Joel Coen Shot ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ Entirely in Black and White

The upcoming Shakespeare adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand was D.P.'d by five-time Oscar nominee Bruno Delbonnel.
Director and screenwriter Joel Coen attends the premiere for "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" at Alice Tully Hall during the 56th New York Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Joel Coen in 2018
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

It’s been nearly a year since anyone’s heard about “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” the adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama directed by Joel Coen (sans partner and brother Ethan) and starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand.

In a recent episode of cinematographer Roger Deakins’ podcast, Team Deakins, the Oscar winner and his wife and co-host, James, were joined by the Coens’ long-time costume designer Mary Zophres. She revealed at the end of the show that the film’s cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, had shot “Macbeth” entirely in black and white.

Zophres went on to explain that the process of doing the costumes this time was easier than the last time she’d worked with black and white — that being the 2001 Coen brothers crime drama “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” In this case, Zophres said she utilized the noir setting on her iPhone to approximate how the costumes would look devoid of color. Zophres has worked with the Coens on every one of their features going back to their 1996 feature “Fargo.”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” saw the Coens split up, with Joel flying solo as director. In an interview published to Collider with Coen composer Carter Burwell, he discussed the brothers working apart.

“It’s a little different, even just the conversations I’ve had,” Burwell said. “Yeah, it’s a little different to have one of the brothers there. And I know Ethan, I saw him toward the end of last year and Joel was out prepping the shoot in LA. He said it felt strange that Joel is out there getting ready to make a movie. But Ethan didn’t want to do it. He wants to do other things. So it’s going to be a little bit different for all of us, I think it’s safe to say, but I think it’s still going to be a very recognizable voice that you’re familiar with, a look that you’re familiar with, I think. I think you’ll find that.”

Burwell also hinted at the structure and cinematographer being different, despite the story of Macbeth and the murder he commits, being relatively well known. “We all know the story. So the surprises won’t be in the story, but it’s about the way it’s shot and the things we choose to accentuate, and the angle we take with it,” he said.

There is currently no release date for “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”

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