Fargo, Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 masterpiece, was sadly robbed of Best Picture by The English Patient. Regardless of awards, however, it is arguably the Coen’s most complete and compelling work of art, firmly entrenched in the look and the feel of the far north. Here are a few fun facts about this off-kilter crime drama…
1. No scenes were actually filmed in Fargo. Most were filmed in Northeast Minnesota.
2. The area was in the middle of its second warmest winter in 100 years, which is why filming had to be moved around consistently.
3. William H. Macy threatened (jokingly, of course) to shoot the Coens’ dogs if they didn’t give him the part of Jerry Lundegaard.
4. Jerry Lundegaard’s last name comes from Bob Lundegaard, movie critic for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune from 1973-1986.
5. Frances McDormand created a back story for her character and decided that Norm and Marge met while working on the police force, and when they were married, they had to choose which one had to quit. Since Marge was a better officer, Norm quit and took up painting.
6. Every scene with Margie and her husband, Norm, has the two either eating or lying in bed.
7. The wood chipper used in the film is on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitor Center.
8. The role of Carl Showalter was written specifically for Steve Buscemi.
9. Despite hints to the contrary at the time of the film’s release and in the closing credits, Prince does not play the Victim in the Field; this is J. Todd Anderson, who was actually a storyboard artist on the film. This was yet another Coen Brothers in-joke, since Prince was a famous native of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
10. Even though the opening of the film states that it was based on a true story and names have been changed to protect those involved, Fargo is actually based on a collection of events. There was a 1987 newspaper story about a woman named Helle Crafts, who disappeared in November, 1986. Crafts’ husband told people Helle was visiting her mother in Denmark, but a friend telephoned the mother and discovered Helle was not there. A babysitter saw a rug with a dark stain in the Crafts home; it later went missing. A private detective found the rug at a landfill and took it to police—that along with other evidence indicated foul play, but where was the body? Finally, December 31, 1989 police discovered the truth: Helle’s husband had fed her body through a wood-chipper. According to Ethan Coen, “the script pretends to be true.”
11. Jerry Lundegaard is often filmed in front of or behind vertical blinds, giving him the illusion of being behind bars, where he deserved to be.
12. To learn their film accents, the actors studied Howard Mohr’s How to Talk Minnesotan.
13. Because the Coens thought it seemed vain to put their names in the credits so much (they co-write, direct, produce), they made up a fake Editor, “Roderick Jaynes,” who was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award. The brothers had hoped to have Albert Finney pose as Jaynes, but the Academy discouraged it.
14. The recurring music in Fargo is based on a Norwegian folk song, Den Bortkomne Sauen (The Lost Sheep).