Masters of surprise on the big screen, Joel Coen and his brother Ethan Coen (Hail, Caesar!, above) announced in January 2017 that they had written and planned to direct The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, described as an “event anthology set in the Old West.” Later in the year, we heard that Netflix acquired the series and that it would feature six episodes. Tim Blake Nelson was set to star as Buster Scruggs, with the series expected to launch in 2018.
Now — surprise! — we’re hearing that the series will be, instead, a movie. Here’s all we know about The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
How did the series transform into a movie?
According to the Coen brothers themselves (per Variety): “We’ve always loved anthology movies, especially those films made in Italy in the Sixties which set side-by-side the work of different directors on a common theme. Having written an anthology of Western stories we attempted to do the same, hoping to enlist the best directors working today. It was our great fortune that they both agreed to participate.”
So, it’s not clear at what point, exactly, the Coen brothers decided that their stories would work better as one film rather than six episodes of a small-screen series, with themselves (i.e., “the best directors working today”) at the helm. We’re delighted, nonetheless, that we’ll have the opportunity to see their latest work on the big screen.
What’s it about?
The film runs 132 minutes and is structured like an anthology, with multiple chapters. Beyond that, and it’s description as a Western, we know little about the plot so far. The Coens remade the Western drama True Grit back in 2010, starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld.
True Grit earned 10 Academy Award nominations. Judging by the awards chatter, their new film sounds like a solid bet to join the Oscar race.
Who is starring?
As previously announced, Tim Blake Nelson stars as the titular character. Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits and Liam Neeson have also been announced as costars.
When will it premiere?
The film will enjoy its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in Italy, which runs this year from August 9 to September 8. It could show up at other major festivals, such as Toronto or New York, after that.
Will it still show up on Netflix? If so, when?
Yes. Per Variety, the film will debut on Netflix by the end of the year. It’s expected to have a limited theatrical release before that, though, so we should be seeing it in theaters sometime this fall.