True Grit is a mythic Western adventure story of vengeance and valor from Academy Award winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, whose stirring adaptation hones in on the plain-spoken humor, bold storytelling and rough beauty of Charles Portis’ classic American novel.
MoviesOnline sat down with actors Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, and cinematographer Roger Deakins to talk about their new movie. They told us what attracted them to the novel and inspired them to adapt it, how they set about reinventing the iconic role made famous by John Wayne, and why they chose to use a formal, archaic style of dialogue based on the specific vernacular of the period to tell their story. They also described the challenges of bringing western landscapes to life on screen with the sense of realism that the script demanded.
Here’s what they had to say:
Q: Hi Hailee, this is your first big movie, I wanted to know what advice the actors might have given you that you took to heart? You might have given them some advice too because you’re feisty but what did they say to you?
HAILEE STEINFELD: I think the best advice that the actors have given me is to not take anything too seriously but to have fun and well, take it somewhat seriously, right? But just to have fun with things.
Q: Jeff or Joel or Ethan, you have a very iconic character in this movie. Why has the eye patch been moved from the left eye to the right eye?
JEFF BRIDGES: I’m a Commie.
Q: Seriously, did you think about that? Did you do it as a statement?
JEFF BRIDGES: No, no, you know we put it on the right eye, it felt good. Put it on the left eye, not so good. Put it on the right eye, this feels right. (to Coen Brothers) What do you think, guys? We went back and forth like that, you know.
ETHAN COEN: Yeah, I remember going back and forth but I didn’t know that at the end of the day, we’d ended up switching. That was pointed out to me recently. I hadn’t actually realized it.
Q: It wasn’t intentional?
JEFF BRIDGES: No, no, no.
JOEL COEN: We did talk occasionally about switching from eye to eye, scene to scene.
JEFF BRIDGES: Yeah and sometimes I would forget to put it down you know for the scene so I would be very pleased with the take and I’d say what do you think guys and they’d go…
ETHAN COEN: That’s great.
JOEL COEN: There was an early idea discussed, but not for long, that we’d have two eye patches since it is the second version.
Q: Jeff, in playing this character, did you have any hesitation initially taking on a role that was made famous by The Duke himself? Great job by the way.
JEFF BRIDGES: Thank you. Well I was curious why these guys wanted to make that movie again and I think it was Ethan who I talked to first and he corrected me and said no, we’re not making that movie. We’re making the book as if there wasn’t any other movie ever made. We were just referring to the book and I wasn’t familiar with the book. He said well check that out and tell me what you think, and I read the book and then I saw what they were talking about because it’s such a wonderful book and it suited them so well, I thought. And God, what a great character. You know most westerns have that strong silent type and here’s this boorish, you know blah, blah, blah guy. So that was going to be a lot of fun, I thought.
Q: For the filmmakers and the cast, what was the most challenging part in making this film?
ETHAN COEN: Was it the schedule?
JEFF BRIDGES: There you go, good, good, yeah.
JOEL COEN: Well, yeah, that’s true because you know, it’s a largely exterior movie and we were shooting in really difficult places and the weather was very uncooperative and so we were really trying to get a lot done in terms of the number of setups we usually do or tried to do during the day, the number we had to do to stay on schedule, and then fighting weather and other issues that were really peculiar, you know, animals, dealing with horses, production issues that were peculiar to this movie that made it difficult to shoot it on such a short period of time.
Q: For Jeff Bridges and the Coens, Mattie hires Rooster because he has true grit and it made me think wow, should I have more true grit as a man? What qualities of Rooster do you think men should aspire to?
JEFF BRIDGES: True grit, I believe, this is my definition of it is, seeing one thing through to the end, you know? That’s a good thing. I aspire to that.
ETHAN COEN: I agree, yeah.
Q: For the Coens, you gentlemen have done other genre films before, the screwball comedy, the film noir detective movie with Mr. Bridges, what about the western specifically did you want to convey or refute by making this film?
JOEL COEN: I don’t think we thought about it as a genre movie so much or so much as you might think. It was an interest in the novel, the story, the Charles Portis novel. It is a western inarguably. There are guys with six guns on horses, but you know, it’s not a Zane Grey story. It’s not a western in that sense and really we were thinking about the story. We were thinking about the novel more than doing a western per se.
Q: Can you talk a little about the iconic scene that everybody waits for when you’ve got the reins in your mouth and you’re riding? It looks similar to the John Wayne version. Did you consider doing it differently and can you talk a little about doing that scene? It was great.
JEFF BRIDGES: Yeah, thanks. I remember that day well and right in the beginning of the day Joel coming over to me and saying what do you think about really trying this deal? And I said oh, alright, well that’s kind of interesting, yeah. You know, a little anxious, a little fear. I mean I ride myself but to do it in my teeth, and so we did it that way and it wasn’t as tough as I thought actually. It was kind of cool. We had a horse that kept the rhythm well and that’s basically it from my point of view.
Q: Joel and Ethan, did you consider doing it differently? Leaving it out? I mean because it’s such an iconic scene from the other movie?
ETHAN COEN: Leaving the scene out? No, no, we never considered leaving the scene out. No. No, it’s the big action climax of the movie in a certain respect. It was true that what Jeff was doing just from a riding point of view was not something that we assumed could be done in a context that would actually show him riding a horse, not having the reins in his hands, firing the guns and galloping the horse. Very difficult to do. You have to be a really, really good rider to do that, and even if you are a good rider, under the circumstances, you have to have the right terrain and the right horse and all the rest of it. It wasn’t a simple thing which is why I don’t think they did that in the original. You didn’t actually see it that way in the original movie. So there was things that Jeff had to do that were really difficult to accomplish. But, it was also a very complicated scene in terms of coverage and there were things that Roger (Deakins) had to do in terms of actually being able to physically shoot this stuff on uneven terrain, getting the camera in certain places. It all had to be broken down as a rather complex thing and done over a series of days.
JEFF BRIDGES: Yeah, and it was windy. There was a lot of wind.
JOEL COEN: You know, I don’t think any of us thought about it with reference to the first movie or thought about much of anything in this with reference to the first movie, as Jeff was saying. So no, we didn’t think about changing it to distinguish ourselves from that. I don’t know if the other actors – did you think about that at all? Did you see the first film?
BARRY PEPPER: It’s such an intrinsic part of the novel. I think in order to have a faithful adaptation, you couldn’t righteously avoid it. I mean it’s beat for beat in the novel that way. And Rooster’s character describes how he did it in a previous shootout and then he emulates it again in the final shootout. So I think that the brothers were destined to use it.
ETHAN COEN: Actually one thing that I think may have changed because you had the idea of your character having the rifle as opposed to a –
BARRY PEPPER: Right.
ETHAN COEN: and I honestly don’t remember in the original what it was or how it’s even described in the book.
BARRY PEPPER: I just thought it would be such an interesting visual to be galloping without your reins and having to fire and ratchet a rifle would be quite a challenge. It would show the horsemanship of men of that period and so yeah, you guys did change it that way.
Q: For the Coen brothers, was there any thought given to filming in Arkansas and Oklahoma which is where I’m from?
JOSH BROLIN: It’s her pick. Anybody who might want to do a film in the future.
BARRY PEPPER: Next we’re doing Rooster Cogburn so we might just come.
JOEL COEN: We looked in Colorado and we looked in Utah, right? Utah originally, actually.
JEFF BRIDGES: There’s a certain tax break in Arkansas and Oklahoma?
ETHAN COEN: New Mexico does have a lot of incentives to film there. There was another thing actually about Arkansas [which is] the time of year we were filming. We knew we wanted to have snow in the movie, but we wanted to have reliably enough snow to be shooting in a place. The trick was snow but not too much snow and we weren’t sure we were reliably going to get any snow at that time of year in Arkansas. That actually was a consideration. I don’t think it was the main consideration but it was one of them. And it was certainly the reason why we moved the show from –
ROGER DEAKINS: Utah and Colorado where we were going to get too much snow or we were going to get 10 feet of mud at that time of year so there was a lot of reasons we set on Santa Fe, really.
Q: Can you talk a little about the importance and the challenges of getting those iconic western landscapes filmed for this story?
JOEL COEN: That’s one thing that’s not faithful to the novel. I mean the landscape is a total cheat. But we thought people will think it’s a western and you know, yeah, some things you just can’t mess with. People want that.
ETHAN COEN: And the whole pictorial idea of the movie would have been much different in a place like Arkansas.
ROGER DEAKINS: But it’s also really a film about characters. I’m not sure that it’s a landscape western in the traditional sense of, you know, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid or something.
JOEL COEN: Yeah, well that’s true. It’s about the characters. I mean the honest answer is that it becomes this mish-mash of different considerations that go into where you’re shooting and how you want to treat the landscape. They’re a little bit hard to sort out after the fact but everywhere from the practical to just what does the movie actually want to be about.
Q: Roger, ever since Barton Fink, I think, you’ve sort of been the third Coen brother in a way. What is it about these guys that keeps drawing you back to work with them?
ROGER DEAKINS: Well, they asked me.
Q: Jeff, I’m wondering at what point in putting the character together did you actually nail him? Was it somebody you know that was like him?
JEFF BRIDGES: Yeah. Gosh, you know each scene is an opportunity to show a different facet of the person you’re portraying. But I begin developing a character pretty much the same way every time. You’re looking at the script, or if you’re lucky enough to have a book, you’re looking at that material and seeing what other characters say about your character, what you say about yourself, what the author says about you, and that tells you quite a bit. And then one of the first things you do when you’re hired on to make a film is you work with a costume designer. In this case, it was Mary Zophres who was also the costume designer on The Big Lebowski and you know that’s one of the cool things about making movies. It’s a collaborative art form so you have all these other artists who are concerned about specific areas. It might be what your character [looks like], what the room your character lives in looks like and what his clothes look like. So the first people you meet is the costumer because they have to make all those clothes. Mary has these wonderful books that she brings out. And see, you look, now here’s a hat like this, like this and the character starts to fall in place, and as you dress it, you’re looking in the mirror. There comes a time when the character starts to tell you what it wants and you might prefer oh, this scarf looks nice. And the character goes no, it won’t stick and you go oh, okay. And probably the same thing happens when you’re making a movie, too. Sometimes you want to do something and it just doesn’t [work]. It’s not what the movie wants and that’s a wonderful time when that happens and I’m not sure if there’s one particular time it happens. It’s just a slow process of coming into focus. As far as the models, you know I used to love it when my dad would play a western. When he appeared at the front door all dressed up in his cowboy clothes, it was a thrill to me so I guess there was some of my dad in there.
Q: Did you know that Hailee was such a sassy girl?
JEFF BRIDGES: I didn’t really, because she’s got a very sweet side as well.
Q: Did she intimidate you?
JEFF BRIDGES: Sometimes, you know, we played a lot of pigs, pass the pigs, and she’s known as Bo Bacon. That was her pig name and she would be very intimidating. She would throw those double leaning jowlers occasionally and scare me.
Q: For the Coen brothers, tell me if I’m reaching here, but the more I thought about the movie, the more I realized it’s less a western than it is a really, really dark comedy. And then for the actors, you were dealing with a script that was very stylized, can you talk about tackling the dialogue?
ETHAN COEN: Less a western than a dark comedy. Well, there’s certainly a lot of comedy. There’s a lot of humor in the Charles Portis novel. It was one of the things that attracted us to the novel and the idea of adapting it. And we wanted what was funny about the book, the humor in the book, to sort of come through in the movie. That was important.
JOEL COEN: And the dialogue, too. I mean the kind of formality of it and the floweriness of it also is just from the book. Again, that might be a question for the actors. Jeff, that was the first thing Jeff mentioned, noticed and liked, the kind of foreign sounding nature of the dialogue and the lack of contractions. It wasn’t a problem for us. We just lifted it from the book. I don’t know how the actors feel about it.
BARRY PEPPER: Yeah, it was more like doing American Shakespeare. There’s sort of almost like an iambic pentameter. There’s a musicality and a rhythm to the dialogue. It’s so specific that you really know you’re working very much with what’s on the page. There’s not endless rewrites throughout production. It’s such a specific script that it’s about trying to hit certain notes, maybe in a reverent falloff at the end of a line and just how you musically sort of deliver it, and that’s where the brothers were so amazing. It’s such a gift to be able to give some sort of lateral idea to an actor that oh, I didn’t hear the musicality of the line like that and the scene just blossoms, completely changes, and becomes darkly humorous or odd or quirky or wonderful, bizarre. But it’s a very structured piece I found in that respect. Charles Portis has such a specific vernacular of the period. It’s so authentic, in my mind. Because most people were probably pretty illiterate back then. They were maybe schooled on the King James Bible and that really infused the way that they spoke and I think a lot of westerns missed that.
Q: Jeff, do you have anything to say about that?
JEFF BRIDGES: I agree. He said it perfectly. It was a fun challenge to take on. Every once in a while we’d allow a contraction to slip and it felt right musically, you know.
Q: What about you Hailee?
HAILEE STEINFELD: They spoke for me but when I first got the script that was like the first thing that I really had to work on was making sure that I understood what everything meant. And then I had to go back through and make sure that I understood what everything meant to me emotionally and how I could relate to it in my own life. And then, with the accent, after getting on set and everyone talking, it kind of happened naturally.
ETHAN COEN: Yeah, I have to say, I mean one of the things that when we first saw the first take of Hailee doing a scene from the movie, 99.9% of the hundreds or thousands of girls who read for this part didn’t have the facility to [do it]. They washed out at the level of not being able to do the language. And that was something which was never an issue with Hailee. I mean, right from the beginning, it was clear that she was completely comfortable with the language. And the language isn’t, as everyone’s pointed out, our language. So that was the sort of threshold level at which you could hope to do the part. But Hailee had it right from the get go in a very, very natural way.
JOEL COEN: And I’m sure, Barry’s right. You feel even more strongly reading the novel. The frame of reference for her character who narrates the novel is told in first person by her character is the King James Bible. It does seem clear that’s where that kind of style derives from.
Q: Josh, in the film you’re obviously playing a violent simpleton, a mongrel. Where do you have to go as a man and as an actor to find that, to bring that out?
JOSH BROLIN: Well, it found me, didn’t it? No, I wasn’t in the film. I don’t know what you’re talking about. They just asked to use my name. When I came I talked to Joel and Ethan about it in the beginning and they said something about he’s sort of a dim bulb and I thought no, he’s more like a broken bulb with no filament at all. And I liked the idea of doing this duality of a guy who you know, he’s talked about throughout the whole movie so when you see him, you expect a monster, especially when he turns around the first time, that shot from the horses. You know he’s got that look and whatever he’s doing. I’m not sure what the look is personally but then he starts talking and it’s a different kind of guy. It’s like so what are you doing here? I don’t understand what you’re doing out here. You know it’s almost conversation. And I like that better because it’s different than the mythology of what’s been created through the movie is ripped from you, you know, whatever pigeon-holing that you’ve created in your mind of what a sociopath is and then you see it come back when he’s alone with her. Then you see that great low shot that they do of that transition that happens of I’m not taking this shit anymore and now I realize I’m out in the middle of nowhere and now I have to manifest this rage again. So you realize it’s true, a true sociopath. And it was fun. It was fun to be able to do that. But talking about the language before, you know we were doing rehearsals and I think a lot of things came together in rehearsals. Because I don’t think anybody really knew how to do the language. And then you see Jeff come in and Roger. And then you go, oh I can say mine like that, too. And then Barry comes in and you know, says something. Then you go oh, so I can pull off the no contractions by doing that and it’s true, you do, you do and then you start to find this. Because when I did the voice, I thought this is going to stick out so horribly. It’s too much, you know. I think I did too much. And then I saw everybody else in the film. You don’t even notice it.
JEFF BRIDGES: Don’t forget the bear man.
JOSH BROLIN: Oh yeah, the bear man. Should have done that one. That was true.
Q: Jeff, when I see this movie, the characters are grimy and their clothes are so dirty and oily, how did doing a western like True Grit compare to doing Tron which is so clean?
JEFF BRIDGES: Well that’s the fun of my job that I get to play all different kinds of guys. We did a reshoot for Tron about a week after we completed True Grit and I had the same make-up guy, Thomas Nellen was on both, so going from Rooster, with all the dust and the grime and the dirty teeth, a few days later, back in the chair, him putting a hundred little black dots on my face to have motion capture done. You know it felt bizarre but that’s the gig. That’s the fun of it.
Q: So what was fun about doing a western movie?
HAILEE STEINFELD: The riding was fun. The horseback riding was fun. I used to ride English a couple years ago so to be able to pick up back on that, that was fun.
Q: Joel and Ethan, what was done if anything to reduce the carbon footprint of the movie? Was there anything that you did to reuse, recycle or leave the environment the way you found it?
ETHAN COEN: To leave the environment the way we found it?
BARRY PEPPER: I can answer this for you. One of the most extraordinary things that I found, it was the first film that I’d ever came on board where I was given a stainless steel water bottle with a note on it and it was beautiful, embossed with True Grit, and it was a gift to all of the crew and cast. And it said by utilizing this stainless steel water bottle, we’ll have pumping stations of clean water everywhere you go. We’ll save 30,000 plastic water bottles in the course of this filmmaking. So I thought that was the first experience I had with that. And since then, I went on to several other films, Terrence Malick’s film and others and everyone’s doing it. And I thought that was really cool.
Q: Excellent. Anyone else want to add to that? Any other aspects to add?
JOSH BROLIN: The trash that we saw there we left there. We didn’t change anything. We didn’t touch it.
Q: Mattie’s in peril but not in real danger until she kills a man, until she takes a life, and then she falls into the pit and awakens the sleeping serpents. So, in telling the story, was the sense of consequence something that was important to you to relay?
JOEL COEN: No, I don’t think that’s the intention – and certainly not the reading that we were giving to it. You know somebody mentioned earlier we were talking just a little bit about this western genre, how conscious that was. And, as we mentioned in other context a couple of times, one of the things that struck us about the novel, just generically, was that what we took away from it more than a western was the sense of it almost being this youthful adventure story or kind of fitting into the genre of what you might call young adult adventure fiction or something like that. Frequently, in those kinds of stories – there was something that was really interesting to us actually just in terms of how the story worked. In connection with that, you often have this kind of perils of Pauline acceleration of action at a certain point where one thing just leads to another, leads to another, and leads to another, and that’s the way the ending of the novel felt to us, which was that there’s a big shootout in a field and she almost gets strangled and then she shoots again and then she falls into a pit with snakes and then she rides. So that’s I think closer to the way we were looking at it.
Q: So it’s not a morality tale or a look at retribution?
ETHAN COEN: Well that’s certainly an element of the story and the novel but I wouldn’t associate it with her killing a guy and then falling into a pit with snakes. Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t, I don’t think that’s where it comes in.
Q: For the Coen’s, while you were trying to translate the novel to the screen, were there things about the original film that you really admired and wanted to at least pay homage to or maybe carry through in some small way for this one? And for the actors as well, was there anything performance-wise you wanted to capture?
ETHAN COEN: Not for us, not the negative either. We had seen the movie, I think as Joel said, when it came out, but we were kids then and we haven’t seen it since and only really vaguely remember it.
Q: Roger, Ethan’s protestations that this is not a western, not withstanding, there are certain visual elements that do bring to mind the western. How did you approach that? For instance, so much of the film is by firelight or lantern light or the light of a stove, did some of that enter into the cinematic language that said to you yes, we are shooting a western?
ROGER DEAKINS: Well, it just posed different situations for trying to create a realistic look, you know, firelight, oil lamp, night light. I mean the biggest challenge for me was all the big night exteriors which is like a cinematographer’s nightmare because you’re out in the middle of nowhere and really it’s in this film. It’s supposed to be about to snow so therefore there shouldn’t be a moon, therefore there really should be a lot of black space there because you wouldn’t have seen anything. So I tried to make it as realistic as possible because I felt that’s where the film was, but at certain times you have to stretch it and certain times you obviously, like with Blackie’s Journey, then you stretch it into a hopefully more poetic kind of thing. But to me, whether it was a western or whatever, that wasn’t important. It was the script and the sense of realism that the script demanded really, you know?
JOEL COEN: Yeah, I mean in one of those nighttime scenes I remember Roger kept coming up to me and Ethan saying you know in the original they shot this during the day and they did.
ROGER DEAKINS: And they did. They arrive at about twilight and then it cuts to daytime when the ?? arrive. I know why they did that.
Q: For the Coen brothers, you have a great visual style. At what point would you say visuals enter into your screenwriting process? Do you use a storyboard or reference material while you’re writing or is that reserved specifically when you go into director’s mode?
ETHAN COEN: Well, you know, it really depends. I mean there’s some places where when you’re writing the script, you are thinking aloud about what it’s going to look like and other times when you’re just writing and thinking Roger will figure it out. It’s all over the map, honestly.
Q: Hailee, you’re just sensational in this and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. I mean it’s amazing.
HAILEE STEINFELD: Thank you.
Q: Where did you come from? How did you get this movie? You said you’ve been horseback riding before. What else did you have to learn to do Mattie so terrifically?
HAILEE STEINFELD: I had to learn how to shoot a gun and roll a cigarette. Those were the two main things I had to learn. But I mean where did I come from? How did you find me?
Q: Had you been acting?
HAILEE STEINFELD: Yes, of course. I’ve been acting since I was 8.
Q: And you’re how old?
HAILEE STEINFELD: 13 and I turn 14 on Saturday.
Q: Oh, happy birthday. [to the Coen brothers] How did you find her?
JOEL COEN: If we’d only known. Hailee’s from Thousand Oaks. We looked all over the country. There were two casting people that spent basically 18 months going everywhere, just everywhere, seeing young girls in that age range and it’s a very narrow range and they saw thousands of girls and they could have stayed in L.A.
Q: Josh and Hailee, the scene by the campfire is such an amazing scene. How did you guys prepare? How much rehearsal went into that? That was pretty intense.
HAILEE STEINFELD: Like 15 minutes after I met you for the first time we were rehearsing that and you were on top of me with a knife to my neck so it was kind of interesting but I don’t know.
JOSH BROLIN: How did we – I don’t know how to answer that question really. I mean she’s so precocious and amazing and present and just kind of went with it. There was never any moment – I think it was more nerve-racking for me than it was for her. She’s very comfortable in her own skin, you know? And you know that scene was about her talking and being super confident and this little man child hating the purity of her, you know? And Josh loves her purity, loves it. I mean I’m so taken by her in every which way. I just think she’s incredible so it was much harder for me. You know everything she did was easy. The rest of us make it really hard, you know? But it was great. I had a really good time and then other than the cursing, you know, between me and Matt and Barry — and Barry doesn’t curse so much.
HAILEE STEINFELD: No, Barry was pretty good.
JOSH BROLIN: Yeah, how much did you earn? I think the “F” word was $5 and the “S” word was…?
HAILEE STEINFELD: Every other word was a dollar.
JOSH BROLIN: Yeah, she made about 100,000. An incredible experience though. We had a great time, really, really great time. I can’t really tell you the process because it was a fairly easy process. In rehearsal, it was different. We really searched a lot in rehearsal for character and all that but she had already had it. She was the one person who had it down before the rest of us really started.
Q: Hailee, how did you learn how to shoot a gun and did you do your own stunts?
HAILEE STEINFELD: I did most of them. There aren’t really any, you know, besides the falling down the snake pit. That was the only one. That was the biggest stunt, right? Other than that I mean –
ETHAN COEN: That was the biggest stunt per se, yeah. Hailee did all of the riding except some of the riding in the river but all the other riding.
HAILEE STEINFELD: So there wasn’t too much of that but I learned to shoot a gun. Before I went on location, that was like one of the things that I wanted to make sure I had a clue of what I was doing so I had my dad take me to a shooting range with a friend of ours who is an LAPD officer so he kind of told me everything I needed to know.
Q: How was it being the only girl amongst all these dudes and working with all these guys?
HAILEE STEINFELD: Oh, it wasn’t bad. They’re awesome; they’re amazing. And I mean I really wasn’t, I was surrounded by women the entire time. You know, the hair, make-up people and wardrobe. My mom was with me, my tutor. And so I was surrounded by women the entire time but I feel like all of them are like big kids so it was a lot of fun.
Q: You had to be almost like a guy, a tough character.
HAILEE STEINFELD: Yeah.
Q: At the beginning of the film you open with a quote from Proverbs and Mattie has a sort of divine sense of mission to get revenge or justice for her dad, was that something that was inherent to the book?
JOEL COEN: Yeah, it’s in the book. I mean the opening voiceover is taken directly from the book. The reference to that particular Proverb is in the beginning of the book, not as an epigraph but in the context of her speaking and her narration. And the divine sense of mission is definitely a big part of the story. I mean that’s taken directly from [the novel]. So yeah, I mean in every respect the answer’s yes from the book.
Q: What specific kinds of research did you do for the characters to get into the spirit of the times?
ETHAN COEN: Are you asking the actors?
Q: Yes, you guys and the actors as well.
JOSH BROLIN: How would you answer that if you were to answer that?
JOEL COEN: Well, I think we can say we left all the research to Charles Portis. I mean he was obviously very steeped in the period, the language, the periodicals, the weapons, and the culture of the period in order to write the novel in such a detailed way and we were happy not to do any work we didn’t have to basically. That’s from our point of view in writing.
JOSH BROLIN: I think there’s a couple of things that happens and one is that I think being authentic is really important, but authenticity in place of fluidity seems to – you know what I mean? There’s like wow, that movie is perfect and they didn’t do anything wrong. And I’m bored out of my mind. You know there has to be a fluidity there and I think that’s what happens in rehearsal where you go yes, you’re authentic and you’ve done – listen they wouldn’t have that gun. That’s 1871 and that actually wasn’t issued until 1873 and you’re like are you joking? You know there’s a few people out there that it really matters to a lot and I do think it’s important and that you have amazing props people like Keith Walters who is extremely wound up about that stuff and that’s great. And that’s his job and I love him, you know, on the set. But when you do [a western], you try to create these composite things. You get in rehearsals and you go how does this work and you know, even with my character and I’m not in the movie very much, but you go well what works? You know, what I came in with wasn’t working at all and we all knew it and it wasn’t – there was no damning going on but you know, we’re like okay that doesn’t work. Well what do we do? Well I don’t know – let’s just keep mixing it up and keep mixing it up and then the little voice thing comes out and Joel goes oh, what was that? And Ethan goes I like that or I heard Ethan in the background going hee, hee. And then things start to come together. And I think that’s it. Instead of the western, perfect, authentic, this is what they say to do – let’s make that, you know what I’m saying?
“True Grit” opens in theaters on December 22nd.