With “The Descendants” in the bag, having done its festival tour of duty and likely headed right into some awards season recognition, Alexander Payne — who hasn’t helmed a feature length film since “Sideways” seven years ago — isn’t wasting anymore time and is quickly moving into his next feature.
“Nebraska” has been a project brewing since 2004 when the script by Robert Nelson was brought to Payne by Bona Fide producers Alex Berger and Ron Yerxa (the team behind “Little Children,” “Election,” “Little Miss Sunshine”) Payne liked the material, but having just come off “Sideways” and “About Schmidt” — back-to-back road trip movies — he wasn’t ready to dive into it straightaway and put it to the side. Well, with the father figure relationship tale “The Descendants” out of the way, Payne is headed back to “Nebraska” except, it might not be called that at all.
Payne tells Empire he’s likely going to give the movie a new name, and with filming set to start in April, it’s likely we’ll find out soon enough. However, the big task at hand is still to cast the movie. Last we heard, the black and white film (which will be color for television is broadcasters require) was hunting for a name brand leading man to help get the low budget movie made. Even though it’s set up Paramount, since everyone is focused on tentpoles these days, even getting a $10 million movie off the ground requires some hoop jumping. Gene Hackman, Robert Forster, Jack Nicholson and Robert Duvall are all said to be candidates for the lead role of an elderly, aloholic father who thinks he’s won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes and takes a ride with his son to cash the winnings. Even with filming starting soon on the to be renamed “Nebraska,” Payne has his eye on his next movie after that.
Last fall you’ll remember that Payne signed on to direct an adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic “Wilson.” Payne was just getting ready to get into “The Descendants” at the time, but like any project he works on (or anybody in Hollywood really) development started and it hasn’t been forgotten (for comparison sake, “The Descendants” first start moving all the way back in 2006). Well, Clowes has finished writing the screenplay and Payne says, “[Daniel] has adapted his own graphic novel for me and we’re going to set it in Oakland, California.”
“Wilson” tells the story a middle-aged loner whose father dies, setting him out to find his ex-wife in hopes of rekindling their long dead relationship. In the process, he discovers he has a teen daughter, who was born after the marriage ended and given up for adoption. Familiar territory of frayed relationships for the director, but perhaps there might be one he’ll get to first. There’s his long developing “Downsizing,” what Payne has described as his “expensive” and “epic masterpiece” that he recently said was “still a couple years away.” Maybe the two-fer of “The Descendants” and “Nebraska” can get it moving? We’ll see.
“The Descendants” opens on November 16th.