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You would think that when Alexander Payne, Oscar-winning writer-director of The Descendants, Sideways and Election, comes calling with a role, he’s going to hear, “Yes.” So expect Bruce Dern and Will Forte to be confirmed for key roles in the filmmaker’s low-budget Nebraska soon, if rumors triggered by a Deadline report turn out to be true.
The site says Payne “has fixed on” the two talents for his black-and-white road trip comedy that’s currently set up at Paramount. The odd-couple formula would cast Dern as a struggling alcoholic who believes he has won a sweepstakes lottery, so he hops in the car with his underachiever of a son (Forte) to claim his prize.
The site goes on to explain that Payne has been “cooking” this film for years as he waited to find the ideal actor to play the father. At one point, he wanted Gene Hackman (who would have been amazing), but the acting legend had no desire to come out of retirement for the role. Dern should be a capable stand-in, though his most-recognizable on-screen role as of late has been part of HBO’s Big Love ensemble.
Forte, to me, is the wild card. You’ve seen MacGruber. You know he can be funny. But Payne’s leads often have to dig to find melodramatic pathos in the touchingly humorous insights, and Forte hasn’t really attempted that yet. Instead, he has played a cross-dresser on 30 Rock and Ted Turner on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show.
Still, Payne often has a real “eye” for casting, and if he trusts in Forte for the role, expect it to work splendidly. Deadline says nothing has been finalized yet, but Payne and Paramount are negotiating. We’ll see what happens.