Read Joel Coen’s Script for Apple-A24 Movie – Deadline
Editor’s note: Deadline’s Read the Script series debuts and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie award race.
Inspired by the stunning performance of his wife and longtime creative collaborator Frances McDormand, writer-director Joel Coen wanted to find his own way in William Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy. macbeth with a key goal in mind for its film adaptation, Apple and A24 Macbeth’s Tragedy.
“I tried to make a film as much for people who don’t go to see Shakespeare as for anyone,” says Coen.
Working independently of his regular film partner and brother Ethan, and lacking any long-standing personal ambition to adapt Shakespeare for the screen, Coen instead saw for the first time the cinematic possibilities of the four-year-old play. centuries while watching McDormand play Lady Macbeth at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. in 2016 with its emotional honesty and intensity. “I kept thinking that if I could get closer to that with a camera, it would be even more psychological and exciting,” he recalls.
To craft the screenplay, Coen consulted with his longtime friend Hanford Woods, a Shakespeare professor, to walk through every line with him, delve into the history of various productions, consider critical and historical analysis, and examine Shakespeare’s own sources. Shakespeare for history. The filmmaker even took issue with some of the more timeless lines of dialogue in the text. “To certain questions [Woods] I said ‘are you kidding’ and I said ‘I’m not kidding’,” Coen recalled. “No matter how much you read Shakespeare, there are some things that can remain a bit opaque, and some words can be ambiguous, so I wanted to understand as much as possible how everything was planned.”
Coen ultimately opted to proceed with a largely untrimmed version of the piece already famous for its conciseness and rapid pace. “Doing macbeth without the language seemed to miss probably the most important part,” says Coen. “It’s the melody of the piece and, for me, it had to be front and center.” By focusing on illuminating some of the more difficult languages through visual context, “people could benefit from the richness of language.”
He also acknowledged the black elements that permeated the source material. “It seems to me Macbeth’s Tragedy foreshadowed many tropes of 20th-century hard fiction. This is the story of a couple plotting murder. It’s James M. Cain,” Coen said. “And with all the sorcery, it’s also a horror movie in its own way. It has all these affinities with genre cinema, and it has some similarities to things I did with my brother.
Among its major changes, including moving the setting to a more ambiguous and undefined time and place, and focusing on a middle-aged, more seasoned incarnation steeped in shared history of the Macbeths portrayed by Denzel Washington and McDormand on the more traditional young and power-hungry supermodels.
“For me the piece is about time, it’s almost obsessed with time and it’s about a wedding,” he says. “It has been pointed out that while it’s not Shakespeare’s only good love relationship, the Macbeths might have Shakespeare’s only good marriage. …Usually the Macbeths are young, but I myself am old. So , the fact that it was an older marriage rather than a new marriage was of great interest to me.
In the end, Coen found a black pot soaked in blood and flashes of dark humor that had more than a little in common with his wildly popular movies like Single Blood, Fargo and There is no country for old people. “Shakespeare wrote popular entertainment,” Coen explains. “It happens to be great popular entertainment and deep popular entertainment, and some of the most exalted poetry in all of English literature – but he was still writing for the masses.”
Macbeth’s Tragedy has already received mentions as film of the year by the AFI and the National Board of Review, the latter having named it best screenplay. Among his honors, Washington received a lead actor nomination this week at the SAG Awards. The film, which hit theaters on December 24, begins streaming worldwide on Apple TV+ on Friday.
Click below to read Coen’s script.