Cannes: Dern a leading man again in 'Nebraska'
Actor Bruce Dern poses for a portrait at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 24, 2013. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP)
CANNES, France (AP) — For the aging, gruff patriarch of his father-son road trip "Nebraska," Alexander Payne tried to lure Gene Hackman out of retirement and considered the likes of Robert Duvall and Jack Nicholson. Bruce Dern calls them "the obvious guys."
"He said to me, 'I got an idea. Let's surprise them with you,'" Dern recalled of learning from Payne that he had the part. Payne, he says, continued: "'You haven't done this. You haven't done anything like this. Let's have fun. Let's knock their socks off.'"
Though the part, reticent and cantankerous, isn't the typical socks-knocking kind of stuff, Dern's unadorned portrait has been one of the most hailed performances at the Cannes Film Festival, where the black-and-white "Nebraska" premiered to warm reviews Thursday. For Dern, whose days as a leading man were largely in the 1970s, working with Payne on "Nebraska" was deeply meaningful.
"All during your career, you look for a certain kind of security from the people you're working with, people that believe you're talented, that you can do what you can do," says the 76-year-old Dern, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 1978's "Coming Home." ''I've been overrated sometimes and I've been underrated, probably more than I've been overrated."
Actor Bruce Dern poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Nebraska at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Dern is an eager storyteller, and during an interview Friday, his conversation took detour upon detour, ranging from the directions of Alfred Hitchcock to how best to cheat at boarding school. His co-star in "Nebraska," the former "Saturday Night Live" player Will Forte, calls him, with understatement, "a bit of a talker."
In the film, Dern stars as Woody Grant, a retired, alcoholic veteran showing signs of senility. When he receives a mass mailing promising him a $1 million award, he sets out down the road from his Montana home to collect it in person in Nebraska. His son (Forte) placates him by driving him, including a stop his father's old hometown: "The guy needs something to live for," says the son.
It's a sweet but unsentimental tale of a son giving his father a sense of decency late in life. It will be released in November by Paramount Pictures amid the fall award season.