Imagine a pregnant police chief with a husband who paints ducks for postage stamps. Add a financially-troubled car salesman with plans to hire someone to kidnap his wife. Throw in some inept crooks and a deadly woodchipper. Are these the elements of a fascinating movie? You betcha, especially if it comes from filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen. In 1996, their Fargo took critics and moviegoers by storm. While watching the press screening of this film, I noticed the actor playing Frances McDormand’s sensitive husband looked and sounded familiar. In checking through the press notes, I found his name was John Carroll Lynch. My husband Larry and I both remembered a high school friend of ours, Dan Lynch, who once worked in a political campaign for Colorado senator John Carroll. Could this actor be related to Dan?
Hoping our friend still lived in Colorado, I called Information for his number. There were twelve “D. Lynch” or “Dan Lynch” listings in Denver, but the first one I called turned out to be the right one. After filling me in on his son’s acting career, Dan gave me John’s phone number. Obtaining a Fargo-related telephone interview proved quite a boon for me in more ways than one.
First, I learned something about how the Coen brothers work with their actors. John expressed his admiration for the precision of their writing and direction. “There’s no room for improvisation,” he said. “The Coen’s know exactly what they want.”
Even more significantly, talking personally with John Carroll Lynch opened the door to a welcome new friendship. Duncan Shepherd, one of San Diego’s toughest critics, also fell under the Fargo spell. When Larry and I began telling him about our Fargo connection, it created a bond for us with Duncan, who liked to look for Lynch’s name in the credits for other movies. We frequently sat near each other, so whenever that name appeared, I saw Duncan’s head bob approvingly.
And why not? John Carroll Lynch has continued to turn in splendid performances in many more films, including Shutter Island, Zodiac, and Things We Lost in the Fire.
PHOTO: John Carroll Lynch and Frances McDormand in Fargo. (Released by Gramercy Pictures in 1996.).