Anna Lisa Raya is Deputy Editor of AwardsLine.
Following their success working with breakout directors on sophomore efforts—Steven Soderbergh, Todd Field and Alexander Payne among them— Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa were pleasantly surprised when Payne suggested himself to direct the Bob Nelson-penned Nebraska. Almost a decade passed before the film went into production, a fortuitous delay that positioned the black-and-white film directly after Payne’s Oscar-nominated The Descendants, giving it a much-needed bump in budget and studio support. Nebraska stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte as a father and son road-tripping through the Midwest.
AwardsLine: How has your collaborative process with Alexander Payne changed since you worked with him on Election?
ALBERT BERGER: At the time of Election, it was Alexander’s first studio movie, and I think he was very unused to that process—he’s a very personal filmmaker and working with a studio wasn’t his natural thing. At this point in time, with Sideways and About Schmidt and The Descendants all under his belt, Paramount had a level of faith in him; it was a much more relaxed situation. Nobody was telling him who to cast in this instance; nobody was interfering with anything creative about the script.
RON YERXA: All parties matured nicely, and it was a calmer, troublefree way to make a film.
AwardsLine: What were the initial budget conversations like with the studio?
BERGER: We always knew it had to be a small movie because the material was intimate. And we know the way Alexander likes to cast: He reads everybody and casts whoever is best for the part instead of (casting) people with foreign-sales value. So we knew that he was going to cast whoever he wanted, and we knew he wanted to film in black and white. We set it up at Paramount Classics, and they accepted it in black and white, but subsequently they went out of business and became Paramount Vantage. (Then Vantage) went out of business (more…)