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The Coen Brothers, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake Go Behind-the-Scenes of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire December 6, 2013 at 10:3AM

"Inside Llewyn Davis" substitutes the bluegrass music found in "O. Brother Where Art Thou" for folk music to tell a similar "Odyssey"-like tale of a musician struggling to get by through life as an artist. Taking place over the course of several days, Oscar Isaac (in a breakthrough performance sure to garner him awards-buzz once the film lands stateside) stars as the titular singer-songwriter, while Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and a scene-stealing John Goodman round out the colorful supporting cast of folks Llewyn meets on his dispiriting journey. T Bone Burnett produced the film's great soundtrack.
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[Editor's Note: This feature originally ran during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where "Inside Llewyn Davis" world premiered and won the Grand Prix award. It opens today in select theaters.]

Greeted with a lot of big laughs and extended applause at its first Cannes press screening last night, Joel and Ethan Coen's latest love letter to music "Inside Llewyn Davis" did not disappoint. (Our own Eric Kohn went so far as to say "it isn't the minor Coen Bros. movie it looks like.")

"Inside Llewyn Davis" substitutes the bluegrass music found in "O. Brother Where Art Thou" for folk music to tell a similar "Odyssey"-like tale of a musician struggling to get by through life as an artist. Taking place over the course of several days, Oscar Isaac (in a breakthrough performance sure to garner him awards-buzz once the film lands stateside) stars as the titular singer-songwriter, while Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and a scene-stealing John Goodman round out the colorful supporting cast of folks Llewyn meets on his dispiriting journey. T Bone Burnett produced the film's great soundtrack.

Indiewire was on the scene at the press conference the day following the film's premiere. Here are some highlights:

Why Bruno Delbonnel ("Amelie," "Dark Shadows") shot the film instead of the Coen Bros. frequent collaborator Roger Deakins:
Joel Coen: "In this case, Roger was shooting James Bond for six of seven years… We've worked with Bruno before [on their "Paris Je T'aime" short film] and had such a great time with him. He was good enough to come over and help us out on this one."

There was a lot of laughter on set:
Oscar Isaac: "There was a lot of laughter. In between takes I was smiling from ear to ear."
Garret Hedlund: "I've never laughed on set as much as I did on this one."
Joel Coen: "We did laugh a lot. In fact, we ruined a lot of sound takes."

Justin Timberlake's musician in the film was inspired by folk singer Paul Clayton.
Justin Timberlake: "Jordan, Ethan and myself spoke about a look for Jim [his character in the film]. We found a picture of Paul Calyton who sang traditional folk songs. The more we talked about it the more we thought it was appropriate for Jim."

Carey Mulligan got the role without having to sing for Joel and Ethan (she does sing in the film).
Carey Mulligan: "I'm very nervous of singing in front of people. We had a week before we started shooting. T Bone, Joel and Ethan have the ability to make you feel very comfortable. I sang one line in the background -- you can get away with a lot. I just told them I could sing to get the job."

For Justin Timberlake, success isn't measured by how his work is received.
Justin Timberlake: "There's a lot of analysis now on what might be successful. For those of us who spawn something out of an idea, I don't know if I'd measure success on how it's perceived in the end. When it's done and it's out there and has to live in the ether. Don't get caught up in the rat race of what might be perceived in a certain way."

The Coen Bros. didn't intend to lampoon the folk music scene with the film.
Joel Coen: "I think you can see in the movie that we have a genuine fondness and respect for it. It was never intended as a parody. Not to say that there aren't funny things about folk music. There are (laughs)."

The Coen Bros. love to surprise with their casting choices.
Joel Coen: "We often think about specific actors when we write and sometimes we write parts for them. Sometimes we write parts not knowing who's going to play them, and often in those cases we think, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to see an actor do something entirely different' -- wanting to see someone do something out of totally left field."
Ethan Coen: "It's fun to see Carey swear like a stevedore."

Justin Timberlake has a deep love for folk music.
Justin Timberlake: "As far as singing in the movie, obviously it's on the surface a very different style from the music I make in real life. But I grew up in Tennessee, the birth place of rock and roll and a lot of country music. My first music lessons were given by my grandfather who taught me how to finger pick. It felt warm and fuzzy to be in this movie and singing."

There might be a live and a traditional soundtrack coming out down the line.
T Bone: "We recorded the whole show in advance and we recorded it all live. Before you get in front of cameras you want to know that you have it down, especially when you're going live. It's a small film. We're going to do everything we can to keep it alive."

This article is related to: Inside Llewyn Davis, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Cannes Film Festival, Interviews, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan