The Coens’ wickedly inventive thriller was primarily shot in Brainerd (which was the original title), Minnesota, but as luck would have it, an especially mild winter meant that filming had to be moved north for the snow scenes, so far as great forks in north dakota.
The “based on a true story” myth supposedly had people pouncing on brainerd with shovels, eager to search for the buried money.
Sadly, most of the venues are gone, including the King of Clubs, the pool bar where financially desperate car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H Macy) meets with the two shady characters ( steve buscemi and peter stormare) to arrange the kidnapping of his wife, who was located at 957 central avenue ne at 3rd avenue ne, northeast minneapolis. it has been demolished, to be replaced by housing.
Also gone is ‘gustafson motors,’ where jerry works for his domineering father-in-law wade (harve presnell) as a salesman. For many years he was Wally McCarthy Oldsmobile, a parcel now occupied by Best Buy’s campus headquarters, at the northeast interchange of I-494 at Penn Avenue in Richfield, a southern suburb of Minneapolis.
the giant statue of paul bunyan “welcome to brainerd” was built for the film (and subsequently dismantled) on highway 1 in pembina county, four miles west of bathgate, north dakota, towards the canadian border .
for puzzled non-american readers, paul bunyan is a legendary giant lumberjack, usually accompanied by babe the blue ox, who is credited with superhuman feats.
There is an 18 foot tall bunyan, with an ox, in bemidji, minnesota, which is claimed to be second only to mount rushmore as the most photographed statue in the united states. hmmm – wonder what the statue of liberty would say about that claim?
there was a 26 foot tall seated statue of paul bunyan in brainerd at the paul bunyan amusement center (advertised as “the world’s largest talking animated man”, amazingly greeted children by name), which closed In 2003. Exhibits moved to this former pioneer farming village and Paul Bunyan’s land, 17553 State Highway 18, seven miles east of Brainerd (although the website no longer mentions the animated giant).
the ‘blue ox’ truck stop, where the two kidnappers indulge in a pair of prostitutes, is the ranchers truck stop, 501 farwell avenue, south st paul and, good news, it’s one of the few places that still exist, and it remains a much-loved place to stop and enjoy a good meal.
But he returned to losses with Ember’s Restaurant, which was located at 7527 Wayzata Boulevard on Pennsylvania Avenue South in the St Louis Park area of Minneapolis (where the Coens grew up). This is where Jerry sits down with Controller Wade to discuss how to ransom his wife Jean.
The cabin where Jean was held captive, and where the wood chipper is inventively used, was located at Square Lake in May, Minnesota. it is, I must say, since it was sold and relocated.
the ‘brainerd police station’ was the old edina police station, 4801 west 50th street, edina, which has inevitably been completely rebuilt.
When Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) gets a lead on the kidnappers’ companions from the “Blue Ox,” she heads to interview them at the lakeside club, 10 Old Wildwood Road, in Mahtomedi. It’s not, as he might have assumed, a naughty place, but a fancy family restaurant and still in business, but just barely. it will be closed and, yes, demolished in early 2015.
charm personified, carl showalter (steve buscemi) takes his date to the ‘carlton celebrity room,’ located at 8350 24th avenue south in bloomington, minnesota, where josé feliciano performs. The Vegas-style dinner theater venue closed in 1986, and the scene was performed at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, 501 West 78th Street, Chanhassen. hooray – it’s still there! The town of Chanhassen is approximately 25 minutes southwest of downtown Minneapolis, and the theater is located two blocks north of Minnesota State Highway 5 on Great Plains Boulevard.
carl grabs a license plate from the minneapolis-saint paul international airport parking lot, stopping to discuss the $4 parking fee.
then sets up a rescue drop on the roof of the ‘radisson hotel’. In fact, the rooftop where Wade shows up unexpectedly demanding his daughter’s return is on top of the parking structure on 3rd Avenue South at South 8th Street in downtown Minneapolis.
the house of mr. mohra, who gives police information about the funny-looking kid while shoveling snow, is on south 3rd street, on the corner of bryan avenue, in the shadow of the giant grain elevator in hallock, on highway 75 ., in far northwest Minnesota.
and something else that still exists is the “out of bismarck” motel, where the police finally catch up with fugitive jerry. It is the Hitching Post Motel, 23855 Forest Boulevard North, Forest Lake, North Minneapolis.
Enough of the negativity. There’s finally something to see in Fargo, even if it wasn’t filmed there. head to the convention fargo-moorhead & Visitors Bureau, 2001 44th Street South, Fargo, North Dakota, to see copies of the movie script and memorabilia, along with the actual wood chipper from the movie.