Feature Best Coen Characters

To celebrate the release of ‘Burn After Reading’, Movies.ie looks back at some of our favourite Coen Brother’s creations.

The prolific Coen brothers return to our screens this weekend with Burn After Reading and they’re following up the Oscar® winning No Country for Old Men in excellent style. It’s no surprise that the big names are queuing up to work with the sibling writer/directors and unsurprisingly their new comedy is a who’s who of big names and Coen favourites. The Coen’s have created some memorable characters over the years and the odd bunch that populate Burn After Reading are no exception – the cosmetic surgery obsessed Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), the philandering Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) and the camp as a row of tents Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). So, before you get acquainted with the new faces, let’s take a look back at some old Coen familiars.

1. Tim Robbins as Norville Barnes – The Hudsucker Proxy

The Coen’s plus Tim Robbins is a match made in heaven and this part was made for Robbins. Robbins plays naïve but idealistic Norville Barnes, appointed as head of Hudsucker Industries by the scheming board of directors, hoping he will run the business into the ground. Unfortunately for them, this “moron” has big ideas and soon his invention of a hoop (“You know, for kids!) is sweeping the country. Norville is the ultimate lovable underdog, charmingly played by Robbins.

2. Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh – No Country for Old Men





Bardem won the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of the improbably terrifying hitman Anton Chigurh and deservedly so. Though the Coen brothers are famous for their dialogue and have written their fair share of motor mouthed characters, they know that the scariest bad guys are the ones who say very little and so it is with Chigurh as he systematically tracks his prey. He’s pretty handy with farming equipment aswell…



3. William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard – Fargo





Speaking of motor mouthed characters, Jerry Lundegaard is the perfect example of one of the Coen’s stock characters – the down on their luck loser in life. At first Jerry is a figure of fun, his scheme to have his wife kidnapped is set up as a caper but soon we realise that Jerry is ruthless, shameless and very creepy. Macy is a mass of twitchy energy in the part, perfectly judging the balance between buffoon and villain.




4. Tim Blake Nelson as Delmar – O Brother, Where Art Thou?






Never ones to shy away from a challenge, in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Coen’s took on the classics, weaving Homer’s Odyssey into the Deep South in the 1930’s. George Clooney and John Turturro are both excellent but the stand out performance is Tim Blake Nelson as the intellectually challenged Delmar; another loser but in this case, a lovable one. His intentions are always good, even if he doesn’t have the perspicacity of Everett or the ruthlessness of Pete and it is Delmar who we root for.


5. Francis McDormand as Marge Gunderson – Fargo





McDormand is a favourite of the Coen brothers, she was excellent in their first feature Blood Simple, turns in a great comedy performance in Burn After Reading and as Marge Gunderson in Fargo, she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Marge is the warm heart of a film which explores human nature at its best and its worst. A heavily pregnant Police Chief investigating a string of ruthless killings may seem incongruous but Marge brings a large dose of reality and conscience into what could have been a simple caper movie.


6. Jeff Bridges as The Dude – The Big Lebowski





There are not many characters that have inspired their own festival but The Dude has had a big impact on popular culture. The character has completely transcended the film itself and has become a counter-culture icon. This was another case of the perfect mix of character and actor, Jeff Bridges IS The Dude; the perma-stoned, bowling loving hippy for whom the 60’s never ended. If you ever knew anyone who insisted on ordering White Russians wherever they went…chances are they’ve watched The Big Lebowski a few too many times!



Burn After Reading is in Irish cinemas everywhere now