Note: In honor of the Academy Awards this Sunday, we’re reposting some of our favorite Oscar-related posts from years past. The following was first published on 2/22/13.
If you pay close enough attention to the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, you may have already realized that all of them are edited by a man named Roderick Jaynes, known as a bit of a cranky British recluse who’s in his late 80s or early 90s, depending on which Coen brother you ask. Jaynes has been nominated twice for an Oscar, for his work on both Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but hasn’t won yet. When he lost on his second Oscar nod for No Country for Old Men, Ethan Coen was asked about Jaynes’ reaction. “We haven’t talked to him,” he said. “We know he’s elderly and unhappy, so probably not well.”
Thing is, Jaynes isn’t real. He’s a figment of the Coens’ imagination, a character created to mask the fact that Joel and Ethan Coen edit all their films themselves. Nevertheless he’s a character the two seem to enjoy keeping around, so much so that when The Man Who Wasn’t There came out in 2001, Roderick Jaynes wrote a funny story for The Guardian on how they struggled over what to call the movie. Here’s an excerpt:
“One of the hallmarks of old age is the gradual realisation that one is no longer conversant with, or even much aware of, the surrounding culture. Living in Haywards Heath these past 30 years, largely retired from the movie business, I must confess that until recently I hadn’t heard of – let alone seen – Pearl Harbor, The Klumps, Vertical Limit, or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Well, Pearl Harbor I’d heard of, of course, in its geographic and historical sense, but the motion picture was not on my radar, so to speak. Someone told me that its star was Ben Affleck, which I asked them to repeat a number of times in the belief that they were trying to expel phlegm. Other sources confirm that such is in fact the name of a contemporary cinema star. Live and learn.”
Roderick Jaynes was still slaving away in the editing room on True Grit, and we imagine the old crank will be back again for Inside Llewyn Davis, which hits theaters later this year. Until he was nominated for No Country for Old Men no one had seen a picture of Jaynes, though one aired during the 2008 ceremony (see it above).
Jaynes isn’t the only fake person to ever be nominated for an Oscar. Over the years several people used pseudonyms to hide their true identity, usually because they had been blacklisted from Hollywood. The earliest account of this seems to date back to 1953, when blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo used the name Ian McLellan Hunter and won an Oscar for Roman Holiday. In 2003, Donald Kaufman (fictional brother of Charlie Kaufman) became the first truly fictitious person to be nominated for an Oscar who wasn’t also a cover for a real person. However, neither brother won.
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