6 Reasons Why You Really Shouldn’t Miss ‘HAIL, CAESAR!’

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Josh Brolin is Eddie Mannix in HAIL, CAESAR! Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Writer-directors-siblings Joel and Ethan Coen have a very big imagination and a incredibly precise vision. In the madcap comedy caper, HAIL, CAESAR! the dynamic duo execute their practically trademarked humor, wit and smarts with grand panache, transporting audiences back to Hollywood circa 1950. Capitol Pictures fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is used to putting out fires, but never like when superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a mysterious organization. Other players on Mannix’s daily radar are rising star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), matinee idol Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum) and notary Joseph Silverman (Jonah Hill).

At the film’s recent Los Angeles press conference, the talented cast spoke about everything from jumping at the chance to work with the auteurs, to goading the siblings into fighting, to what household item Jonah Hill would’ve considered playing had the brothers asked.

6. George Clooney was sold on starring in this by one line alone. The Coens didn’t have a script when they originally went out to Clooney. However, that didn’t matter as the thing that closed the deal was Ehrenreich’s line, “That’s bad for movie stars everywhere.” He said, “It just killed me.”

5. Jonah Hill would’ve been happy to play a bucket in a Coen Brothers film. “They sent me an email written by the both of them. It was so beautifully and hilariously written in their dialogue. They said it was a very, very small part and I said, ‘yes’ right away without reading it.” Tatum added, “You can’t say, ‘I’m in,’ quick enough. We both thought we had small parts. In the script it only says, ‘Mannix walks into a big song and dance. Then they dance and he does a knee slide into a bucket.’ I thought it would be at the end count where you’d see the knee slide into the bucket.” Hill, not missing a beat, joked, “And I had gotten the email saying, ‘Are you interested in playing a bucket?’ I don’t wanna brag.”

4. George Clooney can now cross starring in a “sword and sandal” epic off his checklist. He said, “When you go back and look at those films, it’s hard to not crack a smile through them. Having watched all them for a long time, I really fell in love with Victor Mature’s version of all of those kinds of films. It did feel like he got cinched up into those outfits. He’s got that thick Bronx accent – like Harvey Keitel in LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST or Tony Curtis in SPARTACUS. I loved the idea of this guy.”

3. George Clooney would try to pit the siblings against each other. Josh Brolin mentioned that he never saw the brothers argue, saying “It’s just weird!” Clooney kidded, “We’d try to get them in fights. Joel would come over for direction and I’d say, ‘That is so much better than what Ethan said.’ Brolin joined in, “That’s not what Ethan said. He told me not to tell you.” Ehrenreich added, “George, I remember when you got in the car and asked, ‘So which do you like more?’” Clooney explained, “Because we were mic’d. I could hear Ethan outside the car [mimic’s Ethan Coen laughing].”

Channing Tatum in HAIL, CEASAR! Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Channing Tatum in HAIL, CAESAR! Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

2. Channing Tatum was given specific reference points for his scenes. He revealed, “My tap choreographer had never heard of APPLIED MATHEMATICS. It’s Donald O’Connor – he does this amazing tap dance on the bar and they [the Coens] sent me this. They know everything.” Clooney jumped in to add, “Part of your dance routine when you’re caught in between the two guys – that’s Sinatra.” Tatum answered, “Yeah. That’s totally Sinatra. It’s not a made up bit. They sent that to me. They sent me the actual clip. Everyone on set were like, ‘That’s pushing it a little too far, don’t you think?’ They said, ‘Nope! It’s in the movie.’ Clooney stated, “Almost ever film they do has some homage. O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU was a line in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS. They’d take things from WIZARD OF OZ with the Klu Klux Klan members. They are always referencing films. I think that’s what’s fun about this film, in particular, that they said, ‘Okay, let’s just put them all in!’”

1. Joel and Ethan Coen are filmmakers with a distinct, unique vision. Clooney stated, “They have a guy, J. Todd Anderson, who does all their storyboards and draws them like cartoons instead of storyboards. Every morning, when you arrive on set, you get your sides (the lines you’re going to read). On the back, you’ll get all these storyboards with things drawn up. It sort of tells you how they want you to act. It has facial expressions and things. It takes away that element where they have to negotiate where they want you to go. Funnily enough, they have it so mapped out by the time you get there that you’re really just trying to fit into what they see.” Brolin conceded, “I never had that feeling, having done three and a half movies with them. It is true – it is mapped out. Maybe it’s a subliminal thing – a full blown Orwellian manipulation that’s happening. You feel totally collaborative. If you have an idea that fits better than what they’ve come up with, they are all for it.” Tatum summarized the film perfectly, “It’s just their dream walk through a studio walk in the fifties.”

HAIL, CAESAR! opens on February 5.

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Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.