For many movie lovers, every film from the Coen brothers is an event—and now there’s another cinematic event on the horizon: This week, Universal Pictures announced an official synopsis and release date for the Coens’ next effort, called Hail, Caesar! The movie takes place “during the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age” and “follows a single day in the life of a studio fixer who is presented with plenty of problems to fix.” After a series of dark (if also darkly funny) outings—Inside Llewyn Davis, True Grit, A Serious Man—the Coen brothers seem poised to get goofy again.
Details about this project have been slowly coming to light over the last few months. The fixer mentioned in the brief synopsis will apparently be played by Josh Brolin, and his name is reportedly Eddie Mannix. That name also belonged to a real-life vice president and general manager of MGM under Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary (who was played by Bob Hoskins in Hollywoodland), but it’s not yet clear how that Mannix and this Mannix are related. (Back in May, Deadline suggested the role had more in common with another fixture of 1950s Hollywood: private investigator Fred Otash.)
Also in the movie is Coen regular George Clooney. In fact, the project seems to go back several years to a planned project “about actors in the 1920s putting on a play about ancient Rome,” which the Coens, at the time, described as the third movie in their “Numbskull Trilogy” with Clooney, following O Brother Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty. Obviously the project has changed since then, but Clooney appears set to play an actor named Baird Whitlock. Carson Reeves at Scriptshadow says that the plot involves kidnapping and Communists and has echoes of The Big Lebowski.
There are many other Coen films echoed by these details, of course: There’s the showbiz milieu of Barton Fink, the McCarthy-era of The Man Who Wasn’t There, the criminal scheme of Fargo et al. It might even have the spiritual questioning of A Serious Man: Ethan Coen said last year that Hail Caesar! was “about the movie business and life and religion and faith.” (Was he being serious? Who knows. In another interview, he and Joel contrasted the upcoming movie to the “piddly” A Serious Man, saying of that earlier religious-themed film, “That was a cop-out. We just totally chickened out on that one.”)
Coen veterans Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson are joining Clooney and Brolin, along with Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ralph Fiennes. Whether it turns out to be screwball, black comedy, or something else entirely, we can all look forward to seeing it Feb. 5, 2016.
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