborated with the Coen brothers extensively, as casting director on their features Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
Messrs. Bevan and Fellner have also had a long association with the Coens; Fargo (which won Oscars for Ms. McDormand as Best Actress and for the Coens in the Original Screenplay category), The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (for which Mr. Clooney won a Golden Globe Award), The Man Who Wasn’t There, and Burn After Reading were all made by the Coens with Working Title. Working Title Films is Europe’s leading film production company, making movies that defy boundaries as well as demographics.
Currently in post-production at Working Title are a record number of films: Beeban Kidron’s Hippie Hippie Shake, starring Cillian Murphy, Sienna Miller, Emma Booth, and Max Minghella; Kevin Macdonald’s State of Play, starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Robin Wright Penn, and Helen Mirren; Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, adapted by Peter Morgan from his play of the same name and starring Frank Langella and Michael Sheen; Joe Wright’s The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey, Jr., and Catherine Keener; Richard Curtis’ The Boat That Rocked, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, and Nick Frost; and Paul Greengrass’ untitled thriller starring Matt Damon.
Focus Features (www.filminfocus.com) exists to produce, acquire and distribute original and daring films that challenge the mainstream to embrace and enjoy voices and visions from around the world that deliver global commercial success.
In addition to A Serious Man and Burn After Reading, upcoming Focus Features releases include Henry Selick’s 3-D stop-motion animated feature Coraline, starring Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher; Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic 9, starring Elijah Wood and Jennifer Connelly; Cary Fukunaga’s immigrant thriller Sin Nombre; writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s new film, tentatively titled The Limits of Control, starring Isaach De Bankolé; a contemporary comedy directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph; Taking Woodstock, the new film from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee; and Gus Van Sant’s Milk, starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk.