A Talk with William Macy, Part Two: Macy on "Fargo"
Continued from Part 1
by Mike Jones
The Coen brothers' "Fargo" gave William Macy his first Academy Award
nomination for his performance as the simple guy-next-door slowly
drowning in his own irreversible chain of events. The striking,
excruciating performance suddenly had him at the top of critics' lists
worldwide, and for audiences unfamiliar with his theater work he became
the underdog to root for. Macy spoke of the making of "Fargo" to a full
house at the 1997 Florida Film Festival.
"I knew ["Fargo"] was a brilliant script. I'm a huge fan of the Coen
brothers. I've seen all their movies. Even the ones I don't like, I
love. They're just genius filmmakers. I think I'm pretty good at reading
scripts and this one just knocked me on my keister.
"When I got the script I said 'Should I read some of the case studies
about this?' And [the Coen brothers] said, 'No. We made it all up.' I
said that they couldn't say that in the beginning of the film, and they
said 'Why not? It's just a movie.' So then the New York Post found out
it wasn't based on any case studies and wasn't true at all, an article
appeared in the paper. And they responded in quintessential Coen
fashion: 'We're shocked something like this could have happened. An
internal investigation is going on. Three people from our staff have
been let go. We want to assure the public that they can expect quality
entertainment from us in the future.'
"The whole thing about actors doing prep for their roles... is just
horseshit. I'm a reoccurring character on "E.R." and they have doctors on
the set all the time and there was a scene where we're scrubbing and it
took more time for the guy to teach me how to scrub properly than it did
to memorize the scene. There's a whole dance you gotta do and it's
important to them because every doctor in America is watching and
waiting for us to make a mistake, and the mail just rolls in when we do.
"But the idea of emotional preparation -- that I've got to figure out
how a car salesman thinks -- that's just jive. I don't know why actors
do it. I think they face that problem because that is a problem that's
solvable as opposed to some of the other questions that face you in
acting -- many of which are not solvable -- you've got to just go out
and do it even though you're not sure about the scene. That's a
frightening problem. We chose our battles -- the ones that we think we
"All the time we were making ["Fargo"] it was so easy. It was such a
breeze. There was no mashing of teeth, no struggle. I thought every
single scene was hysterically funny and completely obvious. And when I
saw the first screening of it I thought it was going to be big.
"I thought [the Academy] showed extraordinary taste (laughs). I think
the Academy is changing. In the last couple of years I would go to these
Academy Awards parties where you drank too much and there was a lottery
and everybody put in buck. And always our question would be 'Who are
these people that like these films?' But the Academy has been changing
recently. All the films I agreed with. I thought the acting nominations
were really good. I was proud as punch to be nominated in that group of
actors and I have no problem losing to any of them. So I think the
Academy is catching up with reality.
"The only thing I want to see when I go to see a movie -- and I'm not
being facetious at all -- is what happens next. What's the next plot
point. All I want to do is be told a story, and it better be a good
story. It better have something to do with my life. And the center of
good has to be something that I believe in. For my money, when I'm
paying the ten bucks to see a movie, I don't want to know about the
acting. I don't want to see acting. I want to see the story unfold. And
so as an actor I think our only job is to analyze the script for action.
Everything you need to know about a script is in the script."