Matt Damon Will Be ‘Downsizing’ for Alexander Payne

NEBRASKA

Several years ago, Alexander Payne was working on a project called Downsizing. He got a good cast on board led by Paul Giamatti, but the film never quite took off and so Payne went off to make The Descendants and Nebraska instead. Now that those are done, he’s circling back to Downsizing. And it already seems to be off to a promising start as Matt Damon has joined the cast.

Hit the jump for more on the Matt Damon Alexander Payne project. Read More »

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Nebraska color version

We don’t see many new films produced in black and white, and even fewer that get major studio distribution. And even then, there’s often a color version kept in reserve for use in certain markets. Such was the case with Alexander Payne‘s Nebraska, released last winter. Payne had to cut the budget of the film in order to get Paramount to agree to the black and white aesthetic. Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael shot the film digitally, and due to certain TV deals, he and Payne created a color version.  Payne hoped that version would never be seen, but now the Nebraska color version will be broadcast on the Epix network, along with the original black and white version. Read More »

NEBRASKA

You’ve never seen Will Forte as you’ll see him in Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne. The actor has cemented himself as a favorite comic talent who can play surprisingly intense guys with a vulnerable core, but he has never been at the center of a dramatic movie, much less something like this laconic black and white road movie.

Forte plays David Grant, a bit of a sad-sack, and the child of Woody Grant, played by Bruce Dern. When Woody insists on making the trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim sweepstakes winnings that David (and the rest of their family) know to be bogus, the younger man agrees to drive his father, both to guide him, and to strengthen the weak bond between the two men.

The film is quiet and meditative as it touches on family and the deep roots of individual characters, but also often gently comic, and occasionally uproariously funny. The funniest bits, however, are delivered by actors other than Forte, who spends much of the film as the straight man to Dern. He’s quite good at it, too. In fact, the shy but determined caregiver that emerges through Forte’s performance is something of a revelation from the actor.

I spoke to Forte in Los Angeles, and our conversation naturally ran towards the new territory in which the role placed him. But we also touched on his own obsessive and nervous tendencies, the pleasure of working with a seasoned pros like Dern and Stacy Keach, and briefly about the long-tail appeal of MacGruber. Read More »

Nebraska-Bruce-Dern

Bruce Dern has seen it all in Hollywood. His TV work in the early ’60s positioned him to be right in the middle of the New Hollywood explosion that happened late in the decade. He’s in a mind-boggling array of great films, from Hang ‘Em High to They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, to The King of Marvin Gardens and The Driver — it’s impossible to reel off a quick summation of his career without feeling like you’ve left out five essentials.

Or maybe Dern has seen almost all of Hollywood. Dominating as the heavy, he’s never quite broken into lead status, and he’s never won an Oscar. (He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1979, an Oscar year thick with great performances, for his role in Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Christopher Walken won, for The Deer Hunter, even as Jon Voight and Jane Fonda won the Best Actor and Actress trophies for their own work in Coming Home.)

So Nebraska feels like a singular moment in Dern’s career. He’s directed in the film by Alexander Payne, one of the modern filmmakers who feels most creatively connected to the biggest years in Dern’s career. He’s got a lead role, and it’s one which forces him to look past his own natural tendency to unleash a torrent of conversation. As scripted by Bob Nelson, his character, Woody Grant, barely talks at all. Even as we wonder about his mental capacity, he’s fixed on a goal: claiming the million bucks a piece of junk mail tells him he’s won. Dern approaches the work with quiet intensity and a real vulnerability, bouncing off co-star Will Forte‘s own uncharacteristic straight man role. The result is unlike anything else you’ll see this year.

I spoke to Dern in Los Angeles, and we discussed acting challenges and risk-taking, Payne’s quiet direction, and the goal of becoming a character, rather than simply performing as one. There’s even some trivia about The Exorcist in here, for good measure. Read More »

Doug Liman

Fox’s Narco Sub is almost ready to get moving again. Doug Liman is in early talks to direct the thriller, which was set up with Tony Scott before his passing. The studio been trying to find a replacement for some time, and Joe Carnahan was reportedly circling at one point.

The title Narco Sub refers to watercrafts used to smuggle cocaine from South America to the U.S. At the center of the script by David Guggenheim (Safe House) is a ship captain who is blackmailed into piloting one of these narco subs after his son is kidnapped by a cartel.

Liman has been putting the finishing touches on Edge of Tomorrow (formerly titled All You Need Is Kill), a sci-fi actioner starring Tom Cruise. He’s also been prepping the fact-based adventure Everest with Tom Hardy. It is unclear whether Everest or Narco Sub would move ahead first, should Liman close his deal. [TheWrap]

After the jump, Nebraska helmer Alexander Payne trades suburban America for urban India.

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NEBRASKA

Sideways and The Descendants director Alexander Payne returns with Nebraska, a road trip movie about family and fantasy, starring Will Forte and Bruce Dern. The elder actor plays a man who thinks he’s won a million bucks, and is journeying from Montana to Nebraska to collect. Forte is his son, who ends up along for the ride trying to guide and protect his pop.

This first trailer is great; it shows off the film’s low-key black and white aesthetic and ambitions towards channeling the tone of ’70s film drama. It’s also funny and effective as it shows the fragile relationship between Dern and the rest of his family, and hints at the difficult balance between owning up to reality and keeping some dreams alive, no matter how unrealistic they may be. Check it out below. Read More »

Ellection

Alexander Payne‘s Election is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve seen it too many times to count, but even I never noticed this awesome easter egg that Payne had his property department create for the film.

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nebraska-first-official

Alexander Payne‘s new film Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as an aging alcoholic who believes he has won a huge prize, and road trips from Billings, Montana to Nebraska in an attempt to collect. His son, played by Will Forte, tags along to keep the old man on course, but the two end up detouring to the old guy’s small home town.

Nebraska has been in the works for a while, and will debut at Cannes later this month. Before that premiere, we’ve got the first official image from the film, and the stark black and white image suggests that Payne’s trip back to his home state isn’t going to be the most light-hearted journey possible.

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