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|“||I'm... I'm not arguing here! I'm cooperating. So there's no need to... we're doin' all we can here.||„|
|~ Jerry being interrogated by Officer Gunderson.|
|“||You're darn tootin!||„|
|~ Jerry's famous line.|
|“||It's my deal here, Wade.||„|
|~ Jerry arguing with Wade over the finder's fee.|
Jerry Lundegaard is the deuteragonist/secondary antagonist of the 1996 British-American black comedy crime film Fargo.
He was portrayed by William H. Macy.
Jerry Lundegaard is a sales manager at an Oldsmobile dealership in Minneapolis who is desperate for money. He floated a $320,000 GMAC loan and collateralized it with nonexistent dealership vehicles and is unable to pay back the loan. On the advice of dealership mechanic and paroled ex-convict Shep Proudfoot, Jerry travels to Fargo, North Dakota and hires small-time cons Gaear Grimsrud and Carl Showalter to kidnap his wife, Jean, and extort a ransom from his wealthy father-in-law and boss, Wade Gustafson, in return for a new car and half of the $80,000 ransom.
Jerry pitches Gustafson a lucrative real estate deal, and he agrees to front $750,000. Jerry considers calling off the kidnapping, but learns that Gustafson plans to make the deal himself, giving Jerry a finder's fee. At Jerry's home, Carl and Gaear carry out the kidnapping. As they transport Jean to their remote cabin on Moose Lake, a state trooper pulls them over outside Brainerd for driving without temporary tags. When the trooper hears a sound from the back seat, Gaear kills him, then chases down two eyewitnesses and shoots them.
The following morning, Brainerd police chief Marge Gunderson discovers that the dead trooper was ticketing a car with dealership plates. Later, two men driving a dealership vehicle checked into the nearby Blue Ox Motel with two call girls, then placed a call to Proudfoot. After questioning the prostitutes, she drives to Gustafson's dealership, where Proudfoot feigns ignorance and Jerry insists no cars are missing.
Jerry informs Gustafson that the kidnappers have demanded $1,000,000, and will deal only through him. Meanwhile, Carl, in light of the complication of three murders, demands that Jerry hand over the entire $80,000. GMAC gives Jerry 24 hours to prove the existence of the vehicles or return the loan, or he will face legal consequences. Carl is beaten by a furious Proudfoot for bringing him under suspicion. Carl orders Jerry to deliver the ransom immediately. Gustafson insists on making the money drop himself. At the drop point in a Minneapolis parking garage, he tells Carl he will not hand over the money without seeing Jean, Gustafson is shot by Carl and he shots Carl back in the Jaw, Carl then shoots Gustafson to death and leaves with the money.
Marge returns to Gustafson's dealership. Jerry continues to insist that he is not missing any cars. Marge asks him to inventory the lot. Jerry, notably annoyed, agrees to do the inventory, but then she spots him fleeing the dealership, and calls the State Police.
Meanwhile, Gaear kills Jean and argues with Carl about the money resulting in Gaear killing Carl with an axe. Marge then casually passing by Moose Lake, identifies the car, and stops by, surprising Gaear when he was putting Carl's body on a woodchipper. Marge then arrests Gaear.
After going on the run, Jerry is found in a motel outside of Bismarck in North Dakota. When police arrive, he forgets the alias he used and tries to delay them. The police enter and arrest Jerry as he tries to escape, forcing him onto the bed. In a truly pathetic end to the character, Jerry grunts and cries in his underwear as the police arrest him. It can be assumed he either spent the rest of his life or a large portion of it in prison.
Jerry is a very nervous and temperamental man who frequently stutters. He is shown to be very greedy and selfish, as he is willing to put his wife's life in danger just to solve his own problems, and he is also shown to be a coward.
In addition to being a selfish coward, Jerry also appears to lack common sense. This is best shown at the beginning where he insists on having Carl and Gaear kidnap Jean despite the two suggesting that it isn't a good idea. He also never considered that it is possible that things would get violent or the impact that Jean's kidnapping would have on their son. That said, Jerry does have some morals as while he continued going on with his scheme, he was disgusted when he found out about the murders.
- 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 jokingly 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."
- William H. Macy stated in an interview that, despite evidence to the contrary, he did hardly any ad-libbing at all. Most of his character's stuttering mannerisms were written in the script exactly the way he does them in the film.
- William H. Macy was doodling between takes and the Coens decided to use it for a scene.