This Oscar season has two impending heavyweights in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and the black-and-white The Artist, but the latter’s chiaroscuro color scheme hasn’t made things any easier for Payne’s new post-Descendants project. Vulture chatted briefly with Payne this week to get an update on Nebraska, his project about a geriatric gin-hound of a dad who takes his estranged son with him from Montana to Publisher’s Clearing House headquarters — with a detour through Omaha, Nebraska — in order to claim his million-dollar sweepstakes prize. In August, Payne was in the midst of casting the Paramount project with an eye toward shooting next April when the studio nixed its $20 million budget because Payne insisted on shooting the film entirely in black-and-white. (“There’s a lot more to like about it besides its chroma,” Payne insists.) He eventually won the battle against color, but only after agreeing to first both secure a big-name actor to play the boozy father and trim the budget down to a more sober $10 million or so.
Payne remains mum on Nebraska casting, which he says will start in earnest early next month, but insiders tell us that names on his and Paramount’s short list include the supposedly retired Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Robert Forster (who appears in Payne’s The Descendants and whom you’ll probably best remember from his brilliant turn in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown), and, of course, Payne’s old About Schmidt collaborator Jack Nicholson.