What do a career filled with masterpieces and living legends status get you in Hollywood? The ability to cast whoever you damn well want in your pictures, that’s what. The suddenly prolific filmmaking duo the brothers Coen have cast minor character actor Richard Kind and stage thesp Michael Stuhlbarg to star in their next film A Serious Man for Working Title and Focus Features.
The dark comedy is set in 1967 and “centers on Larry Gopnik (Stuhlbarg), a Midwestern professor whose life begins to unravel when his wife sets out to leave him and his socially inept brother (Kind) won’t move out of the house,” according to Variety. Not the most original setup for a film, but with the brothers involved I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. This makes back-to-back comedies for Joel and Ethan following their decidedly serious thriller No Country For Old Men which brought them Oscar glory last year. The other, Burn After Reading starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney, hits theatres Sept. 12.
So who are Kind and Stuhlbarg you ask? You may remember Kind as the lovable oaf Paul on Spin City, far and away his most high profile role. He’s done guest spots on practically every comedy on television over the last two decades playing pretty much the same character. He’s also been making the rounds on the world poker circuit. I would be remiss not to mention that Kind is the best friend of Coen favorite George Clooney, which probably didn’t hurt his chances landing the part. Stuhlbarg is more of a wildcard in that he doesn’t have much on-screen experience, though he did pop up as the heavy in Marty Scorsese’s excellent Hitchcock homage/liquor commercial The Key to Reserva. The guy might not have many credits but when you have Scorsese and the Coens on your resume you’re doing just fine – and a Tony-nomination is just gravy.
You’ve got to give Working Title and Focus credit for green lighting a project with no stars to speak of. Rarely do you see such trust doled out by studios. Whether it will work out financially in the end is yet to be seen, though the budget should be relatively low as a consequence. One thing the brothers have shown over the years is their uncanny ability to draw out the best performances out of their actors, often bringing long overdo attention to character actors like Steve Buscemi and John Turturro. While I’m not much of a fan of Kind’s schtick, I’m very interested to see what he does under their guidance.
Lensing will begin next month in Minneapolis.