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A Lot Can Happen In the Middle of Nowhere

A Lot Can Happen In the Middle of Nowhere

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The Untold Story of the Making of Fargo

Author Todd Melby

Foreword by William H. Macy

Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 2, 2021)

Go behind the scenes of this classic nineties film from cinematic masters Joel and Ethan Coen. Yah, you betcha, you’re gonna discover some fascinating tidbits to celebrate the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary.


The 1996 movie Fargo stirred widespread curiosity about snowy winters, funny accents, and bloody mayhem on the frozen tundra of Minnesota and North Dakota. The film won two Academy Awards and inspired a popular, award-winning television series. It is also a quintessentially Minnesota film—or is it?

A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere presents the untold stories behind the making of Joel and Ethan Coen’s most memorable film. It explores the behind the-scenes creative moments that made Fargo a critical and cultural success, including casting struggles, the battles over dialect, production challenges (a lack of snow), and insights from the screenplay and deleted scenes. Author Todd Melby examines to what extent the story was inspired by true events (as the film claims), and whether the Coens are trustworthy narrators of their own story. In addition to biographical details about the Coen Brothers, the book reveals what Fargo says about Minnesota and the Midwest.

Author information

Todd Melby is a reporter, documentarian, and filmmaker. In 2016, he coproduced “We Don’t Talk Like That: Fargo and the Midwest Psyche,” a one-hour radio documentary about the movie. "Black Gold Boom", his public media series on North Dakota’s oil boom, featured stories of hope and despair. "Spirit and Body Willing: Sex Over Age 70" and "Death’s Footprint", radio documentaries he co-produced with Diane Richard, won national Edward R. Murrow awards. He lives in Minneapolis.

William H. Macy played the role of Jerry Lundegaard in the 1997 film production of Fargo, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His acting career spans four decades and includes appearances in dozens of films and television programs. Macy has won four Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Primetime Emmy Awards, in addition to numerous other nominations.

Reviews and news

In the Media:

"This journalist and documentary producer is the perfect person to have documented the making of a great American film. I love this book."

"Much like the movie it dissects, this book is quirky and intelligent, with surprising revelations. A treat for cinephiles and fans of the Coen brothers." Library Journal

Excerpt on

MPR News

Fox 9 Morning News

Star Tribune

Star Tribune's "Fargo" A-Z

Fargo Forum


St. Cloud Times

WJON's MN Reads


Fast Horse blog

The Projection Booth podcast

Advance Praise:

“This book will give you a glimpse into some of the thousands of questions Joel and Ethan [Coen] had to answer, and you will delight in how masterful their answers were.”
From the foreword by William H. Macy, actor

Fargo changed my life. And this book recounting the making of this amazing film brings back such fond memories. But more than that, I learned things about the making of the film I never knew. It is filled with stories that bring to life the wonderfully rich and chaotic journey of this Coen Brothers’ masterpiece from screenplay to screen. Anyone will love reading about it. You betcha!"
John Carroll Lynch, actor (Norm Gunderson in Fargo)


Todd Melby, author of A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere: The Untold Story of the Making of Fargo, got permission to share some of the Fargo audition tapes! We'll post them here as he shares them.

Despite his captivating Fargo audition, the Coen Brothers were reluctant to cast Tony Denman as Scotty Lundegaard, the teenager who loved White Snake, the Polka King, and hockey. The Coens wanted blondes; Tony, of course, has dark hair.

The Coen Brothers cast Michelle Hutchison as the escort in Fargo. She's the one sitting next to Steve Buscemi, sipping champagne and listening to José Feliciano at the nightclub. In this audition, she's reading for the role of Hooker #1 and Hooker #2.

Like a lot of the Minnesota actors cast in Fargo, Bruce Bohne performed at the Guthrie Theater. One of his biggest roles: Macbeth. As Deputy Lou, he's anything but murderous.

The Coen Brothers cast John Carroll Lynch as Norm Gunderson, the husband of Brainerd Police Chief Marge Gunderson. In this audition, he reveals a sensitive soul who loves his pregnant wife but isn't too keen on the Hautmans.

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 232 pages
  • 20 B&W photos
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341880

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