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Stan Grossman is a small but pivotal fictional character who has appeared in two Oscar-winning films, Fargo (1996) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Though played by different actors and not officially connected by story, the character of Stan Grossman is thematically connected to both films.
Michael Arndt, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, intentionally used the character of Stan Grossman as a tribute to the Coen Brothers' Fargo. In an interview with "Time Out Mumbai," the quote reads:
Woven into the plot is a tribute to 'Fargo,' the superb 1996 comedy by the Coen brothers. Richard’s potential entry into the publishing world is through a man named Stan Grossman, also the name of a recovery agent in 'Fargo.' "I just assumed that people knew it was a tribute to Fargo, but people didn’t realize until we started shooting," Arndt said.
History of the character
In each movie, Grossman is the go-to guy and a beacon of opportunism. In "Fargo," Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) devises a scheme to kidnap his wife and pay the kidnappers the ransom by both bribing and constructing a sound business deal with his wealthy father-in-law, Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell).
Wade's right-hand man is Stan Grossman, played by Larry Brandenburg. Grossman orchestrates the transactions behind the scenes while Wade acts as the mouthpiece of the operation. Grossman agrees with Lundegaard's proposal to deal with the kidnapping: stay away from the police and give into the demands of the kidnappers.
In "Little Miss Sunshine," the character is played by Bryan Cranston. Richard refers to Grossman being key to the next step in his motivational speaking career. Instead, Grossman strings Richard along, routinely ignoring his calls, until Richard confronts him in a hotel and they move outside near a pool, where Grossman bluntly informs Richard that he (Richard) is a failure.
Both men fall apart largely not only because they absolutely fail to recognize the imploding mess they have created, but also due to Grossman's double-crosses: the parking lot deal in "Fargo" and the pool scene in "Sunshine," with Grossman's cruel dismissal. Ultimately, Stan Grossman is responsible for the male protagonist's plans not working according to their absurd original plan. In the end of both films, Grossman emerges unscathed from the calamity around him.
Stan Grossman is also referenced, but not seen, in the television series Fargo. In "The Principle of Restricted Choice," the second episode of the third season of the TV series, Emmit Stussy (Ewan McGregor) mentions running an idea by Stan Grossman. This series was primarily set in 2010 around St. Cloud, Minnesota, revealing Grossman was still a figure in the Fargo universe.
Gene Siskel, who along with film critic Roger Ebert named "Fargo" the best film of 1996, praised the character of Stan Grossman, saying that having the "other guy" (in a business partner role) was an example of smart, high-level writing.
Specifically, he said:
“They (the writers) even have the accountant-assistant to the big boss -– that’s very clever writing there –- the loyal helper to the family business who hates the son-in-law."
- "Here comes the sunshine" in "Time Out Mumbia": http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/film/film_details.asp?code=87&source=5
- Review from "Siskel & Ebert" from 1996: http://bventertainment.go.com/tv/buenavista/atm/reviews.html?sec=6&subsec=Fargo