With No Country For Old Men coming to DVD next Tuesday (3/11) in the final paces of the film's victory lap, it seems like a good time to note that when one of the film's Oscars went to Best Supporting Actor Javier Bardem, it came as the logical conclusion of a long-established fact for many Coen watchers: the brothers have a Midas touch when it comes to supporting parts -- writing them, casting them, directing them. Throughout their career, the writing-directing duo of Joel and Ethan Coen have always peppered their films with brief, brisk parts that both famous and lesser-known actors have turned into standout moments. Here, then, is a list of seven truly great Coen Brothers supporting parts, as well as runners-up from each film. As ever, these lists are highly subjective, and our comments section below awaits your thoughts. ...
1. The Dane (J.E. Freeman), Miller's Crossing
In Miller's Crossing (for my money, the the most overlooked and under-appreciated film in the Coen canon) the brothers pull a balancing act; they not only refuse, refute and re-invent gangster film styles, plots and archetypes, but they also freshen, fire up and fulfill those gangster film styles, plots and archetypes. So it is with J.E. Freeman's Eddie Dane, a fearsome tough guy whose simple, shark-like capacity for murder and mayhem drives the plot and whose complicated private life adds a few twists to the finale. Much is made of John Turturro's work in this film (as it should be) but it's The Dane who keeps sticking out in my mind whenever I re-visit Miller's Crossing, a small, self-contained example of why the film as a whole is so good.
(Runners-up: Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), Vera Bernbaum (Marcia Gay Harden) and Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito).