The Salem News
---- — FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Ask folks in Fargo what they first thought about the 1996 movie that made their city famous, and some will tell you they were not fans.
Some residents initially didn’t appreciate the Coen brothers’ dark humor or were offended by the extreme violence and depiction of Scandinavian culture. Not to mention those heavy accents on “you betcha” and “ya sure.”
But the fame and cash it brought Fargo eventually brought the city around. Now, 16 years later, Fargo awaits the debut of a new cable television show by the same name, and many residents here are less apprehensive about how their hometown will be portrayed this time around. Just ask Kristin Rudrud.
“Anything the Coen brothers are going to be involved in is going to be brilliant,” said Rudrud, 57, who played a supporting role in the movie and has a hankering to promote everything about her hometown. “And they love Fargo. They love this area. So it will be done in a very fun and loving way.”
The Oscar-winning film starred Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police chief who investigates a series of murders, and William H. Macy as a car salesman who hires two criminals, played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare, to kidnap his wife. In one of the final scenes, Stormare feeds Buscemi’s body into a wood chipper.
Though the movie made Fargo a household name for many across the country, it wasn’t a sure bet when it premiered at the Fargo Theater in 1996. The theater was quiet inside and some moviegoers were offended, said Margie Bailly, who was executive director of the Fargo Theater at the time. Some residents even walked out.
“Those of us who were laughing were a little lonely,” she said.
But locals later warmed up as the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and Fargo started to see the benefits from all the publicity. The theater hosted a free Oscar party with a polka band and Jell-O treats that Entertainment Weekly billed as one of the top soirees of the evening.
That event was publicized in several countries, and Fargo cashed in. Donations flowed for the theater’s restoration, which dovetailed with plans to revitalize the city’s downtown.
Sixteen years later, travelers looking to see the real Fargo still swing through, with many flocking to take a picture next to the iconic wood chipper.