Coen Brothers Are Writing a 'Musical Comedy'

'Inside Llewyn Davis' duo also mulling idea set in ancient Rome

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen.
Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images
December 5, 2013 2:10 PM ET

With Inside Llewyn Davis hitting theaters this week, the Coen brothers are working on a "musical comedy" set around an opera. It's one of two projects that Joel and Ethan Coen are in the middle of, they told Vulture. When asked if they would ever consider making a musical, Joel Coen said Llewyn Davis is "as close to a full-blown musical as we would make." Ethan Coen added, "One of the two things we're writing now, it's not a musical per se . . . " Joel said, " . . . But it has what might be considered more traditional numbers." Then Ethan said outright, "It's a musical comedy."

Meet the Folk Singer Who Inspired 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

The brothers' other project takes place in ancient Rome. Earlier this week, Ethan Coen told The Associated Press, "It's big. We're interested in the big questions. And we don't fuck around with subtext. This one especially."

But for now, the siblings are still talking about Inside Llewyn Davis. They based the film loosely on the life of folk singer Dave Van Ronk, the self-proclaimed "Mayor of MacDougal Street," who championed Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell as they began their careers. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman, and its soundtrack features songs sung by several of the actors, as well as Mulligan's husband, Marcus Mumford. A rendition of the folk classic "Five Hundred Miles" in the film that features Timberlake and Mulligan, among others, premiered this week. The soundtrack is also the fourth collaboration between the Coens and producer T Bone Burnett, the most successful of which was O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which won five Grammys.

Joel Coen recently drew a connection between that soundtrack and the music for Inside Llewyn Davis for Rolling Stone. "If you trace it back far enough it's all Americana, the same kind of music, the same family tree, the same species of song," he said. "We felt the folk music revival of the Fifties was in part a revival of the traditional American folk musical forms we'd always been aware of and loved." 

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