Why Hollywood was never a sure bet for Tim Blake Nelson, star of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”


Playing the title role in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” as the “singing cowboy, bounty hunter, pistol twirler, dancer in the old west" seems like a role tailor-made for Tim Blake Nelson. Precisely, because it was, the actor shared recently on “Salon Talks.”

Shortly after the surprise success of his musical performance in 2000's "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Nelson says that Joel Coen "showed up at my door and said ‘We've written this and we want you to play this Buster character.'"

"I read it and I was utterly astonished," Nelson told Mary Elizabeth Williams on “Salon Talks.” "But they said, ‘We've got to write the other vignettes to go along with it, so it may be a few years before we make this.'" Eighteen years later, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" has found its way to Netflix. Equal measures funny, violent, shocking and moving, it's a classically Coen brothers take on the anthology genre.

Despite having an enviably durable career as an actor, director and writer, Nelson says he didn't originally imagine himself as a sure Hollywood bet. "I never expected to have a career as a film actor," he says, "because I can look in a mirror just like anybody else. I'm not going to be on the cover of magazines. I'm not a matinee idol. One always thinks that's who ends up in movies.”

Nelson continued, “Luckily, movies also need characters to be around the leading men and women. I have gotten to be one of those people, and I owe a great deal of that to Joel and Ethan because they love character faces. They've changed the lives of so many of us. Their taste for the unconventional has allowed for the unconventional actor to have a career, and I've really benefited from that."

Watch the interview above to hear more about the making of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Nelson’s career as a character actor and why he says thoughtful, meaningful collaboration in Hollywood is a very real thing.


This SalonTV interview is hosted by Mary Elizabeth Williams


Photography by Jill Greenberg. Watch Jill's TedxTalk on the Female Lens and the problem with only seeing the world from a man's perspective. And find out more about Jill's initiative Alreadymade., a mission to hire more female photographers and content creators.


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