The Coen brothers’ Fargo script drove William H. Macy insane

Ever since Blood Simple, the Coen brothers have always excelled when it comes to casting. Her taut, low-budget business card was punctuated by the performances of Dan Hedaya as the obnoxious, jealous bar owner, M. Emmet Walsh as the sleazy, duplicitous private investigator, and Frances McDormand in her screen debut as the resourceful lover who uses wits to the deadly Survive neo-noir conspiracy.

When it came to casting Fargo, the Coens initially had William H. Macy in mind for a smaller role as sheriff, but they also had him read for Jerry, a cash-strapped car salesman who’s asking way too much of his plan, two Hiring a bungler to hold his wife hostage goes disastrously wrong. Though he’s constantly on the verge of collapsing when questioned by sober Police Chief Marge Gunderson (McDormand), his grim determination to stick to the ruse unconvincingly holds him through his teeth. Macy was immediately hooked on the part (via BFI):

“When I read the script, I lost my mind… I read for the sheriff. Joel and Ethan said, ‘This is really good. Do you want to go out and read Jerry?’ They gave me about 20 minutes. I came in and read. They said, “That’s really good. Do you want to go home and work on it and come tomorrow?” So I went home, every actor I know did shifts [auditioning]. I went in and read it again. And they said, ‘This is really good. We’ll let you know.'”

As Macy said in another interview, Jerry was the role he was born for, a role he intuitively understood. So he didn’t want to leave anything to chance.

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