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Cannes: Alexander Payne May Do His Sci-Fi Film Soon; Bruce Dern Calls Him One Of 6 Directing Geniuses

The Playlist By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist May 23, 2013 at 5:18PM

This morning, Alexander Payne's black and white, father/son roadtrip film, "Nebraska," debuted in Cannes. Starring the unlikely trio of Bruce Dern, comedian Will Forte and Stacy Keach, “Nebraska” centers on a poor old man (Dern) living in Montana who repeatedly escapes from his house to try to go to Nebraska to collect a sweepstakes prize he thinks he has won. Frustrated by his increasing dementia, his family debates putting him into a nursing home -- until one of his two sons (Forte) finally offers to take his father by car, even as he realizes the futility of it all. It’s a comedy, and while our reviewer didn’t necessarily love it, she called it a “small-scale quixotic adventure about the importance of dreams,” and coming from Alexander Payne it's probably worth giving a shot, even if it didn't surprise us as much as we’d like.
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alexander Payne, cannes
"I realized that his vision and my vision could be the same if I would behave myself and not put in a lot of ‘Dernsies’"
6. Alexander Payne may revisit his sci-fi movie soon.

While Payne did return in 2011 with the very celebrated "The Descendants," the media still wanted to know why between 2004 and 2011 there were no feature length efforts from the "Sideways" director. Part of it was because circa 2008, Payne was attempting to put on an ambitious global-concerned sci-fi-ish satire called, “Downsizing” about an era where people shrink themselves down to miniature size so they can minimize their carbon footprint and not deplete the earth of its resources so fast. It even had a cast including Paul Giamatti, Reese Witherspoon, Sacha Baron Cohen and more. But the project was waylaid because of budget concerns. Payne addressed the picture and what happened exactly. Not to get too hopeful for it, but Payne also said he was location scouting last year, so that’s a good sign.

“The reason there was a long gap between the ‘Descendants’ and ‘Sideways’ was Jim Taylor, my co-writer, and I were working on a sort of science-fiction satire screenplay that took much more work than we had reckoned,” Payne explained. “Part of it would take place in Norway, so I was in [that] beautiful country last year having a look and I’ll get back to [that project] at some point, possibly in the near future.”

Payne once described it as his “epic masterpiece,” and having read the script ages ago, we’d give anything to see it come to fruition.

Nebraska, Bruce Dern, Payne
7. Bruce Dern performed no “Dernsies” during production.
Dern was asked, somewhat awkwardly, when was the last time he had the lead part in a movie, which led him into a particularly funny tangent about his acting style in the movie.

“You mean the lead in a movie that ever was witnessed by human beings in the theater? I would say about 25 years,” he said to big laughs. “I’m 75, 76 years old I think, and I was delighted and thrilled [to be chosen for the part].” Dern suggested it was the role of a lifetime, but he had to stick to what was on paper and what Payne was going for. “I realized that his vision and my vision could be the same if I would behave myself and not put in a lot of ‘Dernsies’ and little things that [adopts mischievous Jack Nicholson voice] Mr. Nicholson and I would do together. I relished that and he strove for that.”

“Occasionally I would get out of switch and he’d switch me for it,” he continued and explained that there were two things in “Nebraska" that he did that he never did in any other movie he’s acted in. “One: There’s not one word of dialogue I said that wasn’t in the script and there are no ‘Dernsies’ unless they were encouraged. Like taking a pee on the side of the road which he felt that was essential and so did I.”

8. “Nebraska,” is actually the second time Payne has worked with a Dern family member.
“He gave me a phenomenal gift: to be intimate in what we were doing and show it to others. Our hearts were co-mingling,” Payne said generously about his collaboration with Dern, praising the actor for giving him his full trust. “I had the same experience 17 years ago with his daughter [Laura Dern] on a little-seen, but lovely film, ‘Citizen Ruth.’ Mostly because of her performance and then I had that with her father.”

“Both Derns will do anything that you ask them to do,” Payne continued. “Laura was asking the other day, ‘What was it like working with dad?’ I said, ‘Well, it was like this: at one point he was in a car and the only direction I gave was, ‘Bruce, please put yourself in a pathetic crumpled heap in the car.’ And he did it. And there was a wonderful [simple] communication and that’s what I look for in actors that I work with.”

“Nebraska” comes out later this year on November 22 via Paramount Pictures. Expect an Oscar campaign for the film and its leads.

This article is related to: Alexander Payne, Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Nebraska, Cannes Film Festival


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