Book Excerpt: A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere: The Untold Story of the Making of Fargo by Todd Melby | Features


“We ran a hose to the out spout of the chipper, and then we pressured the tank and all of that came flying out as the leg went in,” Murphy said. “We had to cover quite a bit of area. We went through three of [the drums], which was quite a bit.” 

Murphy remembers being stressed out throughout the shooting of the climactic scene. “We had to make a huge amount of snow every day,” he said. “We were making snow at night, then shooting the next day. We were burned out up there.” 

The wood chipper itself was purchased at a store, its dangerous guts ripped out so cast and crew wouldn’t lose a limb during filming. It was also given a new name and a paint job. 

“Joel and Ethan wanted the machine to feel both utilitarian and familiar,” said Rick Heinrichs, the movie’s production designer, who won an Academy Award on Sleepy Hollow in 2000. “We researched various wood chippers based on what size would frame up well for Peter Stormare. We had to hide the brand name because, after all, what company would give permission to have their potentially deadly yard implement put to apparent deadly use? There was a chipper brand called the Wood/Chuck on the market, so I called ours the Eager Beaver, painted it caution yellow, and put logos and hazard stickers all over it.” 

The Brothers tossed around other names for the chipper. “At one point it was called the Eager Sphincter,” Ethan recalled. “Or the Iron Sphincter.” 

Cast and crew spent three working days inside and outside the tiny, yellow cabin on Square Lake in Washington County, not far from the Wisconsin border (there was a two-day break wedged between the second and third day). Among the many tasks was recording Marge inside the prowler, an establishing shot of the cabin, a hooded Jean bounding blindly through the snow, Carl slamming the television, and Grimsrud axing Carl, which led to Carl’s insertion into the chipper. The daily call sheet included this instruction for the grisly scene: “Carl’s Wardrobe from Sc. 107 for dummy, Pant dbls for Grimsrud.” Accounts differ on how smooth the chipper scene went. 

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