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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  16 November 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 80,999 users   Metascore: 73/100
Reviews: 440 user | 190 critic | 33 from

A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 28 wins & 36 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lilyan Chauvin ...


1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It's a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law's shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The last thing on his mind is murder.


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Barber Project  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£419,609 (UK) (26 October 2001)


$7,494,849 (USA) (22 February 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Billy Bob Thornton jokingly made it look like Ed Crane had an erection in one of the scenes where he's watching Scarlett Johansson's character playing the piano. Only one of the prop guys noticed during production. When the Coen Brothers later found out, they made it clear that Ed would not be aroused in the scene. See more »


When Big Dave confronts Ed Crane about the blackmail in his office, a member of the crew can be seen moving behind Ed, in the background. See more »


[first lines]
Ed Crane: Yeah, I worked in a barbershop, but I never considered myself a barber. I stumbled into it. Or married into it, more precisely.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening titles cast shadows on the wall as if they are real. See more »


Referenced in Be Kind Rewind (2008) See more »


Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
See more »

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User Reviews

Brilliant Billy Bob Thornton
16 November 2001 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

What a difference a good director makes! Billy Bob Thornton, who was sadly misused in Bandits, gets to recover himself in his brilliant characterization of Ed Crane in this film directed by Joel Coen. His performance is so detailed and subtle that he uses his face to great advantage in the close-ups while the narration goes on in the background. The use of black and white heightens the atmosphere of this 40s-style film noir. The brilliant cinematography is incredible in the use of shadows and dark tones that enhances the story to such an extent. Frances McDormand is incredible in the film as well. And what could one say about James Gandolfini? He gets better and better all the time. The atmosphere of the era is captured even in the small details. It's very refreshing to see the Coen brothers get over their last disaster of "State and Main" with such panache, aided of course by their star, Billy Bob Thornton and the ensemble cast and a great and ironic story.

51 of 70 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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