The Coen Brothers have officially thrown their cowboy hats into the Oscar ring. The 2018 Venice Film Festival lineup announcement brought many exciting world premieres, from Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” but no competition entry was as surprising as Joel and Ethan Coen’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” The brothers’ Western anthology film will debut at Venice and be released by Netflix later this year.
The big news here is that “Buster Scruggs” is confirmed as a movie. The project was first announced in January 2017 as a “limited series” developed through Annapurna’s TV division. In a press release, Annapurna said it was mulling “an innovative television and theatrical integrated approach” for the distribution of “Buster Scruggs.” Netflix boarded the project in April 2017, with the Coen brothers marking the pickup by claiming, “We are streaming motherfuckers!”
“Buster Scruggs” was originally reported to feature six standalone episodes, but somewhere along the way the limited series transformed into an anthology feature film. The project was confirmed as a movie with the July 25 Venice announcement. Plot details are under wraps, but the ensemble cast includes “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” star Tim Blake Nelson, Zoe Kazan, Liam Neeson and Tom Waits.
“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,” the Coens said in a statement to Variety. “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.”
“Buster Scruggs” reunites the Coen Brothers with their “Inside Llewyn Davis” cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who shot the film with the Arri Alexa camera. The release is the first Coen project shot on digital. Delbonnel earned an Oscar nomination for filming “Llewyn Davis.” Other frequent Coen collaborators returning for “Scruggs” include composer Carter Burwell, production designer Jess Gonchor, and costume designer Mary Zophres.
Joel and Ethan Coen have been nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning original screenplay for “Fargo” and best picture, director, and adapted screenplay for “No Country for Old Men.” Their last stab at the Western, “True Grit,” was nominated for 10 Oscars. The film is expected to debut on Netflix and to be given an awards-qualifying theatrical release later this year. The film joins Cuaron’s “Roma” and Paul Greengrass’ “22 July” as another major awards contender from the streaming giant.