Before I saw the kidnapping scene in Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Fargo (18 years ago!), I had never heard the word “unguent.” And I haven’t heard it since. If I burn my hand I’ll put vaseline or petroleum jelly on it but the word “unguent” will never be acknowledged, much less spoken. And yet the Coens have some kind of fixation on this word because it’s turned up again on page 50 of their script of Hail Ceasar!, a dryly sardonic period comedy.
Hail Caesar! is actually the title of a Biblical-era film-within-the-film, seemingly based on Quo Vadis. The tone of the Coens’ script is…oh, half Barton Fink and half Burn After Reading…something like that. Pic is currently being cast and will shoot in the fall.
It basically follows the wily maneuverings of George Clooney‘s Eddie Mannix, a real-deal physical production chief and all-around fixer for MGM in the ’50s. Hail Caesar! is set in 1951, and the name of the studio is Capitol Pictures.
Josh Brolin might be playing Baird Whitlock, a none-too-bright, Robert Taylor-like leading man who’s starring in Hail Caesar! On the other hand Channing Tatum might be playing Whitlock…hard to be precise. My guess is that Brolin is playing Whitlock and Tatum is playing a personable but dumb-as-a-rock cowboy star named Hobie Doyle. Tilda Swinton is playing a red-haired, high-powered gossip columnist named Thora Thacker (i.e., Hedda Hopper), whose sister Thessaly Thacker (whom Swinton may also portray) is also a gossip columnist and Thora’s strongest competitor (i.e., Louella Parsons). Ralph Fiennes, I’m guessing, will play a heavily accented, somewhat-effete European director named Laurence Laurentz. Scarlett Johansson will play an actress (DeeAnna Moran) who’s gotten pregnant out of wedlock. I don’t know who Jonah Hill will play.
Universal will distribute Hail Caesar! sometime in the fall of 2016. Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan are the producers.