While “The Hunger Games” is set to dominate the box office this weekend, there’s another great alternative in theatres you may not be familiar with.
“Nebraska” follows the story of Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) and his son David (Will Forte) who travel from Montana to Nebraska — against the son’s wishes — to collect the father’s $US1 million winnings. The catch?
Grant hasn’t won anything. Rather, he’s received a notice from Mega Sweepstakes Marketing (think Publisher’s Clearing House) that many people receive. The difference is he actually believes he’s won and nothing is stopping him from making his journey to collect.
The dramedy brings them to a pit stop in the father’s hometown of Hawthorne, Neb. Underneath the lottery story is a poignant tale about family, self-discovery, and self-worth.
The film premiered earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival where Dern won the Best Actor Award. It’s in black and white, which may throw some off from the format, but there’s no other way we would have wanted to see it.
We spoke with one of the stars of the film, Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad”), who plays Woody’s other son, Ross, to discuss what it was like on set, working with Payne and the film’s stars, Dern and Forte.
Business Insider: The story is largely about family and the relationship between a father and son. Did it make you think about the dynamics of your own family or your relationship between yourself and your kids?
Bob Odenkirk:“I think about my dad who was an alcoholic and who I didn’t have a very easy relationship with and still don’t. Well, he passed away, but it never ended well. So I think about that and I think about also … the dinner scene where the whole family and extended family are sitting around and talking. Some of those conversations with the family where they’re talking about the car … All that reminded me of my actual family at Thanksgiving dinners … just the kind of conversations you’d have sometimes … meaningless and funny and awkward and people not really listening to each other.”
BI: What did you think of the film being in black and white?
Odenkirk: “I initially thought that’s interesting. I know black and white can look very beautiful … so I trusted him [Payne]. When I was off set, I took a look at the black and white on the monitor, I couldn’t believe how great it looked. Then, when I saw it in the theatre … it really knocked me out and made me think of Ansel Adams and Walker Evans.”
BI: You and Will Forte, who plays your brother in “Nebraska,” are friends in real life. There’s a scene in the movie where you two steal an air compressor. I have to imagine there were some hijinks on set.
Odenkirk: “[heavy laughter] We stole three other air compressors while we were there [jokingly]. If you mention an air compressor in Nebraska, I’ve got it.”
“You know what [Will and I] did … we’re good friends and we love each other and we spent all our time listening to Bruce Dern and June Squibb tell stories of their amazing experiences in show business. Bruce told me stories about walking Marilyn Monroe home. He talked about the early days which Roger Corman, he talked about his childhood and his godmother Eleanor Roosevelt. His godfather was Adlai Stevenson. He was related to Archibald MacLeish. He comes from a renowned family and so he talked about his family. We all talked about our families. Mostly, we spent our time off screen talking about Illinois and our families.”
BI: In the film, you play an anchorman — you’re the hotshot celebrity of the family. Did that role also transfer over into real life? You have six siblings, right?
Odenkirk: “Yes, I do. I’m nothing special in my family. My brother Bill is a director and writer for “The Simpsons.” My brothers and sisters are tickled by the fact that I’m in show business, but it doesn’t give me a whole lot of points. It’s OK with me. We’re all equals.”
BI: What was different about working with Payne than Vince Gilligan on “Breaking Bad”?
“Oh they’re very similar. They have a confidence in their writing and in their material and then how they’re handling it. So they basically show you where to be and then they let you do it without a lot of input.
They let the actor present their interpretation and then after you’ve done it once or twice, then they might say something like, ‘Give me this’ or ‘Make it a little funnier or make it angrier.'”
“They may give you a very small note or a very specific note maybe about a moment in whatever it is you just said or did and that’s all they do. They give you little moments and little turns and they back off and give you room to play the part.”
“That’s how it was on ‘Nebraska’ and that’s how it is in ‘Breaking Bad.’ So, it’s wonderful. Actors don’t like to be manipulated too much. They want to be allowed to discover and present their character and be their character and just lose it in that moment.”
BI: Is there a favourite moment you had while filming?
Odenkirk: “Well, I loved stealing the compressor with Will. That was a great funny moment. The dinner table scene is hilarious and I loved every single actor at that table and how they presented their lines. It just was so damn funny that little woman who says, ‘What are you gonna do with all the money Woody? … What’s the very first thing?'”
“Quite a few of the people in the family scenes were Nebraskans who aren’t actors. They never acted before in their lives.”
Watch a trailer for the film below:
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