Joel Coen biography
Intolerable Cruelty Director
Date of Birth: November 29, 1954
A Minneapolis, Minnesota native, Coen began honing his craft at New York University
in the 1970s before breaking into the movie industry in the 1980s. He found work as
an assistant editor working on several low budget horror films, including Sam Raimi's
The Evil Dead, and began doing a bit of writing with his younger brother, Ethan.
Seeing other independent moviemakers putting their own picture deals together, the Coen
brothers decided to go out on their own and find financing for a script they had written
entitled Blood Simple . They found the money, cast the parts and headed to Austin, Texas
to film their movie.
Released in 1984, the two made waves with the low-budget film, a taut bit of film noir
that wowed its audiences. Besides landing some of the top ten lists including Time
Magazine, The Washington Post and USA Today, Blood Simple received numerous
award nominations such as the Edgar Allen Poe Award and an Independent Spirit Award for best
With their next project the brothers established themselves as cult heroes with
Raising Arizona (1987), an offbeat but consistently funny kidnapping story.
In 1991, Joel was named Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for Barton Fink .
The film also garnered the Palme D'Or Award for Best Picture, two New York Film Critics
Circle Awards, three Oscar nominations, and one Golden Globe nomination.
The Coens landed an all-star cast of Paul Newman, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh
for their 1994 movie The Hudsucker Proxy . But the highly stylized look at corporate
America failed to connect with audiences, taking in less than $3 million at the box office.
The brothers shared a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for their work on 1996's Fargo ,
and another Oscar, for Best Actress, went to Frances McDormand, to whom Joel had been
married since 1984. After this film, the Coens went on to make The Big Lebowski in
1998. A blend of bungled crime and warped comedy, Lebowski was a laid-back, irreverent
revision of the hardboiled L.A. detective genre.
Together the Coen brothers have built a reputation as two of the most visionary and
idiosyncratic filmmakers of the late 20th century. For the beginning of the new millennium,
the Coens have worked on O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), starring George Clooney
and John Turturro, followed by The Man Who Wasn't There (2002) starring Billy Bob Thornton and Intolerable Cruelty (2002), starring Clooney again alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Coen and his wife have two children.