In modern cinema, the Coen Brothers are giants. Having created classic after classic, these filmmakers are now the stuff of legend – writing, directing and producing films that are among the most original and fascinating ever made, while inspiring new creative projects from others, such as the Fargo TV series. It is understandable, then, that the world jumps to attention when their new projects are announced. Today is no exception, as it is apparently the case that Warner Bros. has optioned the best-selling 1966 novel Black Money for the intimidating duo to adapt, with Joel Silver co-producing.
Black Money is the perfect match for Joel and Ethan Coen, whose body of work includes movies such as Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona and O Brother Where Art Thou? Written by Ross MacDonald, it is a detective story featuring the private eye character Lew Archer, in a complex, layered plot that is darkly funny, yet compelling and thrilling. Assuming they will direct the movie, as well as write it, this has all the potential to be another superb entry into an already brilliant filmography.
“When Lew Archer is hired to get the goods on the suspiciously suave Frenchman who’s run off with his client’s girlfriend, it looks like a simple case of alienated affections. Things look different when the mysterious foreigner turns out to be connected to a seven year old suicide and a mountain of gambling debts.”
The story spreads across the globe from Southern California – reaching Las Vegas, Central America and Europe – with an interesting range of characters to cast. In addition to the detective Lew Archer, there is the female lead – Virginia Fablon – her husband, and her jilted boyfriend. Ideal casting has always been a particular strength of the Coen Brothers, and Black Money gives another opportunity for the pair to get it absolutely right once again.
The Coens are renowned for using the same performers multiple times – including John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, John Turturro and George Clooney. They often balance this brilliantly by using ‘Coen movie first-timers’ in main roles, such as Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona, Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man, Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, and Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. Black Money allows for a Coen Bros regular – such as Peter Stormare – to fill the role of the husband or jilted boyfriend, while a newcomer to the Coen fold portrays Lew Archer. The highly underrated Kyle Chandler would be an inspired choice for the detective, for example, or perhaps even Armie Hammer.
Even more exciting than the prospect of a Coen Brothers adaptation of Black Money is the fact that this story is just one of 18 novels by Ross MacDonald that feature the Lew Archer character. This begs the question: Could we be looking at the first ever Coen Brothers movie franchise? The mind boggles. We’ll be keeping our ears close to the ground on this one.