Noah Hawley, the creator and showrunner behind the small screen adaptation of the iconic Coen Bros film “Fargo,” held an AMA on Reddit earlier today to talk about the show, himself as a filmmaker and his other projects/adaptations. Over the hour or so, he touched on some contentious events in the latest season of “Fargo,” how he didn’t try to make a straight adaptation of the film, some unnoticed trends in his works, his upcoming adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and his advice for aspiring writers. Check out some of the best questions, and Hawley’s responses, below.
Born and raised in Minnesota, so hearing the accents is hilarious. One of the things I love about the show is that the cast can do those hokey accents and remain incredibly serious and in the moment. Is that something you find difficult to maintain the tone of the show whilst having the actors take on this persona?
The accents are always a balancing act. We never want to devolve into parody. We have a dialect coach on set all the time to help out.
Many of your books revolve around the repercussions of public disasters, including plane crashes and a presidential candidate murder. Is this trend a conscious thing? Why are you interested in these themes? And did it bear any influence on the protagonist of Before The Fall, who paints calamities?
I guess it’s not a conscious choice, but I’m attracted to taking stories of a certain scale and then humanizing them, taking what would normally be a plot-driven story and turning it into something character and them driven.
Congratulations on “Fargo,” best show ever on television. It could have been sunk before it even started, a second attempt at a tv show based on one of the most iconic films of all time. What did you do consciously to try and make sure that legacy wasn’t an albatross that ruined the show?
What made it work was that I didn’t try to remake the movie. I was tasked with creating a story with a similar feel and point of view, but wasn’t a carbon copy. This allowed me to bring my own eye to the work. Believe me, nobody felt the pressure more than me.
[The user points out how the Coen Brothers don’t really give “solid answers” to “questions about ambiguity and deeper meanings in their films.”] In reverse engineering the Coen filmography to try to find your own Coen-formula, to what extent do you try to emulate their particular style of ambiguity and at what point do you feel that all the alluded elements of your own story begin to benefit from their ambiguous premiers and placements? Are the Coens tricksters, are you a trickster, how do you emulate or own their style of trickery?
That is a big question. The only way this could work, was if we had a shared sensibility. My job is to imbue the work with meaning, not to explain what it means. That said, I’m clearly more talkative than they are.
Why did you decide to put the UFO/fish falling from the sky stuff in the show? In my personal opinion, I love the show, but felt like those 2 things just felt so out of place and did not really add to the story.
As they say in “A Serious Man,” accept the mystery. This is a big part thematic part of the Coen universe, elements that don’t fit neatly into the story they’re telling. It’s why you have the UFO in “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” and even explains the Mike Yanagita story from “Fargo,” the movie. Real life doesn’t unfold — like a movie is filled with random and seemingly meaningless events. Our brains try to create a narrative out of things that don’t add up. Ultimately though, we just have to accept the mystery.
Is “Cat’s Cradle” going to be a straight 1:1 adaptation of the book? Or will it be more along the lines of “Fargo” where it will pay homage to other Kurt Vonnegut stories while weaving it’s own?
The answer is, I don’t know yet. It is an adaptation of the book, but the book leaves a lot of details unexplored. So most likely it would be an expansion, where, like the Supreme Court, I must decipher the original intent of the author and extrapolate what is a Vonnegut moment and what isn’t.
Is it hard for you to let go of the character you’ve created when you end a book or a show? As a fan I always end up wanting more (even when the ending is perfect) so I’ve always wondered if you do as an author.
There’s always a period of mourning. It comes in phases — at the end of production, at the end of the editing when the final hour is locked, and then at the end of the launch when you see all the actors again. But I’ve gotten used to the rhythm of it, to making something and moving on. It really teaches you to put everything you have into a project, knowing it will soon end.
What would your advice be to a nobody with little means who lives nowhere near L.A., but has a bunch of great ideas for film/tv?
First of all, stop calling yourself a nobody. I don’t live in LA either. It’s never been easier to write or film something on your own and get it in front of people. When I was starting out you still needed a self addressed stamped envelope.