One of the very best abilities of the two-headed filmmaking mega-beast we call the Coen Brothers is the refinement of talent. Whether they’re offering up defining roles to a underexposed performer (Steve Buscemi back in the day, or Tim Blake Nelson) or helping a bigger name expand his repertoire (George Clooney) the pair has an amazing eye for the cultivation of performers.
So when they cast Richard Kind and stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg in the lead roles of their next film, A Serious Man, I get that old excited feeling. I don’t know much about Stuhlbarg, but I’m enthusiastic about seeing the Coens work with Richard Kind. It seems like a fantastic fit.
The plot, about which we’ve known relatively little, is set in 1967. Stuhlbarg plays a college professor in a Midwest Jewish community dealing with an unhappy wife and a socially awkward brother (Kind) who won’t move out on his own. I got momentarily bummed seeing Kind cast according to type as the inept one, but then I remembered how well the Coens have previously used actors cast to type and I relaxed.
Shooting starts next month in Minneapolis based on an original Coen Brothers script. Just as important as the cast is the shooter. While no mention is made of Roger Deakins in most of the news available for A Serious Man, the British Society of Cinematographers had to present an award to Deakins via telephone on July 20 “because he was fully occupied preparing the next Coen Brothers movie A Serious Man.”
And while checking up on Deakins’s involvement, I found some detailed casting info about the film. Avoid reading further if you don’t want to know anything at all, though I doubt serious spoilers lurk within. My favorite note from the casting sheets: “Big noses a plus!” The following roles were being cast at the head of August; head over to the Coen fan site You Know, For Kids! for quite a bit more detail in a post dated August 12, including some slight script excerpts.
Sarah Gopnik: 16, Midwestern Jewish, typical teenager, thinks everyone is annoying, constantly leaving the house to meet friends, takes advantage of her parents, steals money, secretly saving up for a nose job.
Danny Gopnik: 12-13, Midwestern Jewish, studying for his bar mitzvah, self-centered, takes advantage of his father, owes money to a record company, uses the money he steals from his parents to buy drugs, in trouble with the drug-dealing bully at Hebrew school.
Ronnie Nudell: 12-13, Danny’s friend, always swearing, hard for him to say a sentence that doesn’t include the F-word, a real character role.
Fagle: 12-15, Midwestern Jewish bully, great face, large, tall, husky-looking preferred, easy to make out as a bully.
D’vorah: female, 12-13, speaks or knows a little Hebrew, a know-it-all.
Mar King: late 60s-early 70s, gray hair, teacher, speaks Hebrew.
Natalie : 50-65, Caucasian, works at a university as a secretary in the physics department.
Mel Nudell: early 40s, Midwestern Jewish-looking, married to Mimi, close friends with Larry.
Marshak’s Secretary: 60s-70s, Eastern European-looking, Jewish.
Doctor Shapiro: late 40s-early 50s, Midwestern Jewish, a nice member of the community.
Don Milgram’s Secretary: 50s-60s, works in a law office.
Two Cops: 40s-50s, Caucasian, Minnesotan, very “goy,” good faces.
Detectives: 40s-50s, warn Uncle Arthur that he will be arrested again if he gambles, Minnesotan, “goy,” good faces.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey