The director's been working on "Nebraska," a comedy-drama, planned to be shot in black-and-white, about a father and son who hit the road together when the dad thinks he's won a sweepstake, for a while now, and names like Robert Forster, Jack Nicholson, Robert Duvall and Bryan Cranston have all come up in connection with the father's role, although it was widely reported that the director's Plan A was to try and lure Gene Hackman out of retirement for the part. Meanwhile, Casey Affleck and Paul Rudd had both been mentioned as possibilities to play the son. But it seems like Payne's made a decision, and it's a far cry from the kind of A-list star who toplined his last film.
According to Deadline, Payne has informed backers Paramount that he'd like Bruce Dern and Will Forte to play the father and son roles in the film, a move closer to the Giamatti/Haden Church combo that starred in "Sideways" than George Clooney in "The Descendants." Dern, of course, is the prolific 75-year-old character actor who starred in films like "The King Of Marvin Gardens," "The Great Gatsby," "Silent Running," "Coming Home" and "Family Plot," but we can't remember the last time he played a lead, with supporting turns in projects like "Monster" and "Down In The Valley" more common in recent years (although there is a family connection here: the actor's daughter, Laura Dern, starred in Payne's debut "Citizen Ruth.")
Forte, meanwhile, is a comedian and actor best known for being a member of the "Saturday Night Live" ensemble for eight years, between 2002 and 2010. While he's played small supporting roles in films like "Baby Mama," "Around The World In 80 Days" and the upcoming trio of "Rock Of Ages," "That's My Boy" and "The Watch," his attempts to become a leading man, in "The Brothers Solomon"and the terminally underrated SNL spin-off "MacGruber," landed with a resounding thud at the box office. He was starring in a sitcom pilot for Fox, "Rebounding," but the network failed to pick it up, freeing his schedule up for this.
We have to say, however, we really like the casting here: Forte's a versatile performer who we can see working well in the part, while Dern's presence brings to mind the kind of classic 70s cinema that we don't see enough films tipping their hat to. We imagine Paramount probably aren't thrilled, but the considerable success of "The Descendants" probably means that Payne gets his way on the film, especially considering it's budgeted at a mere $13 million. Should the studio sign off, the idea is that the writer-director will make it his next film, although there's no certain word on when it might shoot, but we'll keep our fingers crossed it might be before the end of the year.