Nebraska Information

Nebraska is a 2013 American drama road film starring Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb and Bob Odenkirk. It is directed by Alexander Payne and written by Bob Nelson. It was released on November 15, 2013. It was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, where Bruce Dern won the Best Actor Award. It has been also nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Payne, Best Actor for Dern, Best Supporting Actress for Squibb, Best Original Screenplay for Nelson and Best Cinematography for Papamichael.


Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is found walking in Billings traffic and stopped by a police officer. He is picked up by his son, David (Will Forte), who learns that Woody wants to go to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect a $1 million sweepstakes prize he has won. When David sees the sweepstakes letter, he realizes that it is a mail scam to make a person purchase magazine subscriptions. He returns Woody to his home, where David's mother Kate (June Squibb) becomes annoyed by Woody insisting on collecting his money. This happens again with David being disrupted at his job as a stereo salesman. He and his brother Ross (Bob Odenkirk), a local news anchor, discuss putting Woody in a retirement home. David is later paid a visit by his ex-girlfriend Noel (Missy Doty), who is returning his things, and refuses to move back in. Their conversation is cut short by a call from David's mother reporting that his father has left yet again. David retrieves Woody and decides to drive Woody to Lincoln, much to Kate's dismay.

Upon arriving in a town on the way, Woody disappears and goes on a drinking bender. He returns to their hotel room and falls, hitting his head on the dresser. David wakes to this, takes him to the hospital for stitches and realizes that Woody has lost his dentures. They retrace Woody's steps to some train tracks where they locate his dentures, which Woody unceremoniously puts back in his mouth. While Woody was in the hospital, David had notified the family and plans were made for a reunion in Woody's hometown.

They arrive in Woody's hometown of "Hawthorne," set in Madison County, Nebraska. They have lunch with Woody's brother Ray (Rance Howard) and his family. Woody and David spend time catching up with the other family members. They go to the main street and visit a mechanic shop Woody used to own and then to the local bar. When David brings up Woody's alcoholism and problems within the family"?with Woody stating that he did not love his wife nor really want children"?they get into an argument, which makes Woody leave. When Woody sees another bar on the street they decide to go in. They encounter Woody's old business partner, Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), whom the family blames for stealing Woody's air compressor decades ago. Against David's recommendation, Woody mentions winning the money and the customers of the bar give him a toast. The next morning, they learn that the news has spread through the town.

They drive to the bus station to pick up Kate, who is joining in on the reunion. Kate takes Woody and David to the cemetery to pay respects to relatives past and provides some colorful history on Woody's relatives and their behavior. While later having dinner at a restaurant, Ed, who is singing karaoke, alerts the diners to their presence. When David goes to the bathroom, Ed approaches him about some money Ed loaned Woody several years ago that hasn't been re-paid and asks him to pay the money soon. He gives a not so subtle warning of legal action. David also meets with the local newspaper owner who had been planning a story on Woody to tell her the truth about the "sweepstakes." He discovers that she is an ex-girlfriend of his father and learns a little more about his dad, including how he was affected when he came back from the Korean War.

The rest of Woody's family, including Ross, come to visit him. Woody's nephews, Cole and Bart (Devin Ratray and Tim Driscoll), and other relatives approach David and Ross about getting some money that they believe Woody owed them and a fight begins. But the fight ends abruptly with Kate calling out the relatives for unpaid debts they owe Woody. David, Kate, Ross and Woody tour Woody's childhood home, which has fallen into disarray and neglect. They drive past a house Kate says is Ed's, and David and Ross elect to steal back the air compressor. However, Kate comes to realize that the house actually belongs to another couple, whom Kate distracts when they arrive home as David and Ross are returning the air compressor.

At the bar, Woody and David run into Ed, who in the midst of asking Woody for the money reveals that Woody cheated on Kate before David's birth. When leaving the bar, they are attacked by a masked Bart and Cole who steal the sweepstakes letter and take off. When David later confronts them, they insult him and Woody and state that they threw it away after finding out there was no prize money. David and Woody go searching for it and learn that Ed has it and is reading it out to the bar customers, attempting to humiliate Woody. Woody takes the letter back and David punches Ed. Woody had told anyone who asked that he wanted to buy a truck with the money. David presses him about this since Woody cannot drive anymore, to which Woody replies that he also wanted to leave something for his family when he passes. David tells Woody that they aren't going to Lincoln, at which point Woody collapses and David takes him to the hospital. In the middle of the night, Woody abruptly leaves and starts walking. David again agrees to take Woody to Lincoln.

They arrive at the marketing agency to collect the money, where they discover that Woody did not win. He is, however, given a prize winner hat. Before they leave Lincoln, David goes to a car dealership and sells his car to buy Woody a truck. He also buys him a new air compressor. David has Woody drive the truck up and down Hawthorne's Lucas Street for all to see. Among them is the former flame of Woody's who smiles at him, a perplexed Ed with a black eye, and his brother Albert, who he waves goodbye to. Woody drives the truck out of town, then stops in the road and switches seats with David who drives them home.


  • Bruce Dern as Woody Grant
  • Will Forte as David Grant, Woody's youngest son
  • June Squibb as Kate Grant, Woody's wife, mother of Ross and David
  • Bob Odenkirk as Ross Grant, Woody's oldest son
  • Stacy Keach as Ed Pegram, Woody's old business partner
  • Mary Louise Wilson as Aunt Martha, Woody's sister-in-law
  • Missy Doty as Noel, David's girlfriend
  • Angela McEwan as Pegy Nagy, a former girlfriend of Woody's
  • Rance Howard as Uncle Ray, one of Woody's brothers
  • Devin Ratray as Cole, one of Woody's nephews
  • Tim Driscoll as Bart, one of Woody's nephews
  • Roger Stuckwisch as Karaoke Singer
  • Melinda Simonsen as the Receptionist in the contest office in Lincoln
  • Terry Kotrous as Sheriff



While in production on About Schmidt, Alexander Payne was given Bob Nelson's screenplay by producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, asking him to recommend a director. He asked to direct it himself but didn't want to follow-up one road trip movie, Sideways (on which he was in pre-production), with another. He decided to wait until after completing The Descendants to pick up this project. This was the first film of Payne's in which he was not directly involved in the screenwriting, and he rewrote only a few things prior to the beginning of filming.

Screenwriter Bob Nelson appears as an extra in a restaurant scene.


After first reading the script, Payne thought of Bruce Dern for the role of the elderly father Woody Grant. As casting for the film began, Payne met with more than 50 actors. Because Paramount demanded a big star, Gene Hackman, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Forster were initially short listed for the role. Hackman has retired, and Payne eventually considered Dern again. The director chose this actor because, as he said:

Well, he"?s of the right age now and he can be both ingenuous and ornery. And he"?s a cool actor. And in a contextual level I haven"?t seen on the big screen a great Bruce Dern performance in a few years and I"?m curious to see what he can do. He"?s a helluva nice guy as well.
The role of son David Grant was desired by several notable Hollywood actors. Bryan Cranston read for the role but Payne considered him a bad fit. Other considered candidates for the role included Paul Rudd, Casey Affleck, and Matthew Modine, who spoke publicly of being considered. Ultimately Payne selected Will Forte, despite rumors that a high-profile actor was wanted. Payne stated he cast the comedian because:

Will Forte, physically, I believed could be the son of Bruce Dern and June Squibb (who plays Woody"?s long-suffering wife, Kate). and then I just believe him as a guy I would know around Omaha or meet in Billings. He has a very, very believable quality. And I also think for the character of David he is capable of communicating a certain wide-eyed quality toward life and also damage - like he"?s been damaged somehow, somewhere.


The film was shot in black and white because Payne said he wanted to produce an "iconic, archetypal look". According to cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, the choice was to use "the poetic power of the black and white in combination with these landscapes and of course the landscapes are playing a huge role in this story". The choice of black and white was made against distributor Paramount Vantage's wishes. The film was shot with Arri Alexa digital cameras and Panavision C-Series anamorphic lenses.

Nebraska started filming in locations in its namesake state in November 2012. Filming moved to Billings, Montana; Buffalo, Wyoming; and Rapid City, South Dakota and wrapped in December after a 35-day shoot. Nebraska communities where filming took place include Allen, Battle Creek, Elgin, Hooper, Lincoln, Lyons, Madison, Norfolk, Osmond, Pierce, Plainview, Stanton and Tilden. The premiere in the namesake state was in Norfolk on November 25, 2013.

Payne has claimed that a color version was created in an effort to satisfy distributor Paramount Vantage's concerns, but that he hopes no one ever sees it.


The film score to Nebraska was composed by Tin Hat member Mark Orton. The score also includes performances by other members of Tin Hat, providing the first time the three original members have reunited since 2005. A soundtrack album was released on November 19, 2013, by Milan Records.


Upon its world premiere at the 66th Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2013, Nebraska was met with broadly positive reviews, with Dern's performance being highly acclaimed. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 184 reviews with a "Certified Fresh" rating, with an average score of 4/5. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 based on reviews from critics, the film has a score of 86 (citing "universal acclaim") based on 45 reviews.

In his review following the Cannes Film Festival, Robbie Collin at The Daily Telegraph gave the film four stars out of five, describing it as "a bittersweet elegy for the American extended family, shot in a crisp black-and-white that chimes neatly with the film"?s concern for times long past." He also said the film was "a resounding return to form for Payne". Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian wrote that Payne had "returned to a more natural and personal movie language" and praised Bruce Dern's performance. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal noted that "Bruce Dern's portrait of the boozy old coot is a wonder, as well as the capstone, thus far, of that singular actor's career."


Main article: List of accolades received by Nebraska (film)
Nebraska has received several awards and nominations since its release. The American Film Institute included it in their Top Ten Films of the Year. The cast won Best Ensemble from the Boston Society of Film Critics, while Squibb won Best Supporting Actress. Nebraska has received five Golden Globe Award nominations. It also earned six nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards. Dern and Forte won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively at the National Board of Review. Nebraska has gathered three Satellite Award nominations and has won Best Cast. The film received two nominations from the Screen Actors Guild Awards.


Nebraska was rated R by the MPAA for "some language"; this resulted in mild controversy, with some claiming it had been rated too strongly. Both Payne and the film's distributor, Paramount Pictures, filed for an appeal that would have re-rated the film PG-13, although the appeal failed.

See also

  • List of black-and-white films produced since 1970

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