Alexander Payne probably achieved his greatest level of success and recognition after casting a huge movie star, George Clooney, in his most recent film, The Descendants. Given the taste of mainstream acceptance that this director of pitch-black dramatic comedies got by working with a well-known name, you might think that he would be tempted to go back to the well and snag more big stars to play the father/son duo in his upcoming road movie, Nebraska. It seems like we should have been hearing rumors over the past few months that he was courting Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Douglas, or something of the like.
Not Payne though, who seems to be wholly concerned with finding the right actors to fit the parts, and if a report from Deadline Benkelman is to be believed, he’s found an off-the-beaten-path duo that look on paper like they could make for a delightful pair. The report says that Payne has been meaning to make Nebraska his next film for quite some time, but he didn’t want to move things forward until he could find the right actor for the father role. For the longest time he was fixated on Gene Hackman, but that screen legend’s continued retirement made his casting an impossibility. Payne feels like he’s found his man now though, in Bruce Dern, and he also wants Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte to play the son.
For the new fans that Payne made with The Descendants, those who were hoping to see him do another project with a name on the level of Clooney’s, this choice might look like a disappointment at first. But, in Dern and Forte, Payne has found a couple of actors who either haven’t had their talents fully utilized in a long time, or perhaps ever – which is an even more intriguing situation than if he would have come up with a couple of the usual names.
It will be a new experience seeing what Dern and Forte are able to offer up when given meaty roles and the opportunity to work with a filmmaker the calibre of Payne, and I would challenge anyone to go watch Dern’s work in The ‘burbs and Forte’s work in MacGruber and say that watching them team up with the guy who made Election won’t be hilarious. Because it will be. Hopefully they both officially sign soon.