In the Eternal City, Coen and McDormand reveal secret to enduring marriage

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Rome (AFP) - One of Hollywood's most enduring couples, acclaimed actress Frances McDormand of "Fargo" fame and her director husband, Joel Coen, revealed the secret to a strong marriage on Friday.

Like good movies a good marriage comes down to storytelling, McDormand, 58, told reporters on the opening day of the Rome film festival, flanked by 60-year-old Coen of the renowned Coen brothers film-making duo.

The two met in New York in 1983 when McDormand auditioned for the Coen brothers' debut feature Blood Simple. Before McDormand auditioned, Coen confessed that they "were losing hope of finding anyone for the role."

With jokey ease, McDormand reminded her husband that she initially said she couldn't make the callback audition because she had "promised to watch her then boyfriend make his two-line debut on a TV soap."

"That's why you hired me," she jokes, "because I said no." Coen admits that although this may be partly true, it was her talent as an actress that got her the part.

Since then, McDormand has appeared in many of the Coen brothers' films, including the 1996 crime thriller "Fargo", for which she won an Academy Award.

Coen reveals that after their first collaboration he always had his wife - whom he calls 'Fran' - in mind when creating female roles.

Then came the question about the recipe for a happy marriage. "No pressure, darling,"McDormand said, turning to her partner of 32 years.

After contemplating his response for a moment, Coen declared he would "plead the 5th amendment," asking his wife instead to answer.

"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."

She also referred to the 21 years spent raising their son, calling it "the most exciting part" of the relationship.

Over her long career, McDormand has played a number of romantic leads, which led to another personal question: Had jealousy ever crept into the relationship?

"I think people who are not in the film industry always think that would be an issue," says Coen, shrugging off the assumption. "But when you work in the industry, you know how these scenes get constructed. It's make-believe and it's your job to make it believable."

McDormand, on the other hand, says that, although she has never been jealous, she has been envious of her husband. "I envied the power he had over his career because his work is self-generated whereas in my job you always have to wait around for someone to give you the role".

The role of a producer is "a bit more complicated" said McDormand, who both produced and led the cast of the 2014 HBO mini-series "Olive Kitteridge".

The pair are now preparing for the release of the Coen Brothers' latest period comedy "Hail, Caesar!", which stars McDormand among a star-studded cast and is set for release in 2016.

In the meantime, the couple say they are looking forward to entering "yet another new phase of their relationship" now their son Pedro has grown up.

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