What’s this, you say? The Coen brothers remaking a John Wayne classic? With the Dude, no less, as Rooster Cogburn? Is this just the latest curveball from the Coens, the kind of twisted joke they’re often accused of playing on their audience?
This was, roughly, the initial reception last year when news broke that the Coens were eyeing up True Grit. And, last week, the trailer finally arrived to prove they were serious.
The idea of the Coens taking on True Grit is strangely compelling. In interviews, Ethan Coen has made the point that they’re not remaking the Henry Hathaway film – this is an adaptation of Charles Portis’ original source novel. Ethan, it seems, thinks “the book is much funnier than the movie was,” which perhaps suggests they’re going to turn it into a rip-snorting comedy; Blazing Saddles for the 21st century, perhaps. But on the strength of the trailer, this is a typically shaggy dog comment from the brother.
If anything, Allan reckons the trailer seems closer to The Outlaw Josey Wales than a Mel Brooks-style spoof. Certainly, the first glimpse we get of Jeff Bridges as Cogburn – grizzled, taciturn, looking great on a horse with a .45 – looks anything but funny. You would not, I reckon, mess with this man. And then there’s Matt Damon, virtually unrecognisable as the Texas Ranger Cogburn hooks up with, and Josh Brolin as the bad guy they’re after.
It’s all extremely promising stuff, and a characteristically interesting project for the Coens. One can only hope it fares better than their last attempts at a “remake” – The Ladykillers. But I’m curious about their desire to remake this – one of Hollywood’s unassailable classics that starred one of the most iconic actors ever to appear in movies. Maybe it’s just more deadpan humour from the Coens; it might well be a masterpiece. We won’t know for sure until the end of this year (it’s due for a UK release in January 2011), but the trailer looks good enough for now.