"No, no, there are no typos in our scripts," Ethan Coen is quoted as saying in "A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere."
Coming in response to a comment from actor Steve Buscemi, who assumed a reference to "Pancakes House" was supposed to be "Pancake House," it's one of the most indelible moments in Todd Melby's 25th anniversary overview of "Fargo," published by Minnesota Historical Society Press.
Melby acknowledges that he did not speak with St. Louis Park's own Joel and Ethan Coen and, in fact, has never met the exacting writer/directors of the classic released March 8, 1996. He also hasn't spoken with Frances McDormand, who won the best actress Oscar for "Fargo" (not best supporting actress as a timeline indicates, and who made "Almost Famous" after, not before, "Fargo"). But he spoke with dozens of others involved in the movie, in front of and behind the scenes, and compiled lots of entertaining anecdotes and gossip.
Fans of the double-Oscar-winner everyone calls "Fran" will be delighted by the portrait that emerges. Actor Larissa Kokernot, who assisted McDormand with her accent and plays Hooker #1 in "Fargo," notes that McDormand offered to help her find acting parts. McDormand took the initiative to dine with then-Guthrie Theater actors John Carroll Lynch and Bruce Bohne so their on-screen relationships would ring true. And employees of the Marquette Hotel, where McDormand stayed with husband Joel, loved her. (Matt Dillon, who trashed the place while shooting "Beautiful Girls"? Not so much.)
"A Lot Can Happen" will mostly be for "Fargo" superfans who may already have heard stories about, for instance, the crew heading north of the Twin Cities to find snow in the unusually mild winter of 1995, but it's on McDormand's character of Marge Gunderson that the book is most intriguing.
I've read a lot about "Fargo" — and interviewed the brothers and McDormand about it — but I've never heard any of them describe kind, intuitive Marge as the villain. Both Ethan Coen and McDormand muse, in previously published interviews referenced by Melby, that she could be interpreted that way, given that she doesn't show up until more than half an hour has passed and she's there to thwart the progress of protagonists who have been established in earlier scenes.
That concept will inform future viewings of "Fargo," which seems like the best possible outcome for this sort of book. Melby doesn't spend much time analyzing "Fargo," knowing folks have been doing that for 25 years, but he has compiled a handy guide to the way key scenes were put together, where they were filmed and who helped make them happen.
While they were shooting, Joel Coen spoke about how much the Twin Cities had changed since they grew up here only a couple of decades earlier. Those comments echo throughout "A Lot Can Happen," which functions as an affectionate look back at the King of Clubs, Wally McCarthy Oldsmobile (dubbed Gustafson Motors in the movie) and other places that no longer exist in the Twin Cities but that will live forever in "Fargo."
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A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere
By: Todd Melby.
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 218 pages, $18.95.