Ethan Coen
Birth Date:
September 21, 1957
Birth Place:
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
5' 8
Famous for:
Raising Arizona (1987) and The Big Lebowski (1998)
director, screenwriter, producer
St. Louis Park (MN) High School (graduated in 1976)
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“The enigmatic brothers have created a tiny body of crazily proficient movies, full of comic-book humor, lizard-like alertness, deadpan wit and cosmic images. ... Their movies, dark and foreboding as they are, are full of glee. There are ‘in’ jokes, comments on moviemaking itself, products of the kind of cool, bratty intelligence the Coens are known for.” From Jami Bernard’s “Barton Fink” review in the New York Post (August 21, 1991)

Along with his director-writer brother Joel, producer-writer Ethan Coen has reached reputation as one of the most highly considered talents on the modern American film scene. Thanks to their combination of thoughtful weirdness, sardonic hilarity, arch mockery, and frequently cruel violence, the Coens’ movies have become tantamount with a style of moviemaking that pays homage to classic cinematic genres. Ethan has worked so closely with his brother that they are often jokingly referred to as “The Two-Headed Director.”

Rising to prominence with films like Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987) and Barton Fink (1991), the duo gained further respect and acclaim with the critically and commercially successful Fargo (1996), which won them an Academy Award for their writing credits, in addition to many other awards such as an Independent Spirit Award and a Writers Guild of America Award. As the producer, Ethan took home several awards and was nominated for an Oscar. Other remarkable works include The Big Lebowski (1998), the highly successful O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, earned an Oscar nomination), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, netted a London Critics Circle Film Award), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), and since The Ladykillers (2004), Ethan has officially shared director credit with Joel. Their upcoming movies include No Country for Old Men (2007, debuted at the Cannes in May), Burn After Reading (2008), Hail Caesar (2009) and Suburbicon (2009).

Ethan has been married to film editor Tricia Cooke since 1993.

Statistical Typist

Childhood and Family:

Ethan Coen was born on September 21, 1957, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Edward Coen and Rena Coen. His parents were both professors. His father taught economic at the University of Minnesota, while his mother specializing in art history at St. Cloud State University. He has a brother, Joel Coen (born November 29, 1954), and a sister, Debbie Coen.

Growing up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, Ethan and his older brother had early exposure of remaking films they watched on television with a Vivitar Super-8 camera bought by Joel after saving enough money from shearing grasses. A neighborhood kid, Mark Zimering (a.k.a.Zeimers), often starred in their movies. Ethan attended Simon’s Rock Early College in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a fully-accredited college for intelligent students requesting to begin their undergraduate studies earlier than normal. Upon graduating, he studied philosophy at Princeton University and earned his degree in 1979. He worked as a statistical clerk at Macy’s department store in NYC before joining in with brother Joel and launching a lucrative, long-running filmmaking career in 1984.

5’ 8” Ethan was married to movie editor Tricia Cooke on October 2, 1993.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?


Ethan Coen started writing screenplays soon after college. He joined brother Joel in NYC where he also found a temp work as a numerical typist at a local department store. In 1984, the Coen brothers made their writing debut with Blood Simple, a hard-hitting and amusing modern film noir starring Frances McDormand, John Getz and Dan Hedaya. Both of them also edited the film (using the name Roderick Jaynes), while Joel took the directing duty and Ethan billed himself as the producer. Blood Simple received extensive critical acclaim, including Independent Spirit nominations for Best Feature and Best Best Screenplay, and subsequently launched the brothers as brand new, creative talents.

After contributing to the screenplay for Sam Raimi’s frenzied comedy, Crimewave (1985), Ethan and Joel charmed both audience and critics alike with their next effort, Raising Arizona (1987), a screwball dysfunctional family comedy about a barren couple (Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter) who come to a decision to kidnap a quintuplet. The film’s success increased their fan base, and in 1990, they followed the film up with the Albert Finney- Gabriel Byrne vehicle Miller’s Crossing (1990), loosely based on Dashiel Hammett’s The Glass Key. Although it received mixed reviews from some critics, at any rate, the film cemented the duo’s status as foremost stylists in the Hollywood cinema. Ethan went on to collaborate with Joel in writing screenplays and serve as producer for the subsequent films directed by his brother, the jet black comedy Barton Fink (1991), starring John Turturro in the title character, and The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), a high stakes comedy starring the likes such as Paul Newman, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The latter film, however, was considered as a relative critical and commercial failure.

In 1996, the Coens was put back in the limelight and gained even greater recognition, thanks largely to Fargo, a black, sadistic crime comedy about a used car salesman who recruited two clumsy to do a “false” kidnapping of his wife in order to got ransom money from his affluent father-in-law. A critical favorite and a significant arthouse hit, Forge became their breakthrough movie. It collected a number of awards and was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Ethan nabbed a Best Picture Oscar nomination (as producer) and shared two other nominations in the categories of Best Film Editing (under the joint alias of Roderick Jaynes) and Best Original Screenplay, winning the latter. Additionally Ethan won an Independent Spirit and a Golden Satellite for Best Motion Picture as well as an Australian Film Institute for Best Foreign Film. He also jointly earned an Independent Spirit, a Writers Guild of America, a Florida Film Critics Circle, a Chicago Film Critics Association and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Screenplay, and a London Critics Circle Film for Screenwriter of the Year.

Ethan and Joel went on to indulge their attraction with kidnapping in their follow-up project, The Big Lebowski (1998), which was released to mixed critical response. The comedy thriller had an unusually impressive cast including Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, John Turturro and Steve Buscemi. 1998 also saw Ethan team up with director-writer J. Todd Anderson co-writing the comedy/drama film The Naked Man. The next year, he ended up the decade by releasing a collection of his short stories, titled “Gates of Eden.”

Entering the new millennium, Ethan produced and co-wrote the depression-era comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson and directed by Joel. The film was a massive commercial success, becoming the Coens’ biggest blockbuster victory at that time, and brought the duo wide critical accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. The following year, they made the Cannes-premiered The Man Who Wasn’t There, from which the duo won a London Critics Circle Film for Screenwriter of the Year, in addition to amassing many award nominations.

In 2003, Ethan and Joel received credits as executive producers on the Terry Zwigoff-helmed successful comedy Bad Santa mainly because of the fact that the basis of the film’s story came from the Coens. Also in 2003, they reunited with one of O Brother stars, George Clooney, for the zany comedy Intolerable Cruelty, also starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. With The Ladykillers (2004), a Tom Hanks comedy vehicle, Ethan for the first time officially shared the directing credits with Joel. The film also marked the first time the brothers formally shared producer credit.

More recently, in May 2007, Ethan and Joel won praise at the Cannes Film Festival with the adventure movie No Country for Old Men (2007), starring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Woody Harrelson. The movie, in which Ethan served as co-director, co-writer and producer, will be theatrically released in November. Ethan keeps the same capacities for the upcoming drama Burn After Reading (2008), starring Brad Pitt, John Malkovich and Clooney, as well as co-writes and co-helms the comedy Hail Caesar (2009). He is also set to co-script two forthcoming comedies, Suburbicon (2009) and Gambit (2009).


  • London Critics Circle Film: Screenwriter of the Year, The Man Who Wasn’t There, 2002 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Camerimage: Special Award for outstanding achievements in the field of the art of cinematography, 2001 (shared with Joel Coen and Roger Deakins)
  • Oscar: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Fargo, 1997 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Independent Spirit: Best Feature, Fargo, 1997
  • Independent Spirit: Best Screenplay, Fargo, 1997 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Writers Guild of America: Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Fargo, 1997 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Golden Satellite: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Fargo, 1997
  • London Critics Circle Film: Screenwriter of the Year, Fargo, 1997 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Florida Film Critics Circle: Best Screenplay, Fargo, 1997 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Fargo, 1997 shared with Joel Coen)
  • Australian Film Institute: Best Foreign Film, Fargo, 1996
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Screenplay, Fargo, 1996 (shared with Joel Coen)
  • Gotham: Filmmaker Award, 1994 (shared with Joel Coen)
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