Directors Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Producers Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Production companies Scott Rudin Productions, Mike Zoss Productions
Worldwide distribution Paramount Pictures International
US release date December 22, 2010
It was the writing and arcane dialogue of Charles Portis’ novel True Grit — rather than the memory of John Wayne in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 release — which inspired Joel and Ethan Coen to dust off the redemption tale for its second big-screen iteration.
“After we worked together on No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers came to me and said they wanted to adapt the book — not the movie,” says producer Scott Rudin.
Even though Westerns are a hard sell to studios and film-goers these days, Rudin needed no reminding his last collaboration with the brothers had earned him a best picture Oscar.
“Much as we liked the movie, [the Coens] loved the book,” he explains. “We took it to Paramount and DreamWorks and Steven Spielberg [who would come on board as executive producer]. It was fairly smooth sailing. Together we came up with the idea of Jeff [Bridges, reprising Wayne’s role as Marshal Reuben J Cogburn], who is brilliant.”
True Grit had been the award season’s most under-wraps contender and Paramount only started screening it in late November. At that point it became clear that not only were Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin all in the running for accolades, but there was a new star in the making. The then 13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld has received glowing reviews for her performance as the girl who enlists Cogburn to find her father’s killer, and subsequently picked up a Bafta nod in the leading actress category, the youngest ever in that section. The film secured seven further Bafta nominations, including best film.
“It was a long and exhaustive search for Hailee,” Rudin recalls. “She’d done a couple of TV tests and her chemistry with Jeff was fantastic. She has a remarkable facility for difficult language and the movie has a lot of that.”
Steinfeld’s mastery of diction and her natural acting talent has propelled her into the awards season and she is being spoken of as a potential best supporting actress nominee.
With the cast in place, production got underway in New Mexico and Texas from March until June 2010.
“It was physically very demanding,” the producer says. “When we didn’t want snow, there was snow. When we wanted snow, there was no snow.”