Based on a true story? Perhaps “inspired by true events” could have been a more honest opening card for “Fargo.” Certain parts of the film were taken from real-life cases, but only in the most general way. Joel Coen revealed for Huff Post the parts that really happened – like the car fraud in the movie – and said “there was a guy I think in the 60s or 70s who rubbered serial numbers for cars and cheated General Motors Finance Corporation.” Although he noted that the case did not turn violent as it does in “Fargo”, he explained that “There was no kidnapping. There was no murder. It was a guy who cheated on GM Finance Corporation at some point. “
Clearly, Coens took this fake case from the 1960s or 1970s and applied it to William H. Macy’s character, Jerry Lundegaard. But what about that wood chipper scene? As Joel Coen pointed out in the same interview; “There was a murder in Connecticut where a man killed his wife and disposed of the body – put her in a wood chipper.” He added “But beyond that, the story is compounded.”
It’s taken from the murder of the stewardess Helle Crafts in 1986, who was killed by her husband Richard Crafts. He allegedly hit his wife over the head twice before freezing her body and splitting it – later feeding the pieces through a wood chipper to further get rid of the evidence. Richard served 30 years of his original 50-year sentence and was released in 2020. So “Fargo” is based on a true story? Yes and no. With a foot in reality and a foot in fiction, the classic film and the brilliant FX series have created a rather unique legacy.