How Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke’s Queer, Non-Traditional Marriage Inspired ‘Drive-Away Dolls’

Besides delivering madcap lesbian antics, one of Drive-Away Dolls’ greatest gifts has been the Ethan Coen/Tricia Cooke press tour, in which the husband-wife duo has opened up about their “very non-traditional marriage.”

Cooke has long collaborated with Ethan Coen on the films he made with his older brother and former directing partner Joel, editing titles from Fargo to The Big Lebowski to O Brother, Where Art Thou? But Drive-Away Dolls, a raunchy queer caper starring Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan as unlikely road trip partners, was actually Cooke’s brainchild, inspired by her own time at lesbian bars.

“Being married to Ethan and being queer, there’s always a little disconnect sometimes,” Cooke, who co-wrote the film, told MovieMaker magazine in January. “I wanted to be able to make queer films as well.”

In that interview, Cooke opened up about her relationship with Coen, saying, “We have a very non-traditional marriage and relationship where there’s a bigger unit; I have a partner and Ethan has another partner.” The film, she explained, began “as a way for us to spend time together.”

That marriage — pun intended — definitely comes across in Dolls, which melds nineties dyke drama with a Coen-esque crime caper. Qualley and Vishwanathan play Jamie and Marian, two polar-opposite pals who decide to ditch the city for Tallahassee, Florida only to find themselves pursued by a shady crime syndicate that’s awfully concerned about the mysterious briefcase in their rental car.

To call this a coming out for Cooke would be an overstatement. A filmmaker in her own right, she is no stranger to the queer cinema scene. She co-directed the 2003 documentary short Where the Girls Are, which centers on the historic lesbian pool party event known as Dinah Shore Weekend, and co-wrote and co-directed the 2008 comedy short Don’t Mess With Texas, which follows two young lesbians who get into trouble at a roadside diner. But Coen and Cooke have been more vocal on this press tour about how they navigates a creative partnership and a non-traditional marriage at the same time.

“I kind of represent the queer world,” Cooke told ABC News last week. “All of the bumbling men in the movie and all of the caper stuff definitely comes from Ethan’s mind.”