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Alexander Payne at the 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon

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The 2014 Oscar Nominees Luncheon took place Feb. 10 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. Nominees gathered to have lunch, pose for photos, receive their official Academy Award nomination certificate, and do interviews. (The 86th annual Oscar ceremony takes place March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. ABC has the live U.S. telecast of the show at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST.) Here is what this Oscar nominee said when doing a brief press conference interview in the Oscar Nominees Luncheon’s press room.

ALEXANDER PAYNE

Nominated for:
Best Director
(“Nebraska”)

You’ve said in interviews that Bruce Dern didn’t immediately come to our mind to cast in the lead role in “Nebraska,” and that you had other actors in mind. Who were they?

Not better than Bruce, but they readily came to mind: Henry Fonda and Walter Brennan and Percy Kilbride. Warren Oates if he lived, he would have been good for the part, but not as good as Bruce. I have to say that, but I mean it.

There were some great scenes in “Nebraska” with people who only had a few lines? Where did you find those people?

Locals. Thanks for asking. Possibly fully half of the speaking parts in the film are from non-actors: people from rural Nebraska and Iowa. You ask, “Is it difficult?” It’s like law school: It’s not difficult; it’s just time-consuming. So it took about a year of casting and putting the word out on rural radio and small-town newspapers and getting the word out, especially in getting the retired farmers.

But for example, then guy who comes up to [Bruce Dern] at the bus stop, he’s never been an actor before. He answered a notice in the Des Moines register. He’s from Des Moines, Iowa, and we fitted in his scenes between kidney dialysis. He’s been dialysis ever other day for almost 40 years. So everybody’s got a story. We made it work, because that guy is so good. He’s like from a Preston Sturges movie, that guy.

What was your inspiration for “Nebraska”?

That’s always a hard question to answer. I just liked the screenplay. I didn’t write the script. It’s the first [movie] I directed that I didn’t write. I just liked the deadpan humor and the sadness underneath and the austerity and that it was about kindness. I like it when movies are about kindness.

By the way, I just saw the Oscar-nominated short documentaries yesterday, and they are fantastic! And I recommend watching the Oscar-nominated short documentaries.

That’s it. No concrete film inspired it necessarily. And I was inspired a little bit too by own relationship with my own aging parents. A lot of us are going through it right now.

For more info: Academy Awards website

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