Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Watch: First Trailer For ‘Effie Gray’ Starring Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, Tom Sturridge & Greg Wise Watch: First Trailer For ‘Effie Gray’ Starring Dakota Fanning, Emma Thompson, Tom Sturridge & Greg Wise Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

NYFF: Alexander Payne, Bruce Dern & Will Forte Talk The Particular Tone Of ‘Nebraska’

The Playlist By Edward Davis | The Playlist October 9, 2013 at 4:06PM

An alcoholic father suffering from the early onsets of dementia gets a sweepstakes notice that he’s won a million dollars. It’s a scam obviously, but the elderly man is determined to see it through, despite his wife and older son’s protests to the contrary. What’s the youngest son to do? Perhaps trying to relate and bond on a level they’ve never connected before, as he agrees to drive his father from Montana to Nebraska to track down the prize, but many detours await, including a protracted pit stop in his dad’s hometown.
1
Nebraska, Dern Payne, Forte, set image
“I didn't want to throw any ‘Dernsies’ in it or anything" -- Bruce Dern

Why was the film shot in black and white?
Payne had two answers, one an intuitive gut one and another more reference-specific. “It just felt right. From the moment I picked up the screenplay I always saw the movie in black-and-white,” he said. “I always wanted to make a movie in black-and-white and I knew it would have to be [done] relatively inexpensively. “ How does it help the storytelling? “It's just so darn beautiful,” he said. “Every day I would look at my [director of photography Phedon Papamichael] and say, 'How can we go back to color?' It was also my Cinemascope movie, too. And boy was that a true treat.”

Payne said the other element that helped shape mood and tone was the austere screenplay itself that was only 90 pages. “It suggested to me early Jim Jarmusch,” Payne said of the tone. “I was thinking a little bit about [Japanese filmmaker] Shohei Imamura, ‘The Insect Woman’ and ‘The Pornographers.’ The look, with action staged for camera with as little cutting as possible. I wanted it to be shot in as austere a fashion as the landscape suggested – subtly flashy in an understated way. I wanted to be elegant but minimalistic.”

Bruce Dern always has a good Elia Kazan anecdote to share. He also suggested Alexander Payne reined him in and didn’t let him get away with “Dernsies” – the Jack Nicholson term for patented Bruce Dern improvisations.
“I began a while ago with Mr. Kazan. I came into the business because I was astounded to work with him and Mr. Strasberg. This is what I got into the business to do,” Dern began. “And I haven't been able to do it that much in 55 years.”

“I didn't want to throw any ‘Dernsies’ in it or anything. Payne said: ‘Let us do our jobs.’ He backed it up ten minutes later by saying, ‘Don't show us anything, let us find it.’ That's the magic of what he does. Has it been done before? Yes. But you look at [June] coming out of the shop and him having it [linger] on that shot. Let the picture work. [Legendary cinematographer ] Haskell Wexler said that it was like watching a moving version of an Ansel Adams scrapbook.”

Nebraska

Dern always has a good Bob Rafelson story too.
“Curly Bob is a wonderful filmmaker,” Dern said of the producer/director Bob Rafelson who directed the bizzaro Monkees-starring trip “Head,”5 Easy Pieces” and was an instrumental part of the maverick BBS Productions gang of the 1960s. He also directed Dern and Jack Nicholson in the movie, “The King of Marvin Gardens” which also famously switched types – Nicholson playing the meeker character and Dern playing the more boisterous one.

“He had a wonderful cinematographer named Laszlo Kovacs who wanted it to be overcast every day. So we'd wait and we'd wait and that was good,” Dern laughed. The differences between the two directors? “Alexander is approachable and patient. Curly is approachable and not quite as patient.” He said.

Derns shared an amusing story about a scene on ‘Marvin Gardens’ where Rafelson was unsatisfied with his two lead actors. On take 12, an exasperated Nicholson and Dern turned to their filmmaker and asked what he wanted exactly? “He ripped his sleeve off and said ‘I want goosebumps!’” Dern remembered. By take 17, Rafelson finally got what he wanted. "That's a print let's go to the other room," Dern recalled the filmmaker saying. “Jack said, ‘Make him roll his sleeve up!’ " The actor also said that Rafelson claimed that scene – as great as he wanted it – meant $15 million at the box-office opening weekend. “Alexander doesn’t think that way,” he said.

“Nebraksa” opens on November 15th. -- Reporting by Drew Taylor

This article is related to: Nebraska, Alexander Payne, Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Features, Feature, Interview, Interviews, New York Film Festival


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates