Meet the Coen Brothers’ New Breakout Star: Alden Ehrenreich
Still, talking his way into Hail, Caesar! was no easy task. “I don’t think the Coen brothers had any idea of who I was,” Ehrenreich says. “My agent sent me the script, and I read it and just loved it. I asked if I could audition, and we were told that I really wasn’t right for the part. So, we just asked again, and [the Coens’ people] said, ‘You can make a tape.’ And then I asked again if I could come in, and they said okay. I went and read for the casting director, and then she had me come back and read for the Coens twice.”
His suspicion was that the initial resistance stemmed from the fact that he’s made his name playing sensitive, thoughtful characters (see his estranged, wounded stepson in Blue Jasmine). That sort of forceful, bristling performance is miles removed from his adorably dim-bulb portrayal of the singin’ and lassoin’ fool Doyle. But he knew his instincts were correct during his audition with the Coens: “When I read for them, they laughed the whole time. That seemed like good news.
“I grew up watching so many of their films and loving their films so much,” he continues, citing O Brother, Where Art Thou? as the first Coens movie he remembers seeing. “I almost feel like so much of the humor in their films has shaped a lot of me and my friends’ sensibility. That’s why I feel like I’m almost taking credit for something I didn’t do. Those jokes are them — it was all on the page. … I thought, ‘Well, maybe I should go talk to a voice coach and really work on [Doyle’s] Southern [accent].’ But they wrote that into the lines — the words were written phonetically — so that gave you the accent. There’s so much that’s done for you by the quality of their writing.”
Perhaps, but one suspects that it was Ehrenreich who brought the sweetness and humanity to a character who could have just become another of the filmmakers’ signature rubes. During a 30-minute conversation, he is always warm and laidback, as profoundly unaffected as Caesar‘s ego-ridden characters are consumed by their pretensions. Even when he’s told this new movie may help introduce him to a larger audience, he smiles but doesn’t entirely buy in.
“I’ve been in movies where so much of the conversation was about, ‘Well, after this movie, you’re gonna be the biggest movie star,'” he replies. “I sort of have learned that you never really can predict any of that. I don’t really know what it’s like when you have a big breakout thing happen and you’re on the level of George or Josh or Channing or Jonah or Scarlett or Tilda.” Still, he gives himself some credit: “People will know who I am at the party tonight and at the premiere…” But then he stops himself, laughing again. “But I could drive right now to the building next door and no one knows who I am. That’s kind of nice.”