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William H. Macy Finally Explains That Famous 'Fargo' Legend

Here's why he threatened to kill Ethan Coen's dog.

To get the starring role in “Fargo,” William H. Macy had to do something just as despicable as the sad-sack but villainous character he played on screen.

As he told NPR’s “Fresh Air” in 2013, when he first auditioned for the Coen brothers, the co-writers behind “Fargo,” the duo wouldn’t give him the part of car salesman Jerry Lundegaard. So when he found out the brothers were auditioning more actors in New York, he flew to the city and crashed the casting call. When he got there, Macy pretty much scared the brothers into giving him the role. 

“I was making a joke — and luckily it landed — but I said, ‘I’m afraid you’re going to screw up your movie and cast someone else in this role,’” recounted Macy on NPR. “And they went, ‘Ha ha ha,’ and I said, ‘No, seriously, I’ll shoot your dog if you don’t give me this role.’ And I think Ethan [Coen] had just gotten a dog.”

The story has become a mystifying and popular legend for fans of “Fargo” in the brief time that’s passed since Macy brought it up. So, with the opportunity to interview the actor about his recent Emmy nomination for his work on “Shameless,” The Huffington Post pressed for more clarification into what happened during that fateful yet fruitful meeting.

Well, the dog joke actually wasn’t that random.

Ethan and Joel Coen with their Oscars after winning Best Screenplay for "Fargo."
Ethan and Joel Coen with their Oscars after winning Best Screenplay for "Fargo."

”He had been talking about the fact that he had gotten a new dog, so it was fresh in my mind,” Macy told HuffPost, explaining that the threat wasn’t as random as it initially seemed. (The story does feel more poignant and scary though when you know the threat concerns a specific dog rather than just the idea of one.)

Despite the Coen brothers giving Macy the job, from his original telling of the story, it was still unclear how they reacted in the moment.

But, from what Macy told HuffPost, the Coen brothers weren’t angry at all. They just started laughing.

“Yeah, I get those guys and thank God they get me,” said Macy.

For his Emmy-nominated role as Frank Gallagher on the show “Shameless,” Macy plays a character that lives life by saying and doing whatever he wants. Tying the “Fargo” legend to his new show, the actor said, “That was a totally Frank moment.”

Macy did seem to feel a twinge of regret about the incident as he started a thought, “In retrospect, I think I should have maybe ...” But then he ended up pivoting to finish that statement by just saying, “Thank God it was Ethan Coen. He got my humor."

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