UPDATED: The movie world has changed drastically, particularly in the last five or six years,” Billy Bob Thornton said when asked why he’d signed to star, along with Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman, in FX’s first limited series Fargo.
“When I was coming up, if you went to television from film it meant something was wrong…Now it’s the opposite,” Thornton told TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014 for FX’s series inspired by Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1996 film of same name. The kind of “mid-level movies and higher-budget independent films” Thornton said he and his peers came up in the business making, “that doesn’t exist any more. The motion picture studios make big event movies, and broad comedies, and action movies — and movies where vampires are all models. Television has now taken that spot. For actors who want to do good dramatic work, with dark humor and drama, you have to do it on television. If you want to be a celebrity, then go to the dentist in Beverly Hills and punch somebody,” he quipped — a reference to a reported recent Kanye West encounter with a guy outside a Beverly Hills medical office.
“If you want to be an actor, get on a really good series on television, because that’s where it’s at,” he said.
FX’s first 10-episode limited series features an all-new true crime story, with new characters, all entrenched with the original film’s trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice.” Thornton plays enigmatic stranger Lorne Malvo, who comes to town and changes the life of Lester Nygaard (Freeman), a henpecked insurance salesman.
Warren Littlefield, who’s exec producing FX’s Fargo, said he’s been mulling the series since shortly after the film came out when he was a development exec at NBC and got pitched one by Bruce Paltrow. NBC passed on that script, which got turned into a busted pilot at CBS. Years later, Littlefield said, he decided it was the right time because “the world of television has changed and cable television embraces where this could live.”
Littlefield says he took the project, written by Noah Hawley, to MGM which set it up at FX. Though the network is billing it as a 10-episode event series, series writer/exec producer Hawley said he envisions it as an anthology series, in which each season follows a crime story from the region with new characters and cast — because it would be the “wrong idea to make a Picket Fences, where every week something kooky happens.” Hawley already is at work on a second season. He hopes people eventually will see the Coen brothers’ movie as a really good season of the series.