All the way back in 2019, we reported that Joel Coen (of the Coen brothers) was working on a version of Macbeth starring Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington, but without his brother Ethan Coen (who is also a Coen brother, obviously). The two had worked together separately in the past, so getting one without the other isn’t completely unheard of, but it is pretty rare—they’re professionally referred to as “the Coen brothers” for a reason, after all. But according to composer Carter Burwell, who has been a longtime Coen brothers collaborator (and is scoring The Tragedy Of Macbeth), this Coen schism might not be a one-off this time.
On a recent episode of the Score podcast (via IndieWire), Burwell explained the split by saying that Ethan Coen “just didn’t want to make movies anymore” and that he “seems very happy” working on theatrical productions and other non-movie projects. He says that the Coen brothers have written a lot of scripts together that are still “sitting on various shelves,” but he doesn’t know what they’ll be doing—together or separately—after Joel Coen makes his Macbeth movie. It’s all so up in the air, apparently, that he thinks there might even be a chance that they all just retire soon, adding, “it’s a wonderfully unpredictable business.” (Imagining a movie industry where Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers have all retired sure is wild.)
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Ethan Coen wanting to take a break from making movies. He said almost literally that in 2019 to the Los Angeles Times, explaining that he wanted to work on plays because he was “giving movies a rest.” He said at the time that he’s “totally comfortable” making movies, but it’s such a “technical thing” compared to how the theater is “fluid” and “fragile.”