Joel and Ethan Coen are Jewish American movie writers, directors and producers who are known professionally as the Coen Brothers.
Joel David Coen was born November 29, 1954, and Ethan Jesse Coen was born September 21, 1957. They grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in a Jewish household. Their parents, Edward and Rena Coen, were professors, their father an economist at the University of Minnesota and their mother an art historian at St. Cloud State University. Both brothers graduated from Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Joel then spent four years studying film at New York University and Ethan earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Princeton University.
In 1984, the brothers wrote and directed Blood Simple, their first film together. The film won awards for Joel's direction at both the Sundance and Independent Spirit awards. Their 1991 film, Barton Fink, was another critical success that earned the brothers Oscar nominations and three major awards at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. More critical and commercial success came with 1996's Fargo, which won several awards, including a BAFTA and Cannes award in addition to two Oscars, one for Best Original Screenplay and a Best Actress Oscar for the lead Frances McDormand (married to Joel). In 1998, the brothers built upon their success with the cult classic The Big Lebowski.
No Country for Old Men, released in November of 2007, earned the Coen brothers their first Oscar for Best Director and was the first time since 1961 that two directors had received the honor at the same time. The film also won the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay and Javier Bardem won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Based loosely on their own childhoods in a Jewish academic family in the largely Jewish suburb of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, A Serious Man, released in October 2009, was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2010 Academy Awards.
In May 2011, the brothers went to Israel for the first time in their lives to receive the Dan David Prize for their contributions to filmmaking and its $1 million award from the Tel Aviv University. While there, Ethan and Joel led a news conference and made a public statement saying they do not agree with those artists who boycott the Jewish state. "People respond to real problems from the heart, and they think that's the right thing to do," he said. "We don't agree with that opinion that that's how to deal with these problems."
Joel has been married to actress Frances McDormand since 1984 and they have an adopted son from Paraguay. Ethan is married to film editor Tricia Cooke and the couple have two children. Both families live in New York City.