25 Darn Tootin’ facts about the Fargo Film

Turning 25 this year, Fargo has a special place in our hearts. Let’s take a look at 25 facts that even super fans may not know.

25 Things True Fans Should Know

1. No, it’s not a true story

Although the film begins with the preface saying otherwise, the plot is pure fiction. Before the opening credits roll, audiences are greeted with the following: “This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” This is not real. The Coen brothers wrote it to get the audience further invested in the story.

2. That said, it may incorporate elements of some real-life crimes.

In the film, William H. Macy’s character, Jerry Lundegaard, hires some hitmen to kidnap his wife as a means of extorting his wealthy father-in-law. That plot bears some similarities to the story of T. Eugene Thompson, a St. Paul, Minnesota, lawyer who in 1963 was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his wife. The Coens have long denied any connections between their film and this real-life crime. On the DVD commentary for Fargo, it’s stated explicitly that at least one scene in the film was inspired by the 1986 murder of Danish-American stewardess Helle Crafts, whose husband murdered her and disposed of her body with a woodchipper.

3. Considering its budget, Fargo did remarkably well.

The film’s worldwide gross was just a tad over $60 million, which is amazing because Fargo only cost $7 million to make. That would make it cheaper than every other Coen brothers film aside from Blood Simple, the pair’s 1984 debut.

4. And it Is in the National Film Registry’s “Fantastic Five”.

The National Film Registry is the Library of Congress’s collection of movies that are deemed to be of cultural and historical value. Since 1988, only 675 films have been introduced into the collection, and all films must be at least 10 years old before they are admitted. Only five feature films have ever been admitted to the registry on the first year they were eligible: Raging BullDo the Right ThingGoodfellas, Toy Story and, finally, Fargo in 2006.

5. Not a single scene was filmed in Fargo, North Dakota.

You local fans may already know this, but not a single scene was actually filmed in Fargo. It may represent everything we are up here, but Minnesota largely subbed in for North Dakota throughout the movie.

6. However, that famous woodchipper is on display in Fargo.

You may already know this too. In case you’ve missed it, the Fargo Moorhead Visitors Center is home to the famous woodchipper. You can take your picture with it, and see some other awesome memorabilia. Come stop by next time you have a chance!

7. One woman is responsible for all those amazing accents.

Elizabeth Himelstein, an accent coach in Hollywood, was responsible for priming the Fargo cast with their rather thick accents for the film. Himelstein said that Fargo was unique among her many jobs because it was the one where audiences were supposed to notice the accent.

8. Fargo won McDormand her first Oscar.

And rightly so. The Coens also won for Best Original Screenplay.

9. William H. Macy thought he was the villain – but a nice villain.

Macy noted that his character was more likely than not the film’s villain. but he didn’t let that bother him, because as he saw it, the Coens wrote his character so well that people would relate to him, even if he was setting into motion all the bad things that happen during the film.

10. The Fargo theme song also feels close to home.

The mournful theme is based on “The Lost Sheep,” a Norwegian folk song.

11. The FX series Fargo is not the first attempt to bring the film to TV.

In 1997, a Fargo TV pilot had Edie Falco taking over the Frances McDormand role. Directed by Kathy Bates, the TV- friendly version of the movie wasn’t picked up.

12. The TV version takes place in the same fictional universe as the movie.

We won’t spoil the series, but it’s not meant as a reboot of the movie, but a story told in a parallel universe. Consider adding the show to your list if you haven’t already binged it.

13. The woodchipper scene backstory.

The infamous woodchipper scene took place at Square Lake, MN, located just north of Rochester, MN.

14. The Coen Brothers are Midwest natives.

Have you ever wondered why they chose to pay homage to the Midwest? Turns out it’s because their hometown is St. Louis Park, MN.

15. We know how to make the fake blood used in the film.

The Fargo blood recipe is as follows:
1 Large Jug of RV Anti-Freeze
2 Packages of Red Kool-Aid
1 Box of Strawberry Flavored Jello
1 Garbage Bag of Butcher Shop Leftovers

Yes, you read that recipe right.

16. You can find a bloody snow globe.

When the movie first released, you could order the collector’s edition which was a widescreen VHS. This edition also came with a snow globe that depicted the woodchipper scene which, when shaken, stirred up both snow and “blood”.

17. Or, you could just get the regular version of the film.

If you purchased the normal movie, it came as a pan and scan cassette. How cool would a cassette movie showing be? There’s your Friday night plans!

18. Frances McDormand’s baby bump was made out of birdseed.

When Frances McDormand was performing as the pregnant cop Marge in Fargo, she wore a “pregnancy pillow” to resemble a baby bump. It was filled with birdseed that weighed out to about the same as a growing fetus, so McDormand didn’t have to deliberately try to look pregnant – it just came naturally with the added weight.

19. Fargo is famous in Japan.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a film about a young Japanese woman who becomes obsessed with Fargo, believing the events it depicts to be real.

20. Fargo Is Filled With References To Stanley Kubrick Movies.

In Fargo, Steve Buscemi’s character Carl mentions “the old in-and-out,” which is a slang term used in A Clockwork Orange. The song “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” plays on a car radio at one point, which is a reference to its inclusion on the Full Metal Jacket soundtrack.

21. All Of Jerry’s Stutters Were Scripted.

Jerry Lundegaard’s stuttering, halting, nervous way of speaking has led to a widespread misconception that William H. Macy improvised a lot of his lines in Fargo, but he hardly improvised any of his lines. In fact, every single one of Jerry’s nervous stutters was rigorously scripted by the Coen brothers.

22. Ironically, Minnesota’s Weather Didn’t Cooperate.

When Fargo went into production during the winter of 1994 and 1995, Minnesota coincidentally went through its sunniest, warmest winter in history.

That winter brought the state’s lowest recorded amount of snowfall ever. The whole point of the movie was to feel cold and unforgiving, so this was hardly convenient for the people in charge of composing each shot.

23. The Coens Only Told The Cast And Crew It Was A Fictional Story After Three Weeks Of Shooting.

The Coens wrote the story entirely as a work of fiction, but they were so committed to the “true story” lie that they let everyone on the cast and crew believe they were making a true-crime thriller. It wasn’t until three weeks into shooting that the brothers revealed that the movie was fictional. 

24. The film’s editor, Roderick Jaynes, is actually Joel and Ethan Coen.

Because the Coens found having their names appear on screen as directors, writers, producers, and editors a bit tacky, they credit their editing work to the fictional “Roderick Jaynes,” who’s listed on all of their films outside of Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing

25. How the Woodchipper Made its Way to Fargo, ND.

After Fargo was completed, Milo Durben, the Dolly Grip* for the movie, purchased the wood chipper. Milo needed a wood chipper to chip up tree branches on his hobby farm in Minneapolis, MN. After a year of use, Milo retired the wood chipper to storage in order to preserve it as part of Fargo’s history. While in storage, the Coen Brothers came to town while filming Serious Man, so Milo took a section of the wood chipper chute to the movie set for the Coen Bros to sign.

Many years later, in May 2011, the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau contacted Milo and asked him if he would be willing to help tourism in the area by allowing us to put the wood chipper on display at the F-M Visitors Center during National Tourism Week. He agreed and took it one step further by lending us his personal collection of Fargo memorabilia.

After realizing the woodchipper was a major attraction, the F-M Convention and Visitors Bureau purchased it from Milo. The Woodchipper is now permanently on display at the F-M Visitors Center.