Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in the 2007 movie
No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
|Created by||Cormac McCarthy|
|Portrayed by||Javier Bardem|
Anton Chigurh (//) is a fictional character and the main antagonist of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men, and its film adaptation, in which he is portrayed by Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
The characterization received much praise during the film's theatrical run, and Javier Bardem was awarded an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA for his performance. Chigurh has been included on numerous lists of greatest villains, most notably in Empire Magazine's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, in which he was ranked #46.
Chigurh is a hitman who is devoid of conscience, remorse and compassion. He is described by Carson Wells, a central character in the novel, as a "psychopathic killer", in his 30s, with a dark complexion, and eyes as "blue as lapis ... Like wet stones." His signature weapon is a captive bolt stunner, which he uses to kill his victims and also as a tool to shoot out door locks. He also wields a sound-suppressed Remington 11-87 semiautomatic shotgun and pistol (as well as a TEC-9 in the film adaptation). Throughout both the novel and the film, Chigurh flips a coin to decide the fate of some of his victims. The Remington 11-87 was actually released seven years after the original setting of the book but still made an appearance as one of the most memorable weapons in the film.
The character is a recurrence of the "Unstoppable Evil" archetype frequently found in Cormac McCarthy's work, though the Coen brothers wanted to avoid one-dimensionality, particularly a comparison to The Terminator. To avoid a sense of identification, the Coens sought to cast someone "who could have come from Mars". The brothers introduced the character at the beginning of the film in a manner similar to the opening of the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Film critic David DuBos described Chigurh as a "modern equivalent of Death from Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal."
When Joel and Ethan Coen approached Javier Bardem about playing Chigurh, he replied, "I don't drive, I speak bad English and I hate violence." The Coens responded, "That's why we called you." Bardem said he took the role because it was his dream to be in a Coen Brothers film.
The Coen brothers got the idea for Chigurh's hairstyle from a book Tommy Lee Jones had. It featured a 1979 photo of a man sitting in the bar of a brothel with a very similar hairstyle and clothes similar to those worn by Chigurh in the film. Oscar-winning hairstylist Paul LeBlanc designed the hairdo. The Coens instructed LeBlanc to create a "strange and unsettling" hairstyle. LeBlanc based the style on the mop tops of the English warriors in the Crusades as well as the Mod haircuts of the 1960s. Bardem told LeBlanc each morning when he finished that the style helped him to get into character. Bardem supposedly said that he was "not going to get laid for two months" because of his haircut.
His background and nationality are left undisclosed and largely open to speculation. When writer Cormac McCarthy visited the set, the actors inquired about Chigurh's background and the symbolic significance of his name. McCarthy simply replied, "I just thought it was a cool name."
Role in the plot
In 1980, Chigurh is hired to retrieve a satchel holding US $2.4 million from the scene of a drug deal gone wrong in West Texas. However, he discovers that a local welder named Llewelyn Moss, who chanced upon the money while hunting, has taken it and left town. Chigurh tracks Moss down to a motel using a receiver that connects to a transponder hidden in the satchel of money. However, Moss has hidden the money in a ventilation duct, and when he returns to the motel, suspecting (correctly) that someone is in his room, he retrieves the money from the connected vent in a second rented room on the back side of the motel. His original room is in fact being occupied by a group of Mexican gangsters sent to ambush him. When Chigurh enters this room, he kills the gangsters and searches for the money, but it is nowhere to be found. Moss, meanwhile, has already fled after hearing the gunfire.
Chigurh then ruthlessly tracks Moss down. The hotel confrontation between Moss and Chigurh plays out very differently in the film from the novel; rather than punching out the lock and wounding Moss, in the novel Chigurh apparently steals a key from a murdered clerk and quietly enters Moss's room, and Moss ambushes him and takes him captive at gunpoint, so they have a chance to see and know each other. Then Moss runs and the chase/shootout begins. As Chigurh and Moss face off in the hotel and the streets, they are interrupted by a group of Mexicans, all of whom Chigurh kills. In the film, this scene was cut to the point that only Moss and Chigurh fight.
Chigurh finds out that a bounty hunter named Carson Wells has, like Chigurh, been hired to retrieve the money. Chigurh kills Wells, who made a deal with Moss to give him protection in exchange for the money. He then intercepts a phone call to Wells from Moss, and offers to spare Moss's wife if he agrees to give up the money. Moss refuses, however, and vows to track down and kill Chigurh. Moss is eventually killed by Mexican hitmen while in a motel in El Paso. Once again Moss hid the money in the vents, which was unseen by the Mexicans at the time of their ambush. Chigurh shows up later after the police have left, retrieves the money from the vent, and gives it back to the investor.
Near the end of the book, Moss's widow returns home to find Chigurh inside, waiting for her. After hearing her pleas for mercy, he partially relents by relying on his coin toss. In the book, she calls heads; it comes up tails, and he shoots and kills her. In the film adaptation, she refuses to call the toss, saying "The coin don't have no say. It's just you." The movie then cuts to a shot of Chigurh leaving the house, checking the soles of his boots, implying that he has killed her. While driving away from her house some three blocks away, Chigurh is badly injured in a car accident, sustaining a compound fracture of his left ulna and walking away with a limp. At the collision scene, before the authorities arrive, he offers $100 to a teenager on a bicycle to give him his shirt, seeking to use it to bind up his wounds himself. Chigurh then flees the scene before the ambulance arrives.
Chigurh kills without compassion or remorse, but always with deliberation. He is described as having his own set of morals, however twisted they may be. While he does not kill at random or without purpose, his reasons are at times abstract. He sees himself as a hand of fate; an instrument who exacts what is supposed to happen upon those he sees accountable. He gives many of his victims he faces a chance to survive by making deals, either personally or by flipping coins in making decisions. He is depicted as having a great deal of pain endurance, such as being capable of withstanding pain from multiple shotgun blasts or from a fractured arm.
Anton Chigurh kills or tries to kill almost every person he meets in the film version. The only people he spares are the gas station proprietor (who correctly guesses Chigurh's coin flip), the woman at the trailer park office (when Chigurh hears a toilet flush in a nearby room), the woman at the motel front desk, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell during Bell’s late night inspection of the motel room where Moss died, and the two bicycle riding kids who give Chigurh one of their shirts after his car accident. There is a possibility that he left the accountant alive as well.
Chigurh's depiction as a seemingly inhuman foreign antagonist is said to reflect the apprehension of the post-9/11 era. Many of McCarthy's works portray individuals in conflict with society, acting on instinct rather than emotion or thought.
Critics have praised Bardem's portrayal of Chigurh, which won him an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. Chigurh, as played by Bardem, has been added to numerous lists of greatest villains.
UGO.com ranked him in its list of top 11 "silver screen psychos", saying that "Chigurh is an assassin of little words and interesting choices of weaponry—is a man without a sense of humor. Others might say he's got a warped sense of principles. One thing that most can agree on, is Chigurh is one crazy S.O.B.—ruthlessly killing damn near anyone who sets eyes on him, let alone those who get in his way. And apparently, the only way you can survive a run in with the man is the 50–50 chance of a coin toss, but Dear God, don't question his motives, it just seems to irritate him even more so."
Empire.com ranked him #46 in their list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, praising the look on his face when he strangles a cop with his own handcuffs and that "when American novelist Cormac McCarthy wants to throw a dark character at you, it's a safe assumption that you're not going to be able to get them out of your head for a good, long while—if ever. One of his best is Chigurh, and between the Coens and Bardem, they never missed a beat in bringing this monster to the screen. With the kind of unholy relentlessness usually reserved for horror icons, the hired killer has an almost supernatural ability to track his prey, and is rather short in the mercy department, preferring to leave the tough decisions to a coin toss. And that bowl cut is utterly terrifying."
In popular culture
Being well received after the theatrical run of No Country for Old Men, Chigurh has been parodied in other media, mainly as a spoof of the film's most memorable scenes. Ike Barinholtz plays Anton Chigurh in the spoof movie Disaster Movie, while Carlos Areces plays Anton Chigurh in the spoof movie Spanish Movie. The British comedy series Benidorm also parodied the character in the 2009 special.
The Simpsons episode "Waverly Hills, 9-0-2-1-D'oh" spoofed Chigurh as a city inspector for Waverly Hills, while the episode "Daddicus Finch" showed character Nelson Muntz portraying a Chigurh-like character during a school performance.
A parody titled There Will Be Milkshakes for Old Men was featured in Episode 5 of Season 33 of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which aired on February 23, 2008. Fred Armisen makes an appearance as Anton Chigurh, complete with captive bolt pistol and pageboy haircut, mimicking his famous gas stop scene. The same Saturday Night Live episode also featured a parody of No Country for Old Men titled Grandkids in the Movies. Professional wrestler Chris Jericho has stated the heel version of his character debuted in 2008 was directly inspired by Anton Chigurh's calm, indomitable demeanor.
- DuBos, David. "MovieTalk with David DuBos". New Orleans Magazine. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
- "Chigurh Trivia". Anton Chigurh.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Iley, Chrissy (28 February 2008). "The Method Haircut That Won an Oscar". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
- "Chigurh Bio". IMDb. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Hwang, Jung-Suk (2018). "The Wild West, 9/11, and Mexicans in Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men". Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 60 (3): 346–371. doi:10.7560/TSLL60304.
- "Harold Bloom on Blood Meridian". The A.V. Club. June 15, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
- "UGO.com 11 Silver Screen Psychos". UGO.com. 2012-03-24. Archived from the original on 2012-04-20. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Empire 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "There Will Be Milkshakes for Old Men". NBC.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- "Saturday Night Live Drinks Your Milkshake". BuzzSugar.com. March 26, 2008.
- "Saturday Night Live – SNL Digital Short: Grandkids in the Movies". Bing.com/videos. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
- "Wrestler Chris Jericho Kicks Ass With Fozzy – WWE Will Have to Wait |". Archived from the original on 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-03-13.