Tim Blake Nelson already showed us his singing talents in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? He clears his throat and lets loose his dulcet tones in the Coen brothers’ Netflix-produced feature The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, showing in Venice in competition. At the press conference, Nelson took us through some of the process behind the film.
THE SCRIPT – “I think I read the Buster Scruggs script in 2002 and what I saw in it, which I think we all cherish, and is what Joel and Ethan do, is this extraordinary and delicate and deep sense of film history and film language and that seemed obvious in this movie, so I didn’t feel particularly wise in intuiting this.”
REVISIONIST WESTERN – “The Buster Scruggs one was about the history of the Western itself in a transitional moment because the Buster Scruggs character goes from the singing cowboy to the black-hatted rock and roll influenced with the moustache. It’s a revisionist Western, almost like something out of McCabe and Mrs Miller, although he sings a song, but aesthetically he’s like that.”
THE CHAPTERS – “When I read the other five stories, it seemed that each one was examining from a storytelling but also an aesthetic point of view, the history of the Western. Our job as actors was to commit to the iconography with which our specific characters cohered so that made the acting choices easier to make because you were fitting into a particular language, not only of film but of film acting.”
THE LOCATIONS – “What’s really amazing about Joel and Ethan in terms of how specific they get and how meticulous and how researched and how deliberate. That opening song, Cool Water, any filmmaker I’ve ever met – and I know this because I’ve worked I am an old man – would have worked in one place and would have shot in one place. They shot it in three places in three days, because of specific backdrop images that they wanted. It’s that meticulous. One of the reasons they are so extraordinary is because they put in that depth of work they put in. The landscape is just one example of that.”
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