15 Fascinating Facts About No Country for Old Men

Paramount Vantage - Miramax
Paramount Vantage - Miramax

Though they’re best known for their quirky takes on everything from murder (Fargo) to stoner life (The Big Lebowski), Joel and Ethan Coen scored one of the biggest box office hits of their careers 10 years ago with No Country for Old Men.

An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel (which, coincidentally, the author originally wrote as a screenplay), the film—which takes place in West Texas in the 1980s—follows the intersecting paths of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam vet who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad in the West Texas desert and $2 million in cash that’s seemingly for the taking; Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a dead-eyed, cattle stun gun-wielding sociopath who's intent on finding that missing money; and Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the soon-to-be-retired sheriff who is trying to track the both of them down. Here are some things you might not have known about the Oscar-winning western crime thriller. 

1. SCOTT RUDIN TURNED THE COEN BROTHERS ON TO THE BOOK. 

While it turned out to be one of their most successful films, both commercially and critically, neither Joel nor Ethan Coen can take the credit for coming up with the idea of adapting Cormac McCarthy’s novel. “It was sent to us by [producer] Scott Rudin who had acquired the rights to it,” Joel Coen said in an interview. “He sent it to us in galleys about a year before it came out. He asked us if we were interested in doing it and we read it and both, we’d read other Cormac McCarthy books just for pleasure and liked him a lot, but this one we thought was, could make a really interesting movie.”

2. HEATH LEDGER WAS CONSIDERED FOR THE ROLE OF LLEWELYN MOSS.

Heath Ledger was reportedly the Coens’ first choice for the role of Llewelyn Moss, and seemed equally interested in working with Joel and Ethan. But after some initial conversations, he reportedly withdrew himself for consideration in order to take some “time off” from working.

3. GARRET DILLAHUNT AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF LLEWELYN. FIVE TIMES.

Deadwood star Garret Dillahunt plays the lovably naïve Deputy Wendell in the film, but he originally auditioned for the role of Llewelyn—on more than one occasion.

“I auditioned for Moss about five times, every time a star fell out,” Dillahunt told The A.V. Club. “That happens to me a lot when stars fall out—they go to me, or I have a shot. So I auditioned with the Coens for Moss in New York and L.A., and it just wasn’t gonna happen. They really needed someone more recognizable, but they said ‘Would you play this other part?’ and they read me for Wendell. It was nice. I got to be a little bright spot, a little breath for the audience before they plunge into the next atrocity.”

4. QUENTIN TARANTINO AND ROBERT RODRIGUEZ DIRECTED JOSH BROLIN’S AUDITION.

Though Josh Brolin wasn’t quite the marquee name at the time he eventually landed the role of Moss, he had some powerful friends on his side. Brolin learned of the role while he was filming Grindhouse with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, so he asked if he could borrow a camera to shoot a quick audition for No Country for Old Men. The directing duo did him one better: They ended up directing his audition.

“Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino filmed my first audition on a $1 million Genesis camera during lunch during Grindhouse, and so that was a really cool looking audition,” Brolin said. Unfortunately, “It was turned down. They watched it and their response was, ‘Who lit it?’ I was much bigger and I had a goatee, but it had nothing to do with the physicality. They just didn’t see it. It’s not what they were looking for at that moment. It wasn’t resonating and I have a brilliant agent who just became a persistent pest and just said, ‘Meet him, meet him, meet him, meet him.’ Not, ‘He’s perfect for the part.’ Not, ‘You’re making a mistake.’ Just, ‘Meet him.’”

Eventually, they did. And it all worked out. With one tiny hiccup …

5. BROLIN BROKE HIS SHOULDER RIGHT AFTER LANDING THE ROLE.

Just a couple of days after signing on to play Moss, Brolin broke his shoulder when his motorcycle collided with a car. As he was launched into the air, Brolin told NOW Magazine, he had just one thought: “I'm flying over the car—and I'm really getting some air—and I remember thinking, 'F***ing sh*t! I really wanted to work with the Coens.'"

Rather than drop out of the film he fought so hard to get into, Brolin opted to tough it out and not say a word about his injury. “I got lucky," Brolin admitted after screening the film at the Toronto Film Festival. “My character gets shot in the shoulder early on, so I didn't have to act the hurt.”

Since Brolin was keeping his busted arm quiet, Joel said that he and his brother had no qualms about pretending they didn’t notice. “He wasn’t making it apparent,” Joel said. “He had a motorcycle accident about a week or two before we started shooting, and then lied to us brazenly about the implications of the accident. So we felt completely at liberty to ignore the fact that he was in pain.”

6. JAVIER BARDEM WASN’T INITIALLY COMFORTABLE WITH THE VIOLENCE.

Though Javier Bardem was excited at the prospect of working with the Coens, he wasn’t super comfortable with playing such a violence-prone character as Anton Chigurh—and he wasn’t even sure why the Coens had thought of him for the role. “It’s not something I especially like, killing people—even in movies,” Bardem told Entertainment Weekly. “When the Coens called, I said, ‘Listen, I’m the wrong actor. I don’t drive, I speak bad English, and I hate violence.’ They laughed and said, ‘Maybe that’s why we called you.”’

7. MARK STRONG THOUGHT HE LANDED THE ROLE OF ANTON CHIGURH.

Though the Coens were sold on Bardem for the part, there came a point in the film’s production where it looked like the actor’s schedule might not allow for him to say yes to the role. So they checked to see if Mark Strong might be available. “I was phoned one weekend and told, ‘Listen Javier’s dates don’t work,’ so for a few days I was thinking, ‘Wow, I ‘m actually going to work with the Coen brothers,’” Strong explained. But when Bardem was able to clear his schedule, Strong was out of luck.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the story: Some confusion over what had transpired led several outlets to report that Strong had actually passed on the role of Chigurh—which was a rumor the actor wanted to clear up. “I’m appalled that rumor is out there because it makes me out to be a complete idiot,” Strong said. “Like, why the hell would you turn that part down? I would kneel on broken glass to work with them."

8. CHIGURH’S HAIRDO WAS INSPIRED BY A WEST TEXAS BARFLY.

It’s impossible to make mention of Chigurh without mentioning his iconic—and very, very bad—haircut. When asked about the inspiration for his bowl, Ethan explained that, “The art department does a lot of research, mainly photo research, because it’s a period thing, although a recent period, it’s 1980 Texas border area … They look at archive pictures of the time and place. And the wardrobe department had found this picture of a guy at a bar in West Texas in 1979 and it was that alarming haircut and actually that kind of wardrobe as well. And we looked at it and thought, well, he looks like a sociopath. And Javier really enjoyed it as well.”

Bardem saw the haircut as almost its very own character. When asked about the ‘do, Bardem told the Los Angeles Times that, “You don't have to act the haircut; the haircut is acting by itself ... so you don't have to act weird if you have that weird haircut.”

9. CHIGURH’S BOOTS WERE EQUALLY DEADLY.

Chigurh's alligator boots were no off-the-rack pair of shoes. Costume designer Mary Zophres had them made specifically for Bardem’s character for the film, as she wanted them to reflect the character by looking “bumpy and pointy and gross and to look like they could kill someone."

10. THE COENS DIDN’T THINK THAT KELLY MACDONALD COULD PULL OFF THE ROLE.

In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald was asked how great it felt to get a call saying the Coen brothers wanted to work with her, which is when she had to explain that being cast as Carla Jean Moss wasn’t quite that kind of fairy tale. 

“If that had happened then that would be really exciting but that’s not what happened,” she said. “They didn’t know why I was being brought into a room to meet them. I just happened to be in New York, basically, and my agent got me in to meet the casting director to go on tape; they hadn’t started casting the film yet. And then from that she said, ‘I think you should meet Joel and Ethan, we’ve not started casting yet but while you’re in town…’ So when I went to see them it was just in their office and it was very laid-back and I was obviously not from West Texas or anything they were looking for. So they were just very, like, ‘You seem very nice … But what’s going on here?’ They thought the casting director had gone a bit mad! But then I read a couple of scenes and it all made sense!”

11. THE MOVIE USED A LOT OF FAKE BLOOD, AND IT DIDN’T COME CHEAP.

Though the Coens are known to be meticulous in planning their films, there was one additional expense they hadn’t counted on: all that blood! While a production can normally get away with mixing together a sugar-based fake blood on the cheap, shooting in the desert meant that the extras would have been covered in bugs while trying to play dead. So they had to special order a unique kind of fake blood that wouldn’t seem like a snack to all those creepy crawly things. The prop ended up being ordered from England, and costing “something like $800 a gallon,” according to Joel.

12. THEY WANTED TO FILM THE VIOLENCE IN A VERY “MATTER OF FACT” WAY.

While the film features plenty of bloodshed and other random acts of violence, including one death by cattle stun gun, the Coens didn’t want to glorify the violence. “In terms of lighting and filming they wanted it to be very matter of fact,” the brothers’ longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins told IGN. “We didn't want to sensationalize the violence but we didn't want to play it down either. It is just there and you have to accept it. Without the violence in the film and setting up this kind of world, you wouldn't have the strength of the latter part of the film. It was brutal and we wanted to show it for what it was.”

13. MOTHER NATURE WAS NOT ON THEIR SIDE.

No Country for Old Men shot in the summer of 2006 in Las Vegas; New Mexico; and Marfa, Texas. Though the Coens assumed that shooting in the summer would allow them plenty of great shots of barren landscapes, Mother Nature wasn’t always so cooperative. Throughout the film, there are thunder and lightning storms. “That thunder is real,” Bardem told W Magazine.

“We’d have 50-mile-per-hour wind come up out of f***ing nowhere,” Brolin added. “We’d have the dust devils come in, or it would rain like a monsoon for 10 minutes and then be gone … The reports were for blue sky. Obviously, it didn’t work out. And it ended up being amazing.”

14. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON WAS A PROBLEM FOR THEM, TOO.

While they shot mainly in New Mexico, the production spent a few weeks in Marfa, Texas, to shoot some of the scenes that took place on the Mexican border. It just so happened that director Paul Thomas Anderson was in the tiny town of Marfa, too, shooting There Will Be Blood. The two productions happily coexisted—until the one day that a pyrotechnic test on Anderson’s set created a billow of smoke so large that it could be seen by the Coens’ cameras. They ended up having to cancel shooting for the day.

15. THE FINAL SCENE WAS FILMED IN ONE TAKE.

The Coens have described No Country for Old Men as the closest they’d probably ever get to making an action movie, yet it ends on a much quieter note—with Jones’s sheriff delivering an extended monologue about a dream he had about his late father. His delivery, as usual, is pitch-perfect—and he apparently nailed it in one take. When asked by W Magazine how many takes it took, Jones simply answered: “One.” When asked whether it was a tough scene to film, his answer was just as succinct: “Naw. I’d been practicin’.”

6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards's more than 90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. Best Actor // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. Best Documentary Short Subject // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. Best Actress // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. Best Documentary Feature // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. Best Short Film (Live Action) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars current Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. Best Sound Editing // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened in 2013, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg told the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

10 Game of Thrones Fan Theories About How the Series Will End

HBO
HBO

Our faces are longer than Jon Snow’s right now. It's been more than a year since the last season of Game of Thrones ended, but season 8—the series's final one—is coming back on April 14, 2019. To tide you over until then, we’ve collected some of the most plausible as well as the most bonkers fan theories about what could go down in the final episodes. They predict everything from a new contender for the Iron Throne to a new species classification for a major character. On the bright side, we'll all have plenty of time to debate these before the first episode airs.

1. Jon Snow will kill Daenerys.

Almost since the series began, fans have been predicting that Jon Snow is the Prince Who Was Promised—a reincarnation of the legendary hero Azor Ahai. But most predictions have overlooked a central piece of the Azor Ahai legend, which may spell doom for Daenerys: Azor Ahai, a lousy metallurgist, had a tough time forging his fabled flaming sword Lightbringer. Then he realized he needed to temper the blade by plunging it into the heart of his wife, Nissa Nissa, to imbue it with her power. (Because in the logic of this legend, killing a powerful woman turns a mediocre man into a hero.) If Jon Snow is Azor Ahai, the theory goes, then Daenerys will be his Nissa Nissa—the one true love he must kill in order to save the realm.

2. The Lannisters' repaid debt will be their downfall.

Lena Headey in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

You know the family creed: A Lannister always pays his debts. In season 7, Cersei stayed true to her family name when she paid off a large debt to the Iron Bank. Most viewers read this as a play to buy the loyalty of the bank and its mercenary soldiers, but one Machiavellian Redditor has predicted that paying off the debt will have the opposite effect. "While the Lannisters were in debt to the Bank, the Bank had a vested interest in their success," one Redditor wrote. Now that the debt is paid, the Iron Bank will invest in the side that seems to have the best chance of winning—and right now, that doesn't look like Cersei's.

3. Euron Greyjoy is the father of Cersei's child.

Somehow this seems more disturbing than Jaime being the baby's incestuous father. PopSugar rolled out this hot take based on some circumstantial evidence. First, Euron and Cersei cooked up a plan to betray Jon and Daenerys without telling Jaime, which "raises the question about what else Cersei was doing with Euron behind Jaime's back." Then there's the fact that Cersei just let Jaime ride north to fight the White Walkers, which doesn't seem like a risk you'd want your unborn child's father to take. She has no idea when or if he'll be back. But on the other hand, she knows exactly where Euron will be. Perhaps she's keeping an eye on her baby's true father.

4. Daenerys will die beyond the wall.

Redditor Try_Another_NO reached all the way back to season 2 to substantiate this theory about Daenerys's demise. While Daenerys is in the House of the Undying, she has a series of possibly prophetic visions. She walks through the throne room in Kings Landing, which is damaged and filled with snow. Before she can touch the Iron Throne, she's called away by a sound and suddenly finds herself walking beyond the wall. There she meets Khal Drogo who says he has resisted death to wait for her. According to the theory, these were clues about the series's end: The White Walkers will threaten Kings Landing. Daenerys will turn away from the throne to fight the White Walkers. Death awaits her beyond the wall.

5. Cleganebowl will finally happen.

For years fans have eagerly awaited a fight between Sandor and Gregor Clegane, which has been affectionately dubbed "Cleganebowl." In the season 7 finale, the Hound hinted that the much-hyped fight is coming when he told his brother, "You know who's coming for you." The cryptic message also spawned a fan theory about the real origin of the Clegane brothers' beef. Our only version of the tale comes from noted liar/sleazebag Littlefinger, who claimed Ser Gregor burned his brother's face over a stolen toy. But Redditor 440k11 thinks the Hound has always had a talent for reading the future in the flames. In fact, the theory goes, the Hound saw his brother's death foretold in a fire and told him about it. Enraged, young Gregor pushed his brother's face into the fire he was reading, burning Sandor and cementing their lifelong enmity.

6. Varys is actually a merman.

The case for this one is watertight. The books make several mentions of merlings living alongside dragons, giants, and White Walkers—mythical creatures we know exist in Essos. Varys, meanwhile, constantly covers his lower body in long robes. What is he hiding? According to Redditor nightflyer, it's his freaky fish body. In the books, it would explain his cryptic response when Tyrion threatened to have him thrown off a ship: "You might be disappointed by the result." In the show, it might explain how Varys traveled from Dorne to Daenerys's ship in Mereen seemingly overnight in the middle of season 7. (It wasn't lazy writing—he swam there!) In general, it might explain why he's such a slimy weirdo.

7. The maesters are colluding with Cersei to beat Daenerys.

Finally, a fan theory fit for our political age! According to this theory, the maesters are natural enemies of magic. The strange forces that bring the dead back to life, reveal the future in fire, and allow Arya to wear many faces are beyond the maesters' powers of rational explanation. But if magic were eliminated, the maesters' monopoly on knowledge would continue unchallenged. It follows, then, that the maesters would feel comfortable with Cersei's cruel reign but threatened by Daenerys's magical dragons. Maybe that explains why a former maester built Cersei a weapon meant to kill dragons. And maybe the maesters will intervene in the conflict more directly in the next season.

8. Arya will kill Cersei ... wearing Jaime's face.

Maisie Williams in 'Game of Thrones'
HBO

Predicting that Jaime will kill Cersei is so mainstream. Seeing Jaime kill Cersei for the good of the realm would reprise his role as the Kingslayer (or Queenslayer). It would neatly fulfill the Volanqar prophecy—the prediction a witch made to a young Cersei, that she would be killed by a volanqar (which translates to "younger sibling" in High Valyrian). And it would be so easy. Reasoning that George R.R. Martin would never do something so obvious, and that Arya's assassin character arc has to led to a more consequential target than Walder Frey, Redditor greypiano predicts that Arya will be Cersei's killer. If she first kills Jaime and uses his face to catch Cersei unaware, then the volanqar prophecy will be confirmed (even if it's on a technicality).

9. Viserion will come back to life.

Here's a fan theory for moms, from a mom. Redditor Cornholio_the_white wrote that after the season 7 finale, their mom called to say she was sad about Viserion's death. But she had a prediction: "I think it's going to remember its mother." She explained that Daenerys's love would free Viserion from the Night King's spell. Cornholio_the_white scoffed. That wasn't possible. The dragon was dead. But then Mom dropped a compelling counterargument: "Not if the Red Woman brings it back. They're keeping her around for something."

10. Gendry is the legitimate child of Cersei and Robert Baratheon.

This theory throws another contender for the Iron Throne into the mix. It maintains that Gendry was not Robert Barathean's bastard son—in fact, he was the only legitimate child of the king. We know that Cersei and Robert had a child—a "black-haired beauty"—who supposedly died shortly after birth. Curiously, Cersei says she never visited her firstborn child in the crypt, even though we know she is a fiercely devoted mother. Perhaps that's because she knew her son was actually in Fleabottom as a blacksmith's apprentice. And perhaps it was Cersei all along who was looking out for Gendry, securing his apprenticeship and protecting him from Joffrey's purge of Robert’s bastards. Gendry, for his part, remembers only that his mother had yellow hair. If that yellow-haired woman was Cersei, Gendry would have the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne of anyone in Westeros.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER