This is a project by Scott Mahr, a software developer and designer from Victoria, BC, Canada.
Like many, I'm a big fan of the films of the Coen Brothers. I love the ease with which they bounce between weighty cinematic masterpieces, arty slow-burners, and frivolous comedies. They play within and against genre so effortlessly, and there is obvious glee behind every line of dialogue and every plot twist.
It's also clear they have a deep love and respect for the character actor. Alongside their long-time casting director Ellen Chenoweth, the Coens pepper every film with unforgettable performances by actors we've (mostly) never heard of. And often, I've come to notice, these character actors show up behind desks.
They usually appear as clerks or administrators, indifferent faces of a higher bureaucratic power, thwarting the goals of an increasingly frustrated or desperate protagonist. Other times, they're puzzled bystanders, pulled in to a web of cause and effect they barely comprehend. And sometimes they're pure comic relief. But they are always so pitch-perfect, so distinct and authentic, it's hard to conceive of these actors in any other role.
Like Tarantino's trunk shots or Wes Anderson's symmetry (or Michael Bay's low-angle 360s), I would argue that the character actor behind a desk is a Coen Brothers signature. This is my attempt to document them all.
Disclaimer: some of these actors are perhaps not actually character actors, and some of these desks are perhaps not actually desks. Please forgive me.
Also: I am happy to go on and on to anyone who will listen about the rest of the Coen Brothers character-actor scenes that do NOT involve desks. Who can forget the "kinda funny-looking" guy from Fargo? My personal favourites are Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski and the ensemble of communists in Hail, Caesar! So good.