Joel Coen Biography

(Director, Writer and Producer Known for Films ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘Fargo’, and ‘The Big Lebowski’)

Birthday: November 29, 1954 (Sagittarius)

Born In: St. Louis Park, Minnesota, United States

Joel Coen is an American filmmaker who together with his brother, Ethan Coen, forms the well-known and successful filmmaker duo the Coen brothers. The brothers who have been making films since around mid-1980s were involved in all the aspects of film making from the beginning; however, till 2003, Joel Coen was solely credited as the director of the movie while Ethan Coen was named the producer. Since the 2004 film, The Ladykillers, the brothers have jointly shared the director and producer credits. The brothers also share the writing credits for the films and have edited a lot of their work together under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. The brothers’ most famous works include Fargo, Barton Fink, No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn't There, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Apart from these, they have written screenplays of some films which they have neither produced nor directed. These include Angelina Jolie's Unbroken and Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. The brothers have received a number of awards for their films in the writing and direction category. In 2021, Joel Coen released his first solo film titled The Tragedy of Macbeth which received positive reviews and appreciations.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Joel David Coen, Coen brothers

Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Frances McDormand (m. 1984)

father: Edward Coen

mother: Rena Coen

siblings: Deborah Coen, Ethan Coen

children: Pedro McDormand Coen

Born Country: United States

Directors Screenwriters

Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males

Notable Alumni: St. Louis Park High School

U.S. State: Minnesota

More Facts

education: New York University, St. Louis Park High School

Childhood & Early Life

Joel Daniel Coen was born on 29th November 1954 in St. Louis Park, Minnesota as the older of the two sons of Edward and Rena Coen. He also has an older sister Deborah who is employed as a psychiatrist in Israel.

His father, Edward, who was an alumnus of the London School of Economics, served in the United States Army during World War II and later became a Professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota. His mother was an art historian at St. Cloud State University.

For his education, Joel Cohen went to St. Louis Park High School and graduated from there in 1973. Thereafter, he joined Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Later on, he joined the New York University to pursue a four years undergraduate film program. While at the university, he made a half an hour thesis film titled Soundings.

For a period of nine months, he was also a student of graduate film program at the University of Texas at Austin, though he later left it.

At a very young age, together with his brother Ethan, he began to take keen interest in film making. The brothers watched a lot of films and Joel even saved money to purchase a Vivitar Super 8 camera which they used to remake movies they had seen on television. In this, they were accompanied by their neighbourhood friend Mark Zimering.

Apart from remaking films, the brothers also made some original films like Henry Kissinger, Man on the GoLumberjacks of the North and The Banana Film.

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After completing his education, Joel Coen began by working as a production assistant on several industrial films and music videos. He was also hired as an assistant editor on various horror films including Sam Raimi's first feature film, The Evil Dead (1981).

He was joined by Ethan Coen after the latter completed his education and the two brothers began to write scripts for independent producers.

Their first commercial film together was the 1984 independent neo-noir crime film Blood Simple which they co-wrote, directed and produced. They also co-edited it under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. The film brought them much recognition with Joel even claiming the best director awards at the Sundance and Independent Spirit awards.

From the beginning up until 2003, though the brothers worked together on their films, Joel, alone, was credited as the director of the movie while Ethan was credited as the producer. The brothers jointly edited their films under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes and also shared the writing credits.

The brothers next wrote, in collaboration with Sam Raimi, the 1985 comedy horror film Crimewave. Joel Coen had an uncredited role in this movie as well as a short role in another movie – Spies Like Us – that released the same year.

In the late 1980s and the 1990s the films where he was credited as the sole director were the crime comedy film Raising Arizona (1987), the neo noir gangster film Miller's Crossing (1990), the black comedy psychological thriller Barton Fink (1991), the comedy The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the black comedy crime film Fargo (1996) and another black comedy The Big Lebowski (1998).

The brothers co-wrote all these projects and also edited Barton Fink, Fargo and The Big Lebowski as Roderick Jaynes.

Barton Fink and Fargo were huge critical and commercial successes with the former bagging three big awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, including the Best Director award and Palme d'Or award.

Fargo received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, a BAFTA and a Cannes Film Festival award for direction as well as numerous other awards in these two categories.

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The Big Lebowski did not do well initially; however, now it has a massive cult following.

Between 2000 and 2004, he directed, co-wrote and co-edited crime comedy drama musical film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), the noirish thriller The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), the romantic comedy film Intolerable Cruelty (2003)1 and the black comedy film The Ladykillers (2004).

O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Man Who Wasn't There received positive reviews and several award nominations with the latter even receiving the best director award at Cannes Film Festival.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?  enjoyed a successful soundtrack too that won a Grammy and also led to a concert and concert/documentary film, Down from the Mountain (2000) which the brothers executive produced.

In 2003, they executive produced another film named Bad Santa wherein they did uncredited rewriting work too.

The Ladykillers (2004) was the first film where Joel Coen and Ethan Coen jointly received credits as both directors and producers of the film.

The brothers, next executive produced the musical romantic comedy film Romance & Cigarettes (2005) and turned segment writers and directors for two anthology films Paris, je t'aime (2006) and Chacun son cinema (2007).

The year 2007 also saw the release of their neo western crime thriller No Country for Old Men. The film, which was written, directed, produced and edited by them bagged the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, and best adapted screenplay. After 1961, this was the first time when the Oscars for the best director award was given to two directors together.

The brothers next received appreciation for writing, directing, producing and editing Burn After Reading (2008), A Serious Man (2009) and True Grit (2010). All three movies received positive reviews and several award nominations.

Between 2012 and 2020, they together made films like Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Hail, Caesar! (2016) and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018). Additionally, they co-wrote the scripts (sometimes with other writers) of films like Gambit (2012), Unbroken (2014), Bridge of Spies (2015) and Suburbicon (2017).

In 2021, Joel Coen released his first solo film (written, directed, produced and edited) The Tragedy of Macbeth. The historical thriller movie premiered at the New York Film Festival.

Family & Personal Life

After his brief marriage to a woman (in late 1970s) which ended in a divorce, Joel Coen married the Academy Award winning actress Frances McDormand in 1984. The couple have an adopted son named Pedro McDormand Coen.

The family resides in Marin County, California.


Academy Awards(Oscars)
2008 Best Motion Picture of the Year No Country for Old Men (2007)
2008 Best Achievement in Directing No Country for Old Men (2007)
2008 Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay No Country for Old Men (2007)
1997 Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Fargo (1996)
Golden Globe Awards
2008 Best Screenplay - Motion Picture No Country for Old Men (2007)
BAFTA Awards
2008 Best Director No Country for Old Men (2007)

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