By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 9, 2012 at 3:40PM
At the start of 2007, the Coen Brothers were not in a good place in their careers. Even after the major success of "O Brother Where Art Thou" and the critical acclaim of "The Man Who Wasn't There," they weren't able to get their Brad Pitt-starring adaptation of James Dickey's WWII novel "To the White Sea" financed, and two commercially-aimed star-laden pictures, "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers," had disappointed financially and seen them pick up the worst reviews of their careers.
But that was all about to change, because at the Cannes Film Festival that year, the Coens premiered their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's brutal neo-Western "No Country For Old Men," the tale of an ordinary man (Josh Brolin) who comes across the spoils of a drug deal gone bad, only to be hunted by a remorseless killer (Javier Bardem), while a local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) follows the trail of blood and destruction left behind them. It was tremendously well received, became their most financially successful film up to that point, and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, for Bardem, at the Academy Awards. The film hit theaters five years ago today, on November 9th 2007, and to mark the occasion, we've picked out five things you might not know about "No Country For Old Men." Read on below.
It's almost impossible to imagine the film without Javier Bardem's Oscar-winning, bowl-cutted performance as the mysterious and psychopathic cattle gun-wielding murderer Anton Chigurh. And Bardem was the Coens' first choice for the part, despite the Spanish actor telling them he hated violence, couldn't drive, wasn't comfortable speaking English and had never fired a gun. And for a time, it seemed that Bardem's schedule wasn't going to work out, and the Coens turned to another oft-villainous actor who had impressed in auditions, "Sherlock Holmes" and "Kick-Ass" star Mark Strong. The actor (then best known for a small role in Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana") told Total Film: "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.' " It's unclear what Bardem's potential conflict was, although "Goya's Ghosts" and "Love In the Time of Cholera" both filmed around the same period. But as it turns out, it didn't matter, and Bardem was able to do it. Let's hope that the Coens are able to work the ever-excellent Strong into something else down the line.
One of the many tragic things about the passing of Heath Ledger was the thought of all the directors that the actor never got to work with that could have resulted in amazing work. Ledger did extremely well in his short 28 years -- Ang Lee, Christopher Nolan, Todd Haynes, Terry Gilliam -- and he was becoming an increasingly hot ticket at the time of his death, and his performance in "The Dark Knight" would surely have made him all the more so. What's even more tragic is how close he came to working with other filmmakers. Ledger dropped out of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" shortly before he passed, and the actor was also reportedly the Coen's first choice to play the lead role of Llewelyn Moss in "No Country For Old Men." Ultimately, the actor's daughter Matilda had been born recently, and Ledger opted to take some time off instead. He wasn't the only actor considered: character actor favorite Garret Dillahunt auditioned five times for the part before Josh Brolin was picked instead. Dillahunt was, however, given the smaller role of Deputy Wendell instead.