The Coen Brothers’ most recent project, a six-part anthology film of Civil War-era American frontier life, has officially debuted at New York Film Festival after a successful run in Venice and Toronto.
Originally designed as a Netflix miniseries, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs follows six separate stories of both tragedy and comedy, which, as Coen Brothers fans know, are two sides of the same coin.
Members of the cast walked the red carpet at Lincoln Center on Thursday evening to talk about everything Wild West. Some cast members spoke about how they knew their characters were doomed – it is a Coen Brothers film, after all. Grainger Hines, who plays Mr. Arthur in the romantic chapter called “The Gal Who Got Rattled”, admitted that even he was surprised by the episode’s twist. Acting opposite Zoe Kazan, Hines participates in one of the most eloquent and plot-driven episodes of the film, which some even say could have stood alone as its own film.
“I was very touched by it. And very surprised at the end. I couldn’t believe the ending. It just was a twist that came out of somewhere I didn’t expect,” he said. “I felt like where it was placed in the movie, it was very much needed. A touching story.”
Of working with the famed Coen Brothers, Hines had only good things to say. “They allow you creative space, if you want to take it,” he said. “And I love the fact that the act was small and relaxed, and anybody could do anything they wanted to do. They would tell you if they didn’t like it. But it was a set where you didn’t hold back and that’s what I loved. That the actors didn’t hold back.”
The film has already been lauded for its idyllic cinematography and incredibly adaptable score. When composer Carter Burwell found out that the originally six-episode project would all become one, things got a little more difficult. In fact, by the time he sat down to write the score, he only had about a month until the project was meant to be completed.
“Joel and I have been making movies for a long time. His first movie was my first movie. So basically, I expect to work for them until I die. Or they die. We’ll have to see. One of us is going to die, and then we’ll probably stop working together,” Burwell joked.
“When they think they’re going to shoot something, they send me the script. And this had existed in a variety of forms for years. But when it finally came together, it presented all of these issues that we didn’t anticipate. So we thought, okay, we’re going to shoot these six stories. So there will be six scores. The tying it together turned out to be the difficult part. And the stories don’t actually have any characters to tie them together or anything like that. So was trying to find a common thread was a job.”
The score functions as a character of sorts. In some chapters, there is little to no dialogue, save for the main character singing to himself, and in one particular one, mining for gold. Burwell’s music becomes a dialogue. Inspired by the conjunction of romance, tragedy, and comedy, Burwell’s work is memorable and crisp. But he had no clue – as of last night, he had not seen the finished product, and was excited to see how his music translated to the screen.
Cast by Ellen Chenoweth and starring the likes of Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fantastic Four, Minority Report), Liam Neeson (Taken, The A-Team, Schindler’s List), James Franco (127 Hours, The Disaster Artist, Spring Breakers), Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick, Ruby Sparks), Brendan Gleeson (The Guard, Harry Potter, Calvary), Grainger Hines (Lincoln) Bill Heck (Alienist), Tyne Daly (Spider-Man: Homecoming), Stephen Root (Get Out, Dodgeball), and Harry Melling (Harry Potter), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an experience you won’t want to miss. It premieres for all Netflix users on November 16, and can be viewed in some theaters. Watch the full trailer below.