Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men
Credit: Richard Foreman

How did the Coen brothers make the critically acclaimed film No Country for Old Men, nominated for an impressive eight Oscars, including Best Picture? Though the brothers can be notoriously opaque when answering questions about their art, the Coens, along with key members of their crew, attempted to enlighten 300 guild members at a recent Q&A panel held at Hollywood’s Harmony Gold theater. (Such panels are a common Oscar season occurrence in Hollywood.) Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) moderated the discussion, along with No Country cinematographer Roger Deakins, sound editor Skip Lievsay, sound designer Craig Berkey, re-recording mixer Greg Orloff, sound mixer Peter Kurland, and production designer Jess Gonchor.

Two hours into the panel, I still had many questions for the Coens. (One can only hope they record a DVD commentary track.) I did, however, learn that…

  • The Coens storyboard every shot of their films, but when it comes time to shoot, they often throw the storyboards out.
  • Throughout the shoot in Texas and New Mexico, Deakins hoped it wouldn’t rain because he cherished the drab, brown color of the parched soil. As luck would have it, it never rained.
  • The Coens shot only 250,000 feet of film. Most directors shoot three or four times that amount.
  • Carter Burwell’s score is only 16 minutes long, and the majority of it is heard during the end credits.
  • Jonze asked the Coens if they were as calm on the set as they were at this Q&A. “Yes, it approaches catatonia,” Joel Coen jokingly replied.
  • Tommy Lee Jones’ voice-over narration was recorded on set instead of in post-production, so that it would be easier for him to remain in character.
  • The U.S.-Mexico border station was actually built by a production design team in New Mexico, a few hundred miles north of the actual border. That didn’t stop some locals from mistaking it for the real thing.

addCredit(“No Country for Old Men: Richard Foreman”)

A side benefit of attending the panel: a few causally overheard conversationsfrom some of the guild members. I’m betting that a fair number of themare Oscar voters, and that these conversations could be an invaluableglimpse as to who wins — and who loses — on February 24th.

Guy No. 1: What did you think of Juno being nominated for Best Picture?
Guy No. 2: Don’t know. Haven’t seen it.
Guy No. 1: It’s a lot like the movie with the yellow bus in it.


Guy No. 3: What was with There Will Be Blood? The music would start rising and yet there was nothing happening on the screen!
Guy No. 4: Yeah, who did the score?
Guy No. 3: Jonny… Greenwood?
Guy No. 4: That doesn’t even sound like a real name.
Guy No. 3: I know! That movie must have got in by only one or two votes.

If I had a vote, I’d cast it for There Will Be Blood. What aboutyou, PopWatchers: Which of the nominees would get your vote for Best Picture? And if you had five minutes alone with the Coen brothers, whatwould you ask them?