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Coen brothers talking gritty

In discussing their new film, “True Grit,” Joel and Ethan Coen are clear about one thing: They have zero interest in talking about the 1969 John Wayne film that was also based on Charles Portis’ novel.

In discussing their new film, “True Grit,” Joel and Ethan Coen are clear about one thing: They have zero interest in talking about the 1969 John Wayne film that was also based on Charles Portis’ novel, about a tough 14-year-old girl who enlists a grizzled U.S. marshal and a Texas ranger to track down her father’s killer. “I don’t think any of us thought about much of anything in this with reference to the first movie,” Ethan says.

Instead, the brothers looked to Portis’ 1968 book, which focused more on young Mattie Ross (played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) than the first film adaptation. And while the Coen brothers’ eclectic career has covered a slew of genres, they’ve never done a traditional Western before — and they’d argue that they still haven’t. “I don’t think we thought about it as a genre movie so much,” Ethan says. “It is a Western inarguably. ... But it’s not a Western in that sense, and really we were thinking about the story. We were thinking about the novel more than doing a Western per se.”

To find the right teenager to go toe-to-toe with Jeff Bridges’ marshal and Matt Damon’s ranger, they set out on a nationwide search — not that they really needed to. “If we’d only known. Hailee’s from Thousand Oaks [in L.A.],” Ethan says. “We looked all over the country. There were two casting people that spent basically 18 months going everywhere, seeing thousands of girls — and they could have stayed in L.A.”

 
 
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