Chatting recently with The Huffington Post, the director revealed he's auditioning actors for the lead role in his developing, small-scale, black-and-white, road trip drama "Nebraska." And Cranston didn't fit what he was looking for. "He's auditioned already," Payne said. "I don't think he's right for the part, but he's an astonishing actor, that guy." So what exactly is he looking for, then? Someone in the vein of one of the greatest screen legends of all time, is all.
"It's a lot like casting a Mike Leigh film," he told the LA Times last month. "The lead is a cranky Midwestern guy. He goes in and out of dementia and cajoles his son to drive with him from his home in Billings to Lincoln, Nebraska, because he thinks he's won a sweepstakes there. I need Henry Fonda when he was a crotchety old [son of a gun]. But he's not available, so I'm looking elsewhere. I always liked the austerity of Fonda's acting, so that's what I'm going for."
Currently, the picture is set up at Paramount, and even with the budget at a mere $10 million, it was previously reported the studio wanted a star before they would give the thumbs up. Gene Hackman, Robert Forster, Jack Nicholson and Robert Duvall were all said to be early candidates for the role, but we guess that for whatever reason, none of them quite worked out. And with Cranston giving it a whirl, it seems Payne is also considering a younger actor for the part.
But as for the black-and-white aesthetic, Payne had a simple answer for the Times when he was asked why he was going that route. "Because it would look so cool. It seems that our politicians see the world in black and white, so why not our artists? Did Woody Allen's 'Manhattan' have to be in black and white? No. But is it fantastic that it was? To see New York like that? Yes!" he said, adding, "I watch 'Paper Moon' about once a year. Black and white is a good thing."
And really, everyone should watch "Paper Moon" at least once a year, because it really fucking rules. Anyhow, the hunt for the leading man for "Nebraska" continues, but let's hope Payne finds what he's looking for soon.