Ok then. With production scheduled to begin on True Grit in Texas and New Mexico on March 20 (it’s not a remake goddamnit, it’s Joel and Ethan Coen’s re-adaptation of Charles Portis’ original novel) and with several of the major roles filled by the likes of Jeff Bridges (Rooster Cogburn), Matt Damon (La Boeuf) and Josh Brolin (Tom Chaney), everyone is wondering who will play the key role of the young girl Mattie Ross. Played by Kim Darby in the 1969 Henry Hathaway version starring John Wayne, Mattie is a more central figure in the book and I assume if the Coens remain true, that will be the case with the film as well. If so, who plays her could make or break the film (who am I kidding? The movie will be awesome even if they cast a Charles Nelson Reilly impersonator as Mattie).

With that in mind, it’s interesting to learn they’re apparently casting the net far and wide in the hope of landing an unknown. Jennybee forwarded me an announcement for an open casting call in Memphis on 12/5 looking for “a 12-16 yr. old Caucasian girl who is tough, strong and tells it like it is. They are open to all looks, so come give it a try! No acting experience is necessary.”

According to the report, similar calls have gone out in Dallas, Lubbock, Waco and Austin with more planned for Nashville, Little Rock, Jackson and Oklahoma (City?). Casting director Rachel Tenner (No Country For Old Men, A Serious Man and Burn After Reading) is quoted as saying the Coens “would love, love, love to find somebody unknown.”

Ok, this isn’t anything close to news (not really a stunner they’d be looking for an unknown…Kim Darby wasn’t exactly a household name in 1969) and it’s pretty far afield of the kinds of things I generally like to pass along, but it’s the Coens and therefore it plays. As the man says, there’s what’s right and there’s what’s right and ne’er the twain shall meet.

9 Responses to “Coens casting for an unknown with true grit”

  1. “Kim Darby wasn’t exactly a household name in 1969…”

    or 1970, or 1971, 1974, 1977…

    Mattie is the first-person narrator of the novel. I’ve seen the script and it lifts nice hilarious homespun slices of dialogue word for word — just as the Coens did with No Country.

    They’ve chosen a novel that could’ve been written by them. It’s O Baby Sister Where Art Thou?, in the best way possible.

    Jennybee probably already knows that her hometown Fort Smith is mentioned on Page One of the novel and Fort Smith is where Mattie meets Rooster.

    screenshot from the 1969 cartoon version:
    I think that’s a Starbucks now.

    While the Coens have taken Portis’ novel and culled the very best lines from it, the John Wayne vehicle took the more daring tact of leaving all the best parts in the book.

    This is going to be terrific. It’s an incredibly fun read. I want Jeff Bridges to wait and win his Oscar next year. Crazy Heart is just a practice run at the accent.

  2. I’ve read neither the novel nor the script. (you know how I am). I’m really glad to hear what you say though because it fits exactly with my vision of the movie. I’d skimmed another script review of it at a site that will remain nameless because they’ve been blacklisted for being assholes, but they sounded a little “meh” on it. I’m thinking they just don’t get The Coens.

  3. THis oughtta be interesting. Although the John Wayne version has some pretty insipid qualities, I still think Wayne is good in it.

  4. He’s the whole thing in the 69 version, no?

    Took me years to learn to like that guy, but I finally came around.

  5. “He’s the whole thing in the 69 version, no?”

    could you please rephrase that? thnx

    The Duke is sure roostery. Lumbering tank of torso from the groin up. Below the gunbelt he’s perched on prissy match-stick legs. Red hanky ’round the neck for a wattle.

    Glen Campbell in the role Matt Damon’s taking over. Rhinestone cowgirl, he looks like Dale Evans could whoop his butt. Kim Darby resembles a teenage Wayne Newton, only a lot less makeup. In fact, if Glenn and Wayne mated

    It’s awful.

  6. It’s awful.

    What’s worse, Ryan, I actually had to live through that 60s shit!

  7. I don’t have much use for the original and probably won’t rewatch it until the Coen flick comes out. It’s some kind of hallowed ground since it got Wayne the Oscar, but it’s not even his best performance. Not that it was bad, but it feels more like a lifetime achievement award to me.

    Anyway… bring on the Coens.

  8. Yes, True Grit is legend around here. It’s like the holy grail of movies. They tell me it literally played here for well over a year, in the days before the big multiplexes.

    I was really hoping they’d film some in Fort Smith itself. The John Wayne version has the Rockies in the distance, behind Fort Smith. We’re in the valley of the Ozarks, but we’re a far cry from snow-capped mountains. I’m hoping that the production in Texas and New Mexico at least is somewhat representative of the area. Otherwise, I’ll be hearing complaints about it for years to come.

    Very glad they’re looking for an unknown. Super glad they aren’t casting a Fanning. (Can you imagine?)

    Ryan’s 69 comment made me giggle.

  9. I wonder why they didn’t try to film in or around Fort Smith. Maybe logistics. Maybe Texas offered tax breaks.

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