Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2008 black comedy is filled with references and inside jokes. Laugh a little bit harder at Burn After Reading knowing these 15 fascinating facts.
1. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the screenplay for Burn After Reading at the same time they were writing their adaptation of No Country for Old Men.
No Country would go on to earn them Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture in 2007.
2. Burn After Reading marked the first time since their 1990 film Miller’s Crossing that the Coen Brothers didn’t work with their usual cinematographer, Roger Deakins.
Instead, eventual Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki acted as the director of photography. The Coens would work with Deakins again on every one of their films until 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.
3. The Coens wrote the part of Osborne Cox specifically for John Malkovich.
Even though they had never worked with Malkovich before.
4. Osborne Cox is a Princeton alum.
In real life, Princeton is director Ethan Coen’s alma mater.
5. This is the third time the Coen Brothers have worked with George Clooney.
Clooney also stars in 2000’s O Brother Where Art Thou? and 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty.
6. The role of Harry Pfarrer was also written specifically for Clooney.
7. This is the first time the Coen Brothers have worked with Brad Pitt.
But it’s the fourth time Pitt has worked on a film with George Clooney. They previously co-starred in the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, and Pitt also had an uncredited cameo appearance in Clooney’s 2002 directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
8. Frances McDormand is married to Joel Coen.
Her screen debut was in the Coen Brothers movie Blood Simple in 1984, and she would go on to appear in Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing (where she was uncredited), Barton Fink (with just her voice in an uncredited role), Fargo (for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress), and The Man Who Wasn’t There. She’ll also reteam with the Coens in their upcoming 2016 film Hail, Caesar!
9. Frances McDormand’s character’s bob hairdo had political roots.
It was modeled on Clinton/Lewinsky sex scandal whistleblower Linda Tripp.
10. The look of Tilda Swinton’s character is based on a familiar cartoon.
Her hairdo is the same as the one worn by Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons.
11. The editor of the movie is listed as “Roderick Jaynes.”
This is a pseudonym for Joel and Ethan Coen, who edit their own films. In fact, Jaynes, who doesn’t technically exist, has been nominated for two Academy Awards: One for Fargo and one for No Country for Old Men.
12. Osborne’s decline is showcased in his wardrobe.
In the early scenes he’s wearing a three-piece suit and wingtips, while at the end of the film he’s wearing a bathrobe and slippers.
13. Osborne’s yacht was a 79-foot ship from 1939 that the production rented on Long Island.
The interior of the yacht was a set.
14. The film’s theatrical poster is based on espionage thrillers from the 1960s.
The typography was modeled after a similar font on the poster for the 1967 film The Comedians.
15. The theatrical poster for Coming Up Daisy, the fictional movie within the movie, says it was based on a book by Cormac McCarthy.
McCarthy, as you may know, is the author of No Country for Old Men. The small snippets of Coming Up Daisy shown in the film were actually directed by the Coens’ friend and frequent collaborator, Sam Raimi.