The idea of turning the Coen brothers’ 1996 movie, “Fargo,” into a TV series struck many fans of the dark comedy as blasphemy. Even FX chief John Landgraf was unsure whether or not it would work.
"It's also really complicated because Frances McDormand won an Academy Award for the lead role...you're not going to have Joel and Ethan Cohen," Landgraf recently said on The Frame. "And that right there puts you in a very disadvantaged situation."
But Noah Hawley, the creator of the TV version, was smart enough to avoid a straight adaptation.
"They suggested that they wanted to do 'Fargo' as a series and I walked in and said, 'You can't do that, it's not a series.' That was me trying not to get the job," Hawley told The Frame. "But I said what it could be is an anthology series. Every year you would do a different story...until the point at which you run out of ideas."
Instead of adapting the movie’s plot and story, Hawley mined the Coen Brothers' creative DNA — an unusual hybrid of violence and comedy — and took the story into a new location with new characters, setting it in the 1980s. Hawley's first season of “Fargo” won the Emmy for best miniseries and best casting.
“Fargo’s” second season is set in the 1970s, and most of the characters and cast are new, with Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons and Ted Danson joining the show.
The story is essentially a prequel to season one, and though the story and characters are different, what remains is that distinct Coen brothers tone that's found in so many of their films. That's because Hawley mines their entire oeuvre when he's searching for inspiration for new episodes.
"It is an amazing sort of library of ideas and characters and a sensibility," Hawley said. "What's in 'Miller's Crossing' that's interesting to me that I might free associate on? The first year I talked a lot about 'A Serious Man' as a movie that asks great philosophical questions and had a parable sequence. 'No Country For Old Men' is always in my mind."
Listen to the audio above to hear the full interview with Noah Hawley