Jon Polito

If ever an actor was born to inhabit the Coens’ universe, it’s Jon Polito. With his gravelly voice and slovenly demeanour, Polito is the embodiment of the brothers’ worldview, at turns threatening and farcical.

A veteran TV actor, Polito’s work with the Coens invariably has him playing a sleazy, deceitful character in over his head, with a pronounced comic stress on his performance. Polito is one of the Coens’ favourite grotesques.

Evidence of the brothers’ appreciation for Polito can be seen in his two substantial roles for them: as gangster Johnny Caspar in Miller’s Crossing (1990) and conman Creigton Tolliver in The Man Who Wasn’t there (2001). Polito succeeds in finding a common thread of absurdity in the vainglorious Caspar and the lascivious Tolliver, attacking both roles with his customary fervour. Polito can always be relied upon to put a peculiar spin on a character, which is why he is so valued by the Coens.



John Turturro

John Turturro’s performance as Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski (1998) may have become a cultural meme and the thing that defines him in relation to the Coens, but his contribution to their canon amounts to much more than catchphrases.

With his blood-curdling stare and jittery physicality, Turturro was a pivotal player in the brothers’ early ascension, a crucial component in solidifying their standing as emerging auteurs.  Turturro exudes such unctuous charm as Bernie Bernbaum in Miller’s Crossing (1990) that he steals every scene he’s in; his performance as the crooked bookie and double-cross artist is a master-class in subtle villainy. Barton Fink (1991) is the film that announced the Coens as more than purveyors of stylish genre deconstruction, and Turturro is integral to its success.

His performance as the painfully earnest playwright lends a further layer of significance to the eerie, enigmatic tone the Coens create. These two performances alone ensure Turturro’s place in the ultimate Coen brothers cast.