In the 1996 crime caper Fargo, the writing/directing team of Joel and Ethan Coen took filmgoers on a shocking trip to North Dakota. That excursion — peppered with vivid dialects, colorful characters and bloody doings-in — netted seven Academy Award nominations, including wins for original screenplay and lead actress Frances McDormand (Joel's better half), thus making it the Coens's most acclaimed work to date.
As such, it would seem that, by now, the Hollywood machine would have solicited a follow-up to the profitable original. Yet, admirably, its creators insist they have no plans to revisit any already trodden roads. "You know, we've never been tempted — or interested — in going back to doing a sequel to anything that we've done," Joel tells TV Guide Online, before adding with a sheepish laugh, "It's kind of hard, because usually all the characters are dead!"
Instead, the brothers forge ahead with new stories — or, in a most recent case, a fresh spin on a Greek classic. In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the duo offer up a Depression-era riff on The Odyssey, with George Clooney's prison escapee, Ulysses Everett McGill, standing in for Homer's hero. "After we had written some of [O Brother], we realized that fundamentally it was this story about a character trying to get home," Joel notes, "and that recalled The Odyssey, as much as we knew it. Neither Ethan nor I had read it, so we then reacquainted ourselves with it."
Currently, the brothers are finishing up the editing of an as-yet-untitled murder mystery starring Billy Bob Thornton as a 1940s barber and McDormand as his wife. To be sure, the Oscar-winning actress's husband was happy to snag her after she obliged other filmmakers with noted turns in Wonder Boys and Almost Famous.
"Believe me, I was reminded of that," Joel cracks when presented with his wife's recent credits. "We had to get her before her price went up!"