Art is meant to penetrate you. Violence doesn’t have to be an act of physical violence, it can be emotional violence, and it doesn’t have to be destructive, which can be a violent emotion, but not necessarily a bad one. The DNA of art and war is very similar. It’s two very powerful forces in our world that takes up a lot of our time; but, where war destroys, art inspires. In my film I always approach violence like sex. It’s all about the build up. The climax itself is a mechanical procedure that we as an audience know is not true, so my job is to make the build up so engaging so that whatever happens in front of us actually affects us, but it only affects us because we believe the emotion before it.
The characters that I go through a lot in my movies, violence is part of their catharsis. They have to go through extreme pain and suffering in order to obtain what they’re meant to be.
Joel Coen had Frances McDormand and John Carroll Lynch conceive a back-story for their characters to get the feel of them. They decided that Norm and Marge met while working on the police force, and when they were married, they had to choose which one had to quit. Since Marge was a better officer, Norm quit and took up painting.
William H. Macy begged the directors for the role of Jerry Lundegaard. He did two readings for the part, and became convinced he was the best man for the role. When the Coens didn’t get back to him, he flew to New York (where they were starting production) and said, “I’m very, very worried that you are going to screw up this movie by giving this role to somebody else. It’s my role, and I’ll shoot your dogs if you don’t give it to me.” He was joking, of course.