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In his dark, two-tone blue cardigan, smart black penny loafers and professional side parting, he could be, what? Since his insightfully intelligent dark-chocolate eyes don’t miss a trick, I’m betting he’s the kind of fella who goes to parties mainly to people-watch. ’ he admits, confessing how he will often ‘store’ a party in his ‘well of knowledge’ for when he needs to direct a party scene in the future. ‘Breaking Bad, Mad Men – that constantly peeling onion of character and story, which is so delightful.
Like all Payne’s films, from Citizen Ruth (1996) and Election (1999) onwards, Nebraska is an understated, bittersweet comedy rooted in wry character observation. [But] there is something to be said for compressed narrative.
‘I am happy to cast famous people, if they are right for the part,’ Payne explains.
‘It means I have more budget and the studio breathes easier.
But, to me, casting is the most important component after the screenplay.
To cast this person over that simply because Person A is more famous during the six-month to one-year period you are trying to make the film appals me.
Boat work is car work on steroids.' " George Clooney, the star of Payne's new movie might have been small -- a grieving father and his two daughters floating in a canoe off Oahu's Waikiki Beach -- but it required tons of heavy equipment and 40 crewmembers on several boats rocking in big swells, not to mention a preteen actress in a meltdown and seasick focus pullers.
Shailene Woodley, 19, and Amara Miller, 11, who play King's daughters, flew to Oahu 10 days before the 10-week shoot to develop a believable family dynamic with Clooney.
‘I never tailor a part – even for George Clooney or Jack Nicholson [who scored a late-career best actor Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination in Payne’s 2002 film About Schmidt].
I ask that they come to the part as though they were real actors.’ It pays off.
Shot on location just two-and-a-half hours’ drive from where he grew up, and using an extensive bit-parts cast of non-actors, it deals with ageing parents and feels like Payne’s most personal film to date – ironic given it’s the first of his six features he didn’t write himself. ‘I have read thousands of scripts in the 20 years since I graduated from film schools but I never found anything I have wanted to direct until I read Bob Nelson’s script. And unless I receive another such wonderful offer, I will have to begin writing in January.’ Meanwhile there’s the long-cherished ‘sprawling project’ about over-population that accounts for the seven-year delay between Sideways and The Descendants. And television can’t really achieve, visually, the scale or scope of cinema. People say “oh, television is dying” this, “oh, watching films on your i Pod” that.
‘It is the grandmama of all our world ills,’ Payne declares sternly. We should kidnap the Pope and hold a gun to his head.’ Payne has no children. And by deliberately forging his own groove, sticking to low budgets (Nebraska cost just million) that allow him creative autonomy, Payne remains optimistic about the future – of cinema, at least. You still have to take a pretty girl somewhere on a Friday night.
He and Payne loved it and optioned it through their Fox Searchlight deal a week before it hit bookstore shelves, though at the time they only intended to serve as producers.