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’.”

15 Fascinating Facts About Schindler’s List

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List brought to the screen a story that had gone untold since the tragic events of the Holocaust. Oskar Schindler, a Nazi party member, used his pull within the party to save the lives of more than 1000 Jewish individuals by recruiting them to work in his Polish factory. Here are some facts about Spielberg’s groundbreaking film on its 25th anniversary.

1. The story was relayed to author Thomas Keneally in a Beverly Hills leather goods shop.

In October 1980, Australian novelist Thomas Keneally had stopped into a leather goods shop off of Rodeo Drive after a book tour stopover from a film festival in Sorrento, Italy, where one of his books was adapted into a movie. When the owner of the shop, Leopold Page, learned that Keneally was a writer, he began telling him “the greatest story of humanity man to man.” That story was how Page, his wife, and thousands of other Jews were saved by a Nazi factory owner named Oskar Schindler during World War II.

Page gave Keneally photocopies of documents related to Schindler, including speeches, firsthand accounts, testimonies, and the actual list of names of the people he saved. It inspired Keneally to write the book Schindler’s Ark, on which the movie is based. Page (whose real name was Poldek Pfefferberg) ended up becoming a consultant on the film.

2. Keneally wasn't the first person Leopold Page told about Oskar Schindler.

The film rights to Page’s story were actually first purchased by MGM for $50,000 in the 1960s after Page had similarly ambushed the wife of film producer Marvin Gosch at his leather shop. Mrs. Gosch told the story to her husband, who agreed to produce a film version, even going so far as hiring Casablanca co-screenwriter Howard Koch to write the script. Koch and Gosch began interviewing Schindler Jews in and around the Los Angeles area, and even Schindler himself, before the project stalled, leaving the story unknown to the public at large.

3. Schindler made more than one list.

Liam Neeson, Agnieszka Krukówna, Krzysztof Luft, Friedrich von Thun, and Marta Bizon in Schindler's List (1993)
Universal Pictures

Seven lists in all were made by Oskar Schindler and his associates during the war, while four are known to still exist. Two are at the Yad Vashem in Israel, one is at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and one privately owned list was unsuccessfully auctioned off via eBay in 2013.

The movie refers to the first two lists created in 1944, otherwise known as “The Lists of Life.” The five subsequent lists were updates to the first two versions, which included the names of more than 1000 Jews who Schindler saved by recruiting them to work in his factory.

4. Steven Spielberg first learned of Schindler in the early 1980s.

Former MCA/Universal president Sid Sheinberg, a father figure to Spielberg, gave the director Keneally’s book when it was first published in 1982, to which Spielberg allegedly replied, “It’ll make a helluva story. Is it true?”

Eventually the studio bought the rights to the book, and when Page met with Spielberg to discuss the story, the director promised the Holocaust survivor that he would make the film adaptation within 10 years. The project languished for over a decade because Spielberg was reluctant to take on such serious subject matter. Spielberg’s hesitation actually stopped Hollywood veteran Billy Wilder from making Schindler’s List his final film. Wilder tried to buy the rights to Keneally’s book, but Spielberg and MCA/Universal scooped them up before he could.

5. Spielberg refused to accept a salary for making the movie.

Though Spielberg is already an extremely wealthy man as a result of the many big-budget movies that have made him one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, he decided that a story as important as Schindler’s List shouldn’t be made with an eye toward financial reward. The director relinquished his salary for the movie and any proceeds he would stand to make in perpetuity, calling any such personal gains “blood money.” Instead, Spielberg used the film’s profits to found the USC Shoah Foundation, which was established in 1994 to honor and remember the survivors of the Holocaust by collecting personal recollections and audio visual interviews.

6. Before Spielberg agreed to make the movie, he tried to get other directors to make it.

Part of Spielberg’s reluctance to make Schindler's List was that he didn’t feel that he was prepared or mature enough to tackle a film about the Holocaust. So he tried to recruit other directors to make the film. He first approached director Roman Polanski, a Holocaust survivor whose own mother was killed in Auschwitz. Polanski declined, but would go on to make his own film about the Holocaust, The Pianist, which earned him a Best Director Oscar in 2003. Spielberg then offered the movie to director Sydney Pollack, who also passed.

The job was then offered to legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who accepted. Scorsese was set to put the film into production when Spielberg had an epiphany on the set of the revisionist Peter Pan story Hook and realized that he was finally prepared to make Schindler’s List. To make up for the change of heart, Spielberg traded Scorsese the rights to a movie he’d been developing that Scorsese would make into his next film: the remake of Cape Fear.

7. The movie was a gamble for Universal, so they made Spielberg a dino-sized deal.

When Spielberg finally decided to make Schindler’s List, it had taken him so long that Sheinberg and Universal balked. The relatively low-budget $23 million three-hour black-and-white Holocaust movie was too much of a risk, so they asked Spielberg to make another project that had been brewing at the studio: Jurassic Park. Make the lucrative summer movie first, they said, and then he could go and make his passion project. Spielberg agreed, and both movies were released in 1993; Jurassic Park in June and Schindler’s List in December.

8. Spielberg didn't want a movie star with Hollywood clout to portray Schindler.

Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson auditioned for the role of Oskar Schindler, and actor Warren Beatty was far enough along in the process that he even made it as far as a script reading. But according to Spielberg, Beatty was dropped because, “Warren would have played it like Oskar Schindler through Warren Beatty.”

For the role, Spielberg cast then relatively unknown Irish actor Liam Neeson, whom the director had seen in a Broadway play called Anna Christie. “Liam was the closest in my experience of what Schindler was like,” Spielberg told The New York Times. “His charm, the way women love him, his strength. He actually looks a little bit like Schindler, the same height, although Schindler was a rotund man,” he said. “If I had made the movie in 1964, I would have cast Gert Frobe, the late German actor. That’s what he looked like.”

Besides having Neeson listen to recordings of Schindler, the director also told him to study the gestures of former Time Warner chairman Steven J. Ross, another of Spielberg’s mentors, and the man to whom he dedicated the film.

9. Spielberg did his own research.

In order to gain a more personal perspective on the film, Spielberg traveled to Poland before principal photography began to interview Holocaust survivors and visit the real-life locations that he planned to portray in the movie. While there, he visited the former Gestapo headquarters on Pomorska Street, Schindler’s actual apartment, and Amon Goeth’s villa.

Eventually the film shot on location for 92 days in Poland by recreating the Płaszów camp in a nearby abandoned rock quarry. The production was also allowed to shoot scenes outside the gates of Auschwitz.

10. The little girl in the red coat was real.

Promotional image for 25th anniversary rerelease of Schindler's List.
Universal Pictures

A symbol of innocence in the movie, the little girl in the red coat who appears during the liquidation of the ghetto in the movie was based on a real person. In the film, the little girl is played by actress Oliwia Dabrowska, who—at the age of three—promised Spielberg that she would not watch the film until she was 18 years old. She allegedly watched the movie when she was 11, breaking her promise, and spent years rejecting the experience. Later, she told the Daily Mail, “I realized I had been part of something I could be proud of. Spielberg was right: I had to grow up to watch the film.”

The actual girl in the red coat was named Roma Ligocka; a survivor of the Krakow ghetto, she was known amongst the Jews living there by her red winter coat. Ligocka, now a painter who lives in Germany, later wrote a biography about surviving the Holocaust called The Girl in the Red Coat.

11. The movie wasn't supposed to be in English.

For a better sense of reality, Spielberg originally wanted to shoot the movie completely in Polish and German using subtitles, but he eventually decided against it because he felt that it would take away from the urgency and importance of the images onscreen. According to Spielberg, “I wanted people to watch the images, not read the subtitles. There’s too much safety in reading. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else.”

12. The studio didn't want the movie to be in black and white.

The only person at MCA/Universal who agreed with Spielberg and director of cinematography Janusz Kaminski’s decision to shoot the movie in black and white was Sheinberg. Everyone else lobbied against the idea, saying that it would stylize the Holocaust. Spielberg and Kaminski chose to shoot the film in a grimy, unstylish fashion and format inspired by German Expressionist and Italian Neorealist films. Also, according to Spielberg, “It’s entirely appropriate because I’ve only experienced the Holocaust through other people’s testimonies and through archival footage which is, of course, all in black and white.”

13. Spielberg's passion project paid off in Oscars.

Schindler’s List was the big winner at the 66th Academy Awards. The film won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director awards for Spielberg. Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were both nominated for their performances, and the film also received nods for Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound.

14. Schindler's List is technically a student film.

Steven Spielberg gives a speech
Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images

Thirty-three years after dropping out of college, Spielberg finally received a BA in Film and Video Production from his newly minted alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, in 2002. The director re-enrolled in secret, and gained his remaining credits by writing essays and submitting projects under a pseudonym. In order to pass a film course, he submitted Schindler’s List as his student project. Spielberg describes the time gap between leaving school and earning his degree as his “longest post-production schedule.”

15. Spielberg thinks the film may be even more important to watch today.

In honor of the film's 25th anniversary, it's currently back in theaters. But Spielberg believes that the film may be even more important for today's audiences to see. "I think this is maybe the most important time to re-release this film," the director said in a recent interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News. Citing the spike in hate crimes targeting religious minorities since
2016, he said, "Hate's less parenthetical today, it's more a headline."

Additional Sources:
The Making of Schindler’s List: Behind the Scenes of an Epic Film, by Franciszek Palowski

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2015.

The Most-Searched Holiday Movie in Every State, Mapped

iStock.com/chrispecoraro
iStock.com/chrispecoraro

Do you live in a Gremlins state or a Home Alone state? StreamingObserver is here to tell you. The streaming-industry site recently used Rotten Tomatoes and other public data sources to figure out the most popular Christmas movies in each state. Spoiler: It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t quite the Christmas classic you thought it was.

The list takes some liberties with what might be considered a “Christmas” movie. Die Hard (a favorite in Missouri and Wisconsin) made the list, as did Batman Returns (California’s most-searched movie) and Edward Scissorhands (popular in Nevada and Arizona). They aren’t quite the traditional Hallmark holiday fare, but they each include at least some nod to the Christmas season.

Then there’s the more standard Yuletide entertainment, like A Christmas Carol (Tennessee’s favorite) and Frosty the Snowman (South Dakota's pick). Christmas in Connecticut, oddly enough, is Montana’s favorite (unclear whether that’s the 1945 film or the 1992 TV movie), while Connecticut’s favorite is the 1983 Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. The Apartment, The Snowman, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Best Man Holiday also make an appearance. Seven states list Gremlins as their favorite, while six chose Home Alone and three chose Scrooged.

The data is based on Google searches, rather than surveys, so it's possible that the movie at the top of each state's list isn't so much beloved as it is curiosity-inspiring. It's possible that all these people are Googling Gremlins, then deciding not to watch it. But we feel fairly confident saying a lot of people will be watching Die Hard this Christmas season. (Tip: You can't stream it on Netflix right now, but you can rent it on Amazon.)

The 2018 results are fairly different from StreamingObserver's 2016 data, which you can compare here. Do you agree with your state's preferences?

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