George Clooney recalls O Brother, Where Art Thou? at anniversary screening

George Clooney joined the Coen brothers and co-stars Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro at a special 15th anniversary screening of O Brother, Where Art Thou? at the New York Film Festival Tuesday night.

Co-stars Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro also attend screening at New York film fest

The lead trio and filmmakers of O Brother, Where Art Thou reunited at a special 15th anniversary screening of the film at the New York Film Festival. From left, actor John Turturro, actor Tim Blake Nelson, writer-director Ethan Coen, actor George Clooney and writer-director Joel Coen. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

George Clooney joined the Coen brothers and stars Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro at a special 15th anniversary screening of O Brother, Where Art Thou? at the New York Film Festival.

Clooney remembered he had just left a successful television series when the opportunity came up.

"Listen I was an actor coming off of E.R. so the idea that the Coen brothers said, 'Do you want to do a movie?"' And I was like, yeah, I'll do a movie with the Coen brothers, are you kidding? They do great films. I just couldn't believe my luck," Clooney told The Associated Press Tuesday night after arriving at the event.

Clooney admits he felt a geographic familiarity with the characters.

While the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? earned great reviews and had modest success, but the film's soundtrack was a smash hit that spawned a second, expanded release. (Disney/Associated Press)

"I grew up in Kentucky and I kind of know these guys a little bit," he said.

Ethan Coen and his brother, Joel, wrote the screenplay, based on The Odyssey by Homer, and directed it. Ethan talked about what inspired them to make the movie.

"Three guys chained together, that's a kind of a genre and we just tried to picture three dogs chained together, escaping from the chain gang," he said.

"I tracked it through Tim Blake Nelson and George Clooney and I have no idea why that struck us as funny or appealing, but it did," Coen said.

Soundtrack a smash hit

While the film was critically acclaimed and enjoyed moderate success, the soundtrack was a smash hit. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it was made up of artists from the American roots music scene that included Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris. It sold eight million albums, as well as earning the Grammy for Album of the Year.

"It had a really lasting quality," Clooney said.

George Clooney, seen at right greeting O Brother co-star Tim Blake Nelson Tuesday night, said he was originally recorded singing the film's tune I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow, but his voice didn't make the cut for soundtrack producer T-Bone Burnett. (Evan Agostini/Invision/Associated Press)

Coen loved how the music and film unexpectedly came together, but also discussed the tricky marriage of the two.

"It works well together, when it works. And we've always been enthusiastic about certain kinds of music, like the music in this movie," he said.

"It's kind of American roots music and the music of Inside Llewyn Davis," which Coen said is kind of a descendent of that.

One of biggest hits from the film, I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow, sung by the fictional Soggy Bottom Boys, which included Clooney, Blake-Nelson, and Turturro, does not include Clooney's voice. It was actually bluegrass musician Dan Tyminski.

Clooney told reporters he originally recorded the track, but after he came out of the recording booth, producer Burnett just put his head down and looked away. Clooney said he knew at that moment his voice was getting dubbed.


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