Frances McDormand Met Her Husband on an Audition for Her First Leading Role

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Grant Rindner
·5 min read
Frances McDormand Met Her Husband on an Audition for Her First Leading Role
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Actress Frances McDormand and her husband Joel Coen came into Hollywood together—her first starring role was in the first feature he co-wrote and directed, 1985's Blood Simple—and the couple has basically been connected ever since.

McDormand is one of cinema's most versatile talents, capable of playing earnest, goofy characters in Burn After Reading, as well as the hardened protagonists of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Nomadland.Joel Coen, along with his brother Ethan, are known for distinctive films like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and Inside Llewyn Davis.

"It was a revelation that I could have a lover who I could also work with and I wasn’t intimidated by the person,” McDormand told The New York Times Magazine. "But that didn’t happen with Joel. It was: Wow! Really! Oh, my God! I can actually love and live — not subvert anything, not apologize for anything, not hide anything."

Along the way, they've worked together on nine films, some of which included uncredited cameos from McDormand while establishing themselves each as celebrated figures in the film industry. McDormand has won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, while the Coen Brothers have won four.

McDormand's latest Oscar-nominated role, playing Fern in Chloé Zhao's Nomadland, may have even been manifested by a hypothetical version of herself that she would describe to Coen in her 40s.

“When I’m 65, I’m changing my name to Fern," McDormand used to tell her husband, per Vogue. "I’m smoking Lucky Strikes, drinking Wild Turkey, I’m getting an RV, and hitting the road.”

Though McDormand, 63, and Coen, 66, keep their private life, well, private, they have shared some choice quotes and stories about how they met, working together, and raising their son, Pedro.

McDormand met Coen at an audition for her very first film.

Photo credit: Pool BENAINOUS/SCORCELLETTI - Getty Images
Photo credit: Pool BENAINOUS/SCORCELLETTI - Getty Images

According to AFP, as covered by Yahoo, the couple first met in 1983, when McDormand auditioned for the Coen Brothers's first feature, Blood Simple. At the time, Coen said they "were losing hope" of finding the right actor to cast for the role of Abby, a woman caught in a complex web of crime and infidelity.

After the first read, McDormand actually told Coen that she couldn't attend the next round of auditions because she wanted to watch her then-boyfriend's brief appearance on a TV soap opera. She went on to accept the role, which was her first in a major feature film.

Blood Simple proved to be a massive critical success, kickstarting the careers of both its leading lady and the writer-director team. Coen said that ever since then, he's written many roles with his now-wife in mind.

In the same interview, McDormand said that the two have found a good balance between working together and maintaining their separate film careers.

"I think it's having different stories to tell each other," she said. "Although we have often collaborated on films, we have both had really autonomous careers and so we have always had new things to tell each other."

They both won Academy Awards for their work in Fargo.

Of all their collaborations, McDormand and Coen are probably best known for the acclaimed 1996 crime comedy Fargo. McDormand won the Best Actress Oscar for playing offbeat police chief Marge Gunderson, while the Coen Brothers were awarded Best Screenplay.

The oddball tone of Fargo has proved so popular over the ensuing years, that it was even developed into a popular anthology series, with the Coens serving as executive producers.

McDormand won Best Actress yet again in 2018 for her work in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, while the Coen Brothers won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay for 2008's No Country for Old Men.

The pair have one son, Pedro.

Photo credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto - Getty Images
Photo credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto - Getty Images

Per Vogue, McDormand and Coen decided to adopt their son, Pedro, from Paraguay, around the time that they were filming Fargo in 1995. The couple raised him in New York, with Coen working on movies in the summer, and McDormand doing theater there.

According to Vogue, the now-26-year-old Pedro works in PR, but still has a passion for fashion that he inherited from his mother.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, while promoting Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDormand spoke candidly about the challenges of parenting.

"As a mother, you live on the edge of disaster. You just do. I didn't give birth to my son, I met him at six months old, but from the minute I held him and smelled him, I knew it was my job to keep him alive," she said. "And as a parent, you also come to see how the worry and the anxiety that goes along with protecting someone who you give yourself to in that way—that you surrender to—can become degenerative."

McDormand's original wedding band has an unconventional origin.

Soon after they started dating, the couple moved in together, but waited on marriage for close to a decade, per The New York Times Magazine. When they did, McDormand actually wore a wedding band that originally belonged to Coen's ex-wife. Coen has declined to speak much about his prior marriage, so little information is out there about her.

With McDormand up for another Academy Award this year, and Joel Coen directing the upcoming Macbeth, which will star his wife, alongside Denzel Washington and Brendan Gleeson, it's quite likely this talented couple will add more awards to their mantlepiece soon.

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