On Friday night, I had the good fortune to interview Will Forte, star of the film Nebraska, on the Red Carpet at the Austin Film Festival. Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne, is the story of a son (Will Forte) who takes his aging, alcoholic, mule-headed father (Bruce Dern) on a road trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million dollar sweepstakes prize.
Hi Will, welcome to Austin! I’m Mike from CW Atlanta’s Preview This!
Will Forte: Thanks, great to be here! Wow, all the way out here!
Yes, just to see you!
Forte: Thanks, and I’m sorry.
So what was it like to make a “road picture” with Alexander Payne?
Forte: It does not get better than that. I never thought I would get this experience. He is one of my favorite directors, so I just never thought that I would get to work with him in any capacity, let alone such a major part of something that he was doing. So, it was unexpected to say the least, and every step of the way has been exciting, exciting, exciting.
So how was it working with such an acting legend as Bruce Dern?
Forte: He is just a priceless person. He is such a character, and he knows the best stories. During the film he kept telling us great stories, most of it was about the “Old Hollywood” and his experiences making films. He just knows a little about everything. I call him “Cliff Clavin,” you know the mailman from “Cheers,” because he has mainly factual information with a few things that he fudges on. He is so interesting to listen to, but when the camera gets turned on, he gets into character, who is the exact opposite of who is in real life, a man of few words who is gruff. It was just so exciting to have a front row seat while he delivered his performance, which I think is just amazing.
How similar is the character in the film to who you are in real life?
Forte: Oh, very similar. When I read the script, I felt a real connection to the character. Never did I think that I would be able to get the part. I kept thinking as I was reading the script “I know who this guy is! I wish I could play this part.” So, when I got it, I was so excited. Then realized, “Oh, man. Now I’ve got to do it and I can’t blow it!” which was terrifying. There were all these people of this film that I had so much respect for, and I didn’t want to “Titanic” their movie. What I mean is “Titanic” by the actual event and not the movie with Leo that did incredibly well.
Well, I hope you have success via “Titanic” the movie with this film.
Forte: Yes, so do I!
Thank you so much and have fun at the Film Festival.
We first meet Woody (Bruce Dern) walking alone along on a snow encrusted Montana highway, trudging away with a head down determination until he is stopped by a police officer. We are then introduced to David (Will Forte), Woody’s son, as he arrives at the police station to pick up his father and take him home. We learn from Woody’s wife, Kate (June Squibb), that this isn’t the first time that Woody has taken off on-foot to go to Nebraska, convinced that he must travel there to collect a million dollar prize. And so begins the amazing Alexander Payne film that is equally heartbreaking and funny, full of interesting, well developed characters that mix so well to make this brilliant film a delight to watch. The film is shot in black and white, which perfectly matches the land and it’s people who seem to be stuck in a time period from 30 or 40 years ago. The small town life in this area of the country is slow, where the only thing to do is drink down out the local tavern, and the main conversation pieces are how long it takes to travel to destinations, all of which seem a long way away from this isolated landscape. Forte impresses in the part of the put upon David, who finally decides to take his father by car to Nebraska, if only to stop his attempts at going on foot. Forte is perfect in the everyman role of David, someone who desperately wants more from his relationship with his father and is willing to travel over a great distance to try and get any response from him. Dern, playing a more reserved role than anything he has every portrayed in his long career, gives the a brilliant performance that gives us everything we need to know with just a few glances or short sentences. June Squibb, playing the long suffering wife, becomes the comic relief of the film and tells anyone and everyone what she thinks in very blunt terms. Payne brilliantly builds the movie and finds small scenes to masterfully bring along the plot which develops a film that is warm and surprisingly funny. It’s an astonishing film that beautifully explores the dynamics of a very complex family in a seemingly simple, almost forgotten part of the country.
My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
The Austin Film Festival continues through Thursday, Oct. 31st in Austin, TX.