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Fargo (1996) Poster

(1996)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (1)  | Spoilers (14)
Joel Coen had Frances McDormand and John Carroll Lynch conceive a back-story for their characters to get the feel of them. They 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.
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The role of Carl Showalter was written specifically for Steve Buscemi.
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The snow plow that drives past the motel at the end of the film was not part of the script. Signs in the area warned motorists not to drive through due to filming, but a state employee ignored them.
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The actors used a book called "How to Talk Minnesotan" to help with their accents.
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William H. Macy begged the directors for the role of Jerry Lundegaard. He did two readings for the part, and became convinced he was the best man for the role. When the Coens (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) didn't get back to him, he flew to New York (where they were starting production) and said, "I'm very, very worried that you are going to screw up this movie by giving this role to somebody else. It's my role, and I'll shoot your dogs if you don't give it to me." He was joking, of course.
When Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) character calls Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) for the deal to be done, he tells him, "Thirty minutes, and we'll wrap this up." From that moment, the film's running time left is exactly 30 minutes.
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William H. Macy stated in an interview that, despite evidence to the contrary, he did hardly any ad-libbing at all. Most of his character's stuttering mannerisms were written in the script exactly the way he does them in the film.
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The scene where the couple tries to make a deal with Jerry is based on Ethan Coen's real-life encounter with a car salesman. "[It's] almost a verbatim transcript of my experience."
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Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) has 18 lines of dialogue in the entire movie and never says more than a complete sentence at one time. By comparison, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) has over 150 lines of dialogue.
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When working on her Minnesota accent for the film, Frances McDormand worked with Larissa Kokernot, "Hooker #1." McDormand referred to her accent and mannerisms as "Minnesota Nice."
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The Coens (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) have described Minnesota as "Siberia with family restaurants."
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Frances McDormand, looking around for a role as a killer or prostitute, was hesitant to play a pregnant cop. "When I started working on it I realized it was one of the best gifts that I've ever been given."
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There's only one scene shot on a bright and sunny day. Cinematographer Roger Deakins hated that it was sunny, feeling that it went against the movie's mood.
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Filming took place in the winter of 1995, when the region was experiencing its second-warmest winter in 100 years. Filming of outdoor scenes had to be moved all over Minnesota, North Dakota, and Canada, and much of the snow was artificial.
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While first screening the film, Gene Siskel leaned over to fellow critic and co-host Roger Ebert and said with a smile "this is why we love movies." Siskel & Ebert went on to name it the best film of 1996.
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Frances McDormand wore a "pregnancy pillow" filled with birdseed to simulate her pregnant belly. She says that she didn't deliberately try to move in a "pregnant" way, it simply came as a natural response to keeping the extra weight balanced.
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William H. Macy was doodling between takes and the Coens, (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen), decided to use it for a scene.
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The movie is called Fargo because the Coens (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) thought it was a better title than Brainerd.
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Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson) and director Joel Coen have been married since April 1st, 1984. They have one child together.
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The wood chipper used in the movie is now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center.
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Peter Stormare later formed a band called "Blond from Fargo" as an homage to his breakthrough American role.
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Frances McDormand accidentally left her pregnancy suit in her trailer one night. The silicone breasts in the suit froze, and one of them exploded the next day on set.
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Three weeks into shooting, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen revealed to their cast and crew that this was not in fact based on a true story.
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Kristin Rudrüd, who played kidnapping victim Jean Lundegaard, was actually born in Fargo, ND.
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Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) was named after film critic Bob Lundegaard. When Bob saw the film at a screening with the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) present, Bob jokingly said to them "You'll be seeing my lawyers in the morning."
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About 30 minutes into the film when Gaear Grimsrud chases after the eyewitnesses in the car, he says, "Jävla fitta!" which in Swedish means 'fucking cunt!' The actor who portrays Gaear, Peter Stormare, is Swedish.
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The Coens (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) wrote the scene at the restaurant with Mike (Steve Park) to develop Marge's (Frances McDormand) character outside of the case or her marriage.
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In every scene they have together, Marge (Frances McDormand) and Norm (John Carroll Lynch) are either lying in bed or eating.
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Frances McDormand worked with a pregnant cop from St. Paul to research the role.
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Peter Stormare had regretted turning down the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) for a role in Miller's Crossing (1990), and so was glad when they offered him a role in this film.
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Harve Presnell hadn't made a movie in over 20 years when he was cast as Wade.
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J. Todd Anderson, a storyboard artist who regularly works with the Coen brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen), also plays one of the murder victims, but is credited as O(+> in the credits, similar to the symbol Prince used at the time. This may be a reference to the fact that Prince, like the Coen brothers, was born in Minnesota.
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William H. Macy came up with the idea to have Jerry rehearse what he's going to say on the phone to Wade (Harve Presnell).
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Approaching Brainerd from the south, you see a statue of Paul Bunyan with a sign reading "Welcome to Brainerd." In reality, Brainerd has no such statue. Paul Bunyan Amusement Park, located just outside Brainerd, had a huge statue of Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The park is now at 'This Old Farm,' between Brainerd and Garrison.
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The duck paintings briefly shown in the Gunderson home were painted by "those Hautmanns," who are close friends of the Coen brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen). These three brothers frequently win federal and state wildlife stamp competitions.
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None of the movie scenes, either exterior or interior, were actually filmed in Fargo. The bar exterior shown at the beginning of the movie is located in Northeast Minneapolis.
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According to the DVD special features, Peter Stormare, who is from Sweden, spent his off-days visiting nearby cities with Swedish names.
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In the kidnappers' cabin, Bruce Campbell can be seen on the fuzzy TV screen. Bruce Campbell was in the Coen Brothers' (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) and has been in various films by Coen buddy Sam Raimi. The footage was not shot for this film, but was actually old footage of an early-1980s Detroit-produced soap opera called "Generations" in which Campbell appeared.
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When Jerry (William H. Macy) is first seen talking to the man from GMAC on his office phone, the scene was set up with the vertical blinds in his office windows open to give the appearance that Jerry is in a jail cell due to the scam he is obviously pulling on GMAC, via the fake sales invoices which constitute embezzlement.
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In his book "Stand for Something: The Battle for America's Soul," Ohio governor John Kasich spends three pages describing his hatred for the film.
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The item on the buffet line that Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) skips is lutefisk, which is dried whitefish, cod or ling, that has been soaked in lye. It has a gelatinous texture and is by all accounts an acquired taste, in part due to its smell. Madison, Minnesota claims to have the highest lutefisk consumption in the U.S., higher than in Scandinavia.
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The talk show hosts on the TV right before Mrs. Lundegaard (Kristin Rudrüd) is kidnapped were actual Minnesota talk show hosts for many years during the 80s and early 90s. They hosted an afternoon show called "Good Company".
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Tom Hanks said in an interview for CNN's "The Movies" that he considers this film to be a perfect film on every level.
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Features William H. Macy's only Oscar nominated performance.
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Richard Jenkins was heavily considered for a role, but ended up losing it to William H. Macy. He'd subsequently work with the Coens after with roles in The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading.
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Bruce Paltrow and Robert Palm wrote a 1997 pilot for a TV adaptation featuring Marge Gunderson and Officer Lou, but it was not picked up as a series. It wound up as a TV movie, Fargo (2003). The movie eventually made it as a series as Fargo (2014) by Noah Hawley, which is set in the same universe as the film but did not include any of the same characters. The 2014 series features actors who have previously starred in past Coen brothers films.
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Since fabricated editor "Roderick Jaynes" was one of seven nominees for the Academy Award on this film, the Coens cooked up a scheme to have Albert Finney appear in disguise at the award ceremony as the "fusty old British cutter from Haywards Heath" in case he won. But the Academy frowned on the ploy, and fortunately, Jaynes didn't win.
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Frances McDormand has compared Marge to the main characters in Cagney & Lacey (1981) and Columbo (1971).
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William H. Macy originally auditioned to play the state trooper.
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The seal for the Brainerd police department has a silhouette of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
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Fargo, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Blair Witch Project were all presented as "true stories" when they were first presented to the public.
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Most of the snow in this movie was artificial since it was not snowing in Minnesota when the film was shot.
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The buffet-style restaurant in Brainerd is located just east of the Twin Cities. Tinucci's restaurant in Newport, MN was used for the buffet scene. Only minor changes to the interior were made during filming, and many of the decorations (paintings, the metal ship wall hanging) were already in the restaurant and are still present in the dining room today.
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John Carroll Lynch credits this film as starting his film career as he and two thirds of the cast had been from the Minnesota area. Lynch's character as written was a former police officer and acted as if he was showing interest when his character was listening to Margie talking about police business during his initial take of his first scene. Lynch said the Coen brothers looked at each other, Joel Coen went to him and said "He doesn't care about any of this. He's just waiting for her to be done."
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Due to unforeseeable circumstances, Bill Pullman had to turn down the part of Jerry Lundegaard that went to William H. Macy.
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In the closing credits, the theatrical release credited the symbol "O(+>" as portraying the character "Victim In the Field" as a joke. This character is now listed in the film's cast as J. Todd Anderson, a storyboard artist who portrayed a victim found in the field.
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The character on the phone from GMAC speaking to Jerry Lundergard (William H. Macy) is named "Riley Dieffenbach". "Riley" and "Dieffenbach" are the names of two of the members of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1963 John Frankenheimer film Seven Days in May (1964).
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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The reference to "Midwest Federal... talk to ol' Bill Diehl" is a nod to film critic Bill Diehl, who wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch and interviewed the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) shortly after the release of Blood Simple (1984) Midwest Federal Savings was part of the savings and loan crisis, and folded--largely as the result of bad real estate investments--in 1989, two years after the story takes place. The Midwest Federal Building, the S&L's Minneapolis headquarters, was used for exterior shots of the building in which WJM was located on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970).
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There is an enormous number of pig statuettes and little pig adorns scattered around Jerry's (William H. Macy) house.
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William H. Macy and Kristin Rudrüd - the Lundergaard couple - also appeared in Pleasantville (1998).
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Peter Stormare thought that the line was supposed to read "pancake house." The Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) assured him that there were no typos in their script.
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Jerry Lundegaard's (William H. Macy) last name comes from Bob Lundegaard, movie critic for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune from 1973-1986.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
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Wade's (Harve Presnell) last name is Gustafson. This is a reference to Grumpy Old Men (1993), also filmed in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jack Lemmon's name was John Gustafson and Burgess Meredith was Grandpa Gustafson.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Early in the movie Wade (Harve Presnell) is watching a University of Minnesota hockey game. At one point an announcer can be heard saying "goal by Ranheim" and the TV shows the Gophers playing Wisconsin. The goal scorer would be Paul Ranheim, who scored 88 goals for Wisconsin from 1984 to 1988 and later played in the National Hockey League with Calgary, Hartford/Carolina, Philadelphia, and Phoenix.
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DIRECTOR_TRADEMARK(Joel CoenEthan Coen): [Gunderson]: Three consecutive films made by the Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) feature the character name Gunderson, possibly in reference to the Rebel Without a Cause (1955) character Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen). In The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the lift operator (Jim True-Frost) is named Clarence "Buzz" Gunderson (as seen in a newspaper headline). In Fargo (1996), one of the main characters is Police Officer Marge Gunderson.
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The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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In the Lundegaard's house, the magazine rack by the toilet holds a Playboy magazine. It's visible when Jerry (William H. Macy) comes back home and sees the aftermath of the kidnapping.
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While Marge (Frances McDormand) and her husband dine at the cafeteria, the Muzak version of Burt Bacharach's song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" is playing while Marge piles food on her plate from the buffet.
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When Jerry (William H. Macy) meets Wade (Harve Presnell) and Stan (Larry Brandenburg) to discuss the ransom, the restaurant muzak system is playing "Feels So Good" by Chuck Mangione.
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In the scene with a police officer interviewing a bartender about his report of a funny-looking guy out at Moose Lake, they are both wearing heavy parkas with hoods pulled up concealing their faces. In reality, if it was warm enough to have snow melt running down the street, residents would maybe have on a ball cap with their jackets open.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of 400 movies nominated for the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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We see Jerry lie to a SECOND customer about the TrueCoat sealant after he lies to the couple at the beginning. At the beginning he says, "The TrueCoat, that's done at the manufacturer, we don't have any control over that". Then later when he's pitching a middle aged bald customer; the customer says, "I don't need that TrueCoat though". And then Jerry says "Yeah you don't need that".
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The irate customer's name is Bucky (you can hear his wife say his name under her breath).
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Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare have both appeared in Armageddon (1998)
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Harve Presnell plays a similar character in the movie Bait Shop (2008) and Fargo (1996). The character is a disapproving, grumpy father-in-law who gives the main character flak for not earning enough money to keep his daughter in a more comfortable lifestyle. Both are well off financially and both tell the main character that their daughter and grandson will not want for anything, but implies that the main character is not afforded the same consideration.
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The airplane seen just before Carl (Steve Buscemi) goes to the airport parking lot to steal a license plate, is a Northwest DC-9.
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The scene at the ending showing the procession of squad cars driving through the blizzard as they come to pick up Carl Showalter and Mrs. Lundegaard and as the stern Fargo theme plays in the background is supposed to remind us of the opening scene when Jerry is driving through the Minnesota blizzard, on his way to meet Carl and Gaem at the restaurant to discuss kidnapping his wife, as the Fargo theme also plays in the background
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Willam H Macy and Peter Stormare have both appeared on the original Jurassic Park Franchise
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One of Gene Siskel's favorite movies
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The film "Fargo" itself is mentioned in Blessid Union Of Souls "Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me For Me.")
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Rated "Best movie of 1996" by Roger Ebert.
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This film is in the Official Top 250 Narrative Feature Films on Letterboxd.
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Director Trademark 

Joel Coen: [Stanley Kubrick] Carl (Steve Buscemi) says he's in town for "just a little of the ol' in-and-out," a reference to A Clockwork Orange (1971). When Carl and Gaear (Steve Buscemi) are driving outside Minneapolis, the song 'These Boots are Made for Walkin' can be heard on the radio, a reference to Full Metal Jacket (1987), which features the same song. Some shots during the kidnapping, such as breaking the door down, are a tribute to The Shining (1980).
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The film is not actually "Based on a true story". Joel Coen & Ethan Coen later admitted that they added that disclaimer so the viewer would be more willing to suspend disbelief in the story. (An urban legend even says that people have gone to search Minnesota for the briefcase of money, and come to a bad end.) While the specific crimes in the movie didn't happen, the plot has elements of two well-known Minnesota crimes. In 1962, a St. Paul attorney named Eugene Thompson hired someone to kill his wife, Carol. Unbeknownst to Thompson, his man hired someone else to do the job. The second man fatally wounded Mrs. Thomspon in her house, but she managed to escape him. She went to a neighbor's house for help while her assailant fled the scene. The sloppiness and brutality of the crime attracted great attention. The murderers were quickly caught and gave up Thompson, who denied knowing anything about the crime for many years afterward. In 1972, Virginia Piper, the wife of a wealthy Orono banker, was kidnapped. A million-dollar ransom was paid, one of the largest in U.S. history. Mrs. Piper was found tied to a tree in a state park. Two men were convicted of the crime, but were acquitted after a re-trial. One of them later went on a shooting spree after his wife left him, killing her, their 5-year-old son, her son from a previous marriage, her new boyfriend, and one of his sons. Only $4,000 of the money was ever recovered.
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Of the body count list of seven people, five were killed by Gaear (Peter Stormare) and two were killed by Carl (Steve Buscemi). On the other side, the cop Marge (Frances McDormand) only fires her gun twice in the whole movie.
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Although Frances McDormand's character is the film's central role, she does not appear on the screen until over 33 minutes (or 1/3) into the film.
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The Mike Yanagita scene is often considered one of the most pointless scenes in cinema history, but it's not. Marge's discovery that everything Mike told her was a lie ultimately leads her to investigate Jerry further.
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Although the film's plot is not based on a true story, the plot element of disposing of a body by a wood chipper is. That incident was inspired by the true life murder of Helle Crafts in Newtown CT, who was murdered by her husband Richard Crafts in 1986. Although he disposed of her body using a wood chipper, enough tissue remained to positively identify her as the victim. His 50 year sentence was shortened for good behavior and he is set to be released from prison in June 2020.
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Although it does not feature any of the same characters as the movie, the first season of the television series Fargo (2014) reveals what happened to the nearly $1 million Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) buried by the highway in the film.
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The Coen Brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) later admitted the film is not based on a 'true story' or real characters but felt that notice at the beginning helped viewers connect with the story.
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Body count: 7. The state trooper, the 2 passers-by, Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell), the parking-lot attendant, Jean Lundegaard (Kristin Rudrüd), and Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi).
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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 (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) in-joke, since Prince was a famous native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. To further muddle matters, this moment in the film was memorialized in a "Snow-Globe" promotion included with a special edition version of the DVD, subtly hinting that the dead victim in the snow was a famous cameo.
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One of the more sensational elements of the story was in fact "based on a true story": a man who disposed of his wife's body via a woodchipper. However, the murder did not involve a botched kidnapping and took place in New England rather than North Dakota.
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"Fuck" and its derivatives are said 75 times, mostly by Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi). He says 10 of these during Wade Gustafson's (Harve Presnell) death scene.
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Near the end of the movie when Marge is shooting at Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) on the frozen lake, he is wearing Canadian armed forces winter warfare snow boots, which must have picked up at a surplus store. When he falls down after being shot, it's possible to see the price of the boots on the sole, written with a felt-tip pen.
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The murder of the passerby running away from Gaear across the snowy field at the beginning is mirrored at the end when Gaear is running away from Marge across the frozen lake after she finds him (and Carl's remains) at the cabin, with Gaear's position going from the killer to the one being pursued and ultimately taken down by Marge.
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Marge and Jerry actually have identical personalities; when they're dealing with the general public anyway; that's perky in the face of extreme chaos; a perkiness that hides their own ruthlessness. Jerry comes across as a sweet, simple, naive, Leave-it-to-Beaver Dad type, except when you realize he's a cold blooded psychopath who's arranged for the kidnapping of his own wife; and puts the events in motion that lead to 4 more brutal slayings. Marge comes across as a sweet, mild mannered lady reporter type; a nice girl doing her job that just wants to be friends with everybody; until you realize she's a ruthlessly brilliant homicide detective who's stalking three murderers; who brilliantly foils the criminals, tracks them all down and ends up capturing and jailing two of the kingpins, (all the while she's acting like a sweet, June Cleaver type). They both pretend to be gentle and unassuming when they are not. And in a way that's the Coen brothers' commentary on Midwest culture and hypocrisy in general; the vicious underside of the glossy American Dream: much in the same way David Lynch dissected and vivisected American suburban life ten years earlier with Blue Velvet.
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