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The Chase: Cast And Characters
At the heart of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN are its characters – men and women who inhabit a rapidly changing West – a place where lawlessness has led to a brave new world of international drug running and where the old rules no longer seem to apply. Against this backdrop, Sheriff Bell becomes a main lynchpin of the story – a stoic, philosophical law man with a dry-as-bone sense of humor and a rock-solid moral foundation who is bedeviled by the advent of the drug trade's new breed of criminal and the violence it has brought to the land that he loves. Astonished by his new reality, Sheriff Bell represents an acute, heartbroken yearning for the more honorable way things used to be.

"The movie is, no surprise given the title of the book, in part about Sheriff Bell's perspective on time going by, on aging and on things changing,” says Joel Coen.

"I assume that's part of why the book is set in 1980, and not strictly speaking present day,” adds Ethan. "It takes place just when the cross-border drug trade was getting very brutal, and that provides an opportunity for reflection by the Sheriff.”

In considering who might play this riveting, yet reflective, character, the Coens found that Tommy Lee Jones quickly came to mind. "There are just very, very few people who can carry a role like this one,” muses Joel. "Sheriff Bell is the soul of the movie and also, in a fundamental way, the region is so much a part of Sheriff Bell, so we needed someone who understood it.” 

He continues: "It's a role that also requires a kind of subtlety that only a really, really great actor can bring to it. Again, the list of these is pretty short, so when you put those two criteria together, you come up with Tommy Lee Jones. Being a Texan, the region is a part of his core.”

For Jones, the role proved irresistible, despite one initial hesitation. "I suppose I have played several Texas law enforcement officers,” reflects Jones, modestly, "so I thought about that several times before accepting the job. But the attraction of working with Cormac McCarthy's material was overwhelming.”

Indeed, Sheriff Bell would be a complete departure from other lawmen Jones has played. Jones was especially moved by the character's attempt to come to grips with the absurd reality that the world around him keeps getting worse despite everything he's tried to do to make it better. He says: "In the course of the story, Sheriff Bell finds himself outmatched by this new monstrous form of criminality that he has to deal with. But he starts to learn that to react with disillusionment and disappointment is essentially all in vain.” 

The Coens found casting the Llewelyn Moss character somewhat more challenging than casting Sheriff Bell. Moss, a Vietnam veteran, is a decent-hearted Texas good ol' boy who would likely never have crossed the law – until he comes across a great deal of drug money that appears to belong to a group of dead men. 

"Moss is sort of a regular person who's caught up in extraordinary circumstances and has one unreflective moment where he decides to appropriate a bunch of money that isn't his,” explains Ethan Coen. "He then spends the rest of the movie trying to avoid the consequences. So he's very much the action center of the movie.”

Adds Joel, "In this story, you have a good guy and a bad guy, and Moss is the in-between guy.”  But that in-between quality proved harder to nail than anyone expected. "We thought it'd be really easy to find Moss,” laughs Ethan, "because, in our minds, we thought, well, we just need a good clean kid. And it turns out it's not easy to embody that without either being dull, or being, again, not of the region.”

At last, the Coens found an actor who was able to bring a dynamic presence, rife with a distinctly Western touch, to the role: Josh Brolin, who has emerged as a breakthrough screen actor.&nbs

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