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Academy Awards: The Coen brothers find that cowboy gear is more than a fashion statement

February 16, 2011 |  8:00 am

Coen bros 
Jeff Bridges has been taking panoramic on-set photos with his Widelux camera for 30-odd years, usually compiling them into a book that he gives to the cast and crew of each film he shoots.

“True Grit” was no exception and, paging through the book recently, Bridges points to a picture that always makes him laugh -- city slickers Joel and Ethan Coen wearing cowboy hats on location in Texas.

“It’s an incongruous sight, isn’t it?” Bridges asks, cackling. (You can see the photo for yourself on Bridges’ website.)

When asked about their cowboy duds, Ethan Coen laughs but quickly points out that the functionality of the garb takes it beyond a Village People dress-up thing.

“It’s a style, yeah, but when you’re out there, you learn that the hats and bandannas have a use,” he says. “They have wind! We had weather concerns going in, but we had so much worse weather than we expected, including horrible wind and dust. So, it turns out you actually need all that cowboy paraphernalia.”

There's evidence of that horrible wind Ethan talks about in the scene in which Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger rides off in disgust, telling Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn that he’s “graduated from marauder to wet nurse.” Hailee Steinfeld’s Mattie asks, “We don’t need him, do we, Marshal?”

“And as she’s saying that line, she was literally blown off her mark by a 50 mph gust of a wind,” Joel Coen says. “You can see a little bit of it still in the movie, but we’ve got an outtake of her just flying.”

“She just kind of leaned more and more to counter the wind,” Ethan adds. “It was like a Buster Keaton movie, man.”

-- Glenn Whipp

 Photo: Ethan Coen, left, and Joel Coen on the set of "True Grit." Credit: Paramount Pictures