6 Canceled Coen Brothers Projects We Wish We Could've Seen

For nearly four decades, Joel and Ethan Coen have built something of a reputation for creating critically acclaimed films and cult classics alike. Their filmography is a treasure trove of cinema that dramatically pendulums between darkly humorous tales with oddball protagonists, to heavy, noir-like dramas. But there is another category of Coen films that just might be more tantalizing than anything they've ever released — if only because they've never been made in the first place. Given the time that's passed and Ethan's departure from directing, it's a tenuous chance at best that any of these projects will eventually get made. But like Tom Wait's tenacious prospector in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," we've dug the holes, found the gold, and will continue to cling to these abandoned Coen projects until our dying breath! Here are six never-made Coen brothers projects that we wish we could've seen.

62 Skidoo

In a 10-question interview with IGN in 2001, Joel revealed the brothers had a "Cold War comedy" up their sleeves that they were hoping to complete "someday." Someday has elongated itself into 20 long years and their dark comedy about some of the tensest decades in American history titled "62 Skidoo" has yet to reveal itself. Ever the pair to play things close to the chest, its offhand presence in the interview is virtually the only detail that exists about the unmade film. 

What few clues there are come from the film's title which could allude to the year it takes place. Coincidentally, the Coens already helped write another Cold War flick that takes place in 1962 in the form of "Bridge of Spies." Then there's the phrase "23 Skidoo," dated American slang for leaving quickly, either out of force or to capitalize on some opportunity, which could be a cryptic reference to the film's possibly fast-paced plot. Though it's nigh impossible to guess at what the film would've exactly been about, with the Coens at the helm, "62 Skidoo" could've been the zany Cold War comedy audiences never knew they wanted!

To the White Sea

Had the Coen brothers' adaption of "To the White Sea" seen daylight it would've been one of the more brutal tales in their filmography. Based on the novel by James Dickey, the film had Brad Pitt attached to play the central protagonist Muldrow, a B-29 gunner shot down over Tokyo who attempts to return home to Alaska. The only problem? The silent and sociopathic Muldrow coldly murders everyone he encounters — whether they're an enemy soldier or a stranger offering help. 

So why didn't this visceral and violent foray into WWII by the Coens take place? A script was drafted and shooting was scheduled for 2002, but everything fell apart over issues with the budget and funding. A tragedy, given the opportunity it presented to see Pitt tackle a role reminiscent of Javier Bardem's sociopathic hunter Anton Chigurh. If you're feeling particularly masochistic, the film's screenplay exists somewhere online. And with news breaking that the project has long moved on without the Coens, it's likely the only form their film will ever appear as. 

Dark Web

"Dark Web" would've brought the Coens' often 20th-century settings into the next 21st century. The film would've been based on a two-part "Wired" article written by Joshuah Bearman about Ross Ulbricht's creation of the "Silk Road," an online marketplace and source of illegal transactions on the dark web. Add novelist Dennis Lehane, author of "Shutter Island," into the mix as the screenwriter and you've got the makings of another entry into the Coens' niche of seedy and bizarre crime dramas.

There were virtually no shortage of outlandish events or angles the film could've used to approach the founding of "Silk Road" and its subsequent viral downfall. Like the lethal but wacky plots at the center of "Fargo" or "Hail, Caesar!" a modern criminal underworld story exploring such a surreal and shrouded corner of the internet would've been right up the Coens' virtual alley. But "Dark Web" eventually went dark itself and the brothers moved on from the project. And after the release of the Lionsgate film "Silk Road" earlier this year — we doubt the Coens will be returning to the dark web anytime soon!

Old Fink

From "O Brother Where Art Thou?" to his iconic emergence as eccentric bowler Jesus in "The Big Lebowski," John Turturro remains a beloved and recurring player in the Coens' cast of characters. Sequels themselves might seem like a taboo for the two veteran filmmakers, so it might come as a surprise that the brothers have always planned one for the Turturro-led and cult smash "Barton Fink." Taking place 20 years after the original, "Old Fink" would see the actor reprise his role as an up-and-coming playwright caught up in a whirlwind of events that he is powerless to stop or understand. Unlike some of the other films on this list "Old Fink" is very much alive in the Coens minds, explaining in an interview that they're only waiting until Turturro is old enough to play the aged character. And given the open-ended nature of the ending for "Barton Fink," a rare opportunity to return to one of the Coen's many enigmatic universes and characters is hard to pass up.

Harve Karbo

Picture this: a Coens-developed television comedy series that follows the exploits of a peculiar private eye in Los Angeles as he works cases for the production company Image Television. Sounds enticing? Well had "Harve Karbo" taken off it would've marked the Coens' first foray into television — but if there's one thing the Coens know how to do it's unraveling a kooky crime-mystery. But here's the rub: since 2009, little has been mentioned about the project. So the odds of Karbo making it to the little or big screens any time soon are exceptionally slim. Which is unfortunate as the television format would've also lent the brothers more freedom and time to explore what could've been the gaudy cast of actors. From the various starlets, crooked cops, and seedy crooks that would've populated Karbo's world. While his exploits could've been a collision of "The Nice Guys" meets "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," most likely taking place in the decade Imagine was founded in — the fabled 80s.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union

Ever the adapters of novels, the Coens were at one time attached to a film about Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." For those unfamiliar with this doozy of alternative historical fiction, the novel imagines an Alaska in which land is provisioned as a settlement for European-Jewish refugees escaping Nazi persecution. The result is the creation of the massive metropolis of Sitka, Alaska where the novel follows an alcoholic homicide detective and his half-Tlingit, half-Jewish partner as they unravel the murder of a man believed to be the Messiah. Sounds like a shoo-in for a Coen flick right? And yet for some reason they passed on the adaption and the rights have since back to the author Chabon. A cruel twist of fate worthy of the novel's own pages! Between its crime-noir elements intertwined with religious zealotry, "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" was clearly right in the brothers wheelhouse and though it might be a lost cause we will continue to cross our fingers for the Coens' return to the novel.