Alexander Payne to shoot ‘Nebraska’ movie around Norfolk

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Movie director Alexander Payne said Wednesday that Norfolk, Neb., will be a production hub for filming his next movie, “Nebraska.”

Payne, an Oscar winner and Omaha native, said filming locations were still being chosen, but he was “pretty sure” he’d be shooting in nearby Plainview and Stanton, Neb., once the seven-week shoot begins Oct. 15. Those towns would serve as the movie’s fictional town of Hawthorne, Neb.

“We’ll be going back and forth between Norfolk and Omaha until Labor Day, then pretty much be located in northeastern Nebraska,” he told The World-Herald.

Payne said he expected to shoot for a day or two in Lincoln, a couple days in Norfolk “and the rest in small towns orbiting Norfolk.” Former city offices in the Norfolk City Auditorium will become the film crew’s headquarters.

Dennis Houston, president of the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber intends to throw a welcoming party soon after Labor Day as the film crew moves into town.

The black-and-white film will star Bruce Dern as a cantankerous father who wants his estranged son, played by Will Forte, to take him from Montana to Lincoln to claim a sweepstakes prize. Bob Odenkiirk plays Dern’s older son, and Stacy Keach will appear as an old colleague of Dern’s character, Payne said.

Payne said casting was going well and might be completed by mid-September. Casting director John Jackson said about 24 speaking roles remain to be filled.

Payne will preside over auditions Aug. 28 in Omaha for 20 or more people chosen for callbacks after they were videotaped reading for Jackson. More than 3,800 have applied on the Internet to play roles or be extras.

Not all the roles will be cast on the 28th, Jackson said. Residents of the Norfolk area who are interested in appearing as extras or in speaking roles can still email a recent photo and contact information to nebraska.casting@gmail.com.

Jackson said Payne has also expressed interest in actress June Squibb, who played Jack Nicholson’s wife in “About Schmidt,” to play Dern’s wife in “Nebraska.” A contract has not been finalized.

“The whole process of casting continues,” Jackson said, “and people here will still very much be a part of that.”

Payne said things are coming together steadily as the shooting date approaches.

“All I’m doing now is locations and casting — harvesting the items to put in front of the camera — and having a lot of fun,” he said.

Payne filmed his first three features in his home state: “Citizen Ruth,” “Election” and “About Schmidt.” His last two films, “Sideways” and “The Descendants,” were filmed in California wine country and in Hawaii, respectively.

At a press conference in Norfolk on Wednesday, Payne said he was proud to return to Nebraska.

“There was just something very important to me about the feeling of Nebraska, and just being here,” Payne said.

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