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Joel Coen: Streaming Is Reason ‘Risky’ Films Like ‘Tragedy of Macbeth’ Can Still Exist

"The worst nightmare as a filmmaker is that someone watched your film on an airplane," Coen said at NYFF, while acquiescing that streaming is how movies like "Macbeth" get made.

Denzel Washington, "The Tragedy of Macbeth"

“The Tragedy of Macbeth”


Director Joel Coen, star/producer Frances McDormand, and star Denzel Washington unveiled their Apple/A24 Shakespeare adaptation “The Tragedy of Macbeth” to a packed, early morning New York Film Festival press screening on Friday. The black-and-white, Academy-ratio drama evokes the atmospheres of German Expressionism and Carl Theodor Dreyer in telling the brutal tragedy entirely on a sound screen, as framed within an inch of its life by Bruno Delbonnel.

Speaking to the press corps, the trio were joined by Moses Ingram (Lady Macduff), Harry Melling (Malcolm), and Bertie Carvel (Banquo). Washington and McDormand spoke about their relationships to Shakespeare (Washington began his career playing Othello, while McDormand played Lady Macbeth at Berkeley Rep in 2016).

As “Tragedy of Macbeth” is both a theatrical (December 24) and streaming (January 14 on Apple TV+) release, the question inevitably arose over what Joel Coen thinks about his movie being seen by audiences at home, and on a smaller screen. (This visually engulfing Shakespeare epic deserves to be seen on the big screen.)

“As a filmmaker you want your audience to see your film on the best, biggest screen possible. The worst nightmare as a filmmaker is that someone watched your film on an airplane,” Coen said.

“When I first got into the movie business — it’s been almost 40 years ago — the reason I was able to make movies with Ethan [Coen], the reason we were able to have a career is because the studios at that point had an ancillary market that was a backstop for more risky films, which were VHS cassettes or all these home video markets, which is essentially television,” said Coen, whose indie directorial debut, 1984’s “Blood Simple” with brother Ethan, premiered at the New York Film Festival.

“So the fact that those markets are sort of responsible for my career, I’m not going to bust on them now because they’ve become very successful and are overtaking the market. It’s the reason I’m able to do this stuff,” said Coen, whose last film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was also a streaming release on Netflix in 2018.

“I have mixed feelings about [streaming] obviously. You want people to see it on a big screen. But the other part of it is that’s been part of the history of our movies since the very beginning. That’s the best answer I can give you.”

The Apple/A24 release is part of the studios’ partnership which kicked off last year with Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks.”

Read IndieWire’s review of “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”

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