Alexander Payne Shoots Straight About ‘Nebraska’

Not much has been reported about The Descendants director Alexander Payne’s next film, Nebraska. So far the only info floating around the net about it has been a brief plot synopsis and some casting rumors. Last October, we reported on a rumor saying that Payne wants to shoot the movie in black and white, but the studio is requiring him to get a big name in the starring role if he’s going to take a chance on turning off mainstream audiences like that. There’s also some rumors that they’re looking at convincing Gene Hackman to star, but that’s probably a pipe dream.

Now that The Descendants has come and gone, however, it’s probably getting to be time for Payne to hunker down and start work on this project in earnest; and ComingSoon sat the man down and had a chat with him about just that. Payne described Nebraska by saying, “It’s a father/son road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska, but it gets waylaid at a crappy town in central Nebraska where the father grew up and where he has some old scores to settle.” He went on to explain, “It’s just a little comedy. It’s nothing fancy. Nothing too ambitious. It’s a nice little comedy.” That’s not exactly the most exciting way I’ve ever heard someone describe one of their movies. Payne’s talking to the movie press here, doesn’t he want to build up some buzz?

He went a bit further in explaining what he means: “I’m so grateful to have barely found a story that you can make a movie. I’m not eating humble pie. I just want to keep doing it and making movies. This one is not a grand statement and it’s not particularly important to me. The Descendants wasn’t entirely personal to me. I just thought it was make a decent movie and it would be fun to make.” I think our initial reaction to hearing that a director is making movies that aren’t personal to him is to cringe. But the more I think about what he said here, the more I think it’s kind of refreshing.

We’re so used to hearing everyone in Hollywood talking about how their next thing is the greatest, most important thing they’ve ever done, and it generally rings as phony. Here’s a guy who’s just into making movies. That really cuts through the bullshit, and I think one of the big strengths Payne has as a storyteller is that his characters and his worlds always reflect truths that we can observe about our own lives. His movies are always shining spotlights on some of the more uncomfortable, repressed aspects of human nature. Say what you will about his work being dark or cynical, but I’ve never detected an ounce of phoniness in them at all, and it sounds like that might be the approach that the man takes to his life as well.

But how about that big actor that he’s supposed to recruit to star? On that, Payne isn’t spilling any details. He simply said, “I cannot announce it because I don’t even think the actor has received the script yet. It’s in the process right now.” If somehow he did get Gene Hackman, my enthusiasm for this project would go through the roof. But Robert Forster is another guy whose name is on the short list for rumored candidates as well, and while he doesn’t bring much star power these days, I’d also be stoked to hear him get announced. I never felt he got the chance to capitalize on the great work he did in Jackie Brown like I wanted him to, and he was a small but welcome addition to the Descendants cast.

Are you guys excited to see this one, even if it’s just another day on the job for Alexander Payne? And who do you think would be the ideal candidate for the lead? Let me know below, I’d like to hear some other opinions on this one.

Weaned on the genre films of the 80s. Reared by the independent movement of the 90s. Earned a BA for writing stuff in the 00s. Reviews current releases at

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