Hail, Caesar! is a 2016 American comedy film written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The film stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum. The film is a fictional story that follows the real-life “fixer” Eddie Mannix (Brolin) working in the Hollywood film industry in the 1950s, trying to discover what happened to a cast member who vanishes during filming.
First revealed in 2004, the film was originally set to take place in the 1920s and to follow actors performing a play about ancient Rome. The Coens shelved the idea until late 2013, when they stated it was in development. Principal photography began in November 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The film premiered in Los Angeles on February 1, 2016, opened wide February 5, 2016 and played at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival on February 11.
Hail, Caesar! received positive reviews from critics and grossed over $63 million.
In 1951, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of physical production at Capitol Pictures and a “fixer” to keep the scandalous behavior of its stars out of the press. He often has to fend off inquiries from Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both played by Tilda Swinton), twin sisters and rival gossip columnists. The Lockheed Corporation has been courting him with an offer of a high-level executive position, but he is unsure about taking it. When unmarried synchronised swimming actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) becomes pregnant, Mannix arranges for her to put the baby in foster care and then adopt it without revealing herself as the mother.
The studio’s major production is Hail, Caesar!, an epic set in ancient Rome and starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). During a shot, Whitlock drinks from a goblet of wine that was drugged by an extra (Wayne Knight); he passes out while rehearsing lines by himself behind the soundstage and is abducted. A ransom note soon arrives, written by a group calling itself “The Future”, demanding $100,000. Mannix arranges to get the money from the studio’s Accounting Department, as “petty cash.”
Whitlock awakens in a beach house and finds his way into a meeting of The Future, a Communist cell. The members, who introduce themselves as mostly writers in the motion picture industry, explain their doctrine to him and begin to win him over to their cause. At the same time, Thora Thacker threatens Mannix by stating she will release an article about a scandal involving the earlier film On Wings As Eagles. Mannix successfully negotiates for her to postpone the story by a day in exchange for information about the romantic life of singing Western film star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).
Meanwhile, Doyle is cast in a period drama helmed by posh director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) in an attempt by the studio to broaden his appeal. After Doyle’s initial performance is hopelessly incompetent, Laurentz visits Mannix and asks him to remove Doyle from the project so that Laurentz can preserve his artistic vision for the film. Mannix informs Laurentz that Doyle’s role is non-negotiable and convinces him to coach the young actor to give a better performance. Later, Doyle comes to Mannix’s office and admits that he feels the part is too far outside his comfort zone. Mannix reassures him that he has the needed acting abilities and also reminds him how good the studio has been to him.