Photos by David Bowman
A deserted snowy scene from movie Fargo
President Bill Clinton was at the midway point of his first term. Unabomber Ted Kaczynski was arrested. The Internet was a baby. LaserDiscs were still a thing. It’s been a while since the St. Louis Park–born Coen brothers released Fargo, their folksy, “reality-based crime drama” starring William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, and the Minnesota accent. Twenty years on March 8, in fact. And yet it seems like just yesterday. Maybe that’s because FX just aired its second season of the TV show based on the film. Maybe it’s because esteem for the Coens has only risen since—their latest film, Hail, Caesar!, and its who’s-who cast (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, and Channing Tatum to name a few) is currently in theaters. Or, maybe it’s because every winter, Minnesotans live in the same piercing tundra that Fargo so poignantly chronicled all that time ago. Because the film wasn’t just set in our own backyard, it was shot in it. So, on the occasion of Fargo’s 20th birthday, we tracked down the film’s location manager, Minnesota native Bob Graf, and used his original location list to find out in whose actual backyards (and streets and parking lots and county roads and commercial buildings) Fargo was filmed. Then we charged photographer David Bowman with capturing what it all looks like today. The result is a cinematic photo rumination on a place where winter is eternally the same even if the landscape it annually overtakes is ever-changing. Welcome back to Fargo, Minnesota.
The vast majority of Fargo, even most outstate scenes, was shot in the Twin Cities metro area. Stillwater's Square Lake played a gruesome role.
Ever wanted to stand in the exact place that the title card of an iconic film was shot? Carver County Road 51 at Highway 212 is your spot.
Many of the desolate road-scapes from early in the film, like this one, were shot in that same area of 212 near Bongards. However, principal photography took place during the winter of 1995, one of the warmest on record, and some landscape scenes originally slated to be filmed in the area had to be relocated further north. The scene where Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) buries the ransom money by the farm fence, for instance, was filmed outside of Cavalier, North Dakota.
Northeast dive bar King of Clubs on Central Avenue closed, sat vacant for a spell, and was eventually torn down and replaced by Clare Apartments in 2004.
There's a little less sky visible through downtown Minneapolis coming in on 35W now than when Carl and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) saw it on their drive into town.
Stockmen's Truck Stop on Farwell Avenue in South St. Paul may be a greasy spoon, but it's never been a motel, "Blue Ox" or otherwise.
Marge and Norm Gunderson's (Frances McDormand and John Carroll Lynch) house was fictionally in Brainerd but actually on 22nd and Pillsbury in south Minneapolis. They've done a little work on the kitchen.
The Embers off of I-394 in Golden Valley where Jerry Lundegaard meets his father-in-law Wade Gustafson and Stan Grossman to discuss how to handle the kidnappers (and where Ethan Coen worked as a teenager) is now a Davita Dialysis. The trees that provide the backdrop to Jerry and Stan's conversation in the parking lot aftewards, however, are still there.
A strip joint in film history only, the real-life Lakeside Club in Mahtomedi is a supper club that's co-occupied by a basement steak slinger named Al.
Carl took a prostitute to see José Feliciano play at the "Celebrity Room," AKA the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Their view to the stage is nearly identical, and you can't see it in this shot, but the railing that the couple sat along is still the same, right down to the scuff marks.
Tinucci's in Newport looks to have swapped out tables, chairs, and carpeting, but's it's still all-in on keeping that ship relief exactly where it was when Marge and Norm ate at "Fryer Tuck's."
Bet you never noticed there was a skylight in the hotel bar (in what's now the Minneapolis Marriott West on Wayzata Blvd and Shelard Pwky) where Marge met her old classmate Mike Yanagita. Hotel staff say it hasn't been a bar for a while.
The rooftop of the Minneapolis Club parking ramp: still well-suited for ransom drops to go horribly wrong with next to nobody noticing.
The actual Square Lake cabin where Car and Gaear hid out (and where Gaear made creative use of a woodchipper) was sold on eBay in 2002 for $10K, transported off the property, and replaced with a tonier new one. But the shoreline across the lake, where Gaear made a fun for it before being shot by Marge, looks exactly the same, down to the red barn.
The film would have you believe Jerry Lundegaard was finally apprehended at a motel in Bismark, North Dakota, but the actual place, the Hitching Post Motel, is just off Highway 61 in Forest Lake.