Frances McDormand Reveals ‘Fargo’ Originally Sent Marge to Anti-Abortion Rally: ‘Can You Imagine?’

Cutting a "right to life protest" allowed the Coen Brothers to include the famous Mike Yanagita scene.
FARGO, Frances McDormand, 1996
©GramercyPictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Frances McDormand joined Joel Coen and Steve Buscemi at the 2021 Tribeca Festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Fargo,” which won the performer her first Academy Award for Best Actress. McDormand’s humble police detective Marge Gunderson remains one of the Coen Brothers’ most beloved characters, but she could’ve been a bit more polarizing had an original idea to have Marge attend a “right to life protest” been kept in the script.

“Is it outing you to ask you to tell them the scene I read first?” McDormand asked Coen. “Her friend invited her to a right-to-life protest! Oh my God! Can you imagine?”

“There are a lot of thought experiments that happen while you’re doing these things,” Coen added. “Some of them you reject, some of them you don’t…There was a big population in parts of northern Minnesota that were very conservative.”

Instead of sending Marge to an anti-abortion rally, the Coen Brothers instead had the character take a detour to meet Mike Yanagita (Steve Park). The scene is perhaps the most hotly debated in “Fargo,” as on the surface it has little to do with the main narrative. Joel Coen said the duo “often wrote without knowing what’s coming next,” so it’s not like the Mike Yanagita scene was planned from the start.

“You try to get the scene that precedes the scene you’re working on to work and then you go, ‘What does that go to?’” Coen said. “Not even logically or narratively, but what would be interesting here, at this point, and it’s as prosaic as that.”

Coen added, “For some reason, we started talking about the character, in that situation, meeting an old flame. And it had something to do with, like I say, groping around and wanting to see Marge in a different situation and reacting in a completely different way, dressed in a different way, and also encountering someone who also wasn’t honest. It’s something that you discover later that there’s something else going on with this person that isn’t being revealed to her in this scene that she’s confronted with afterwards.”

“Fargo” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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