Last week, I was given the opportunity to sit down with many of the folks involved in Alexander Payne‘s new film Nebraska. I spoke to a number of cast members as well as scribe Bob Nelson, and I’ll be bringing you those later this week, but I wanted to start with my really enjoyable chat with Will Forte. He’s easily one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and it started before the interview ever got underway. I was waiting in Paramount’s offices and Forte walked in, stopping to say hi to me as he headed inside to get settled. He didn’t know me from Adam, didn’t know I was his first interview of the morning, just that I was there and he wanted to say hello. That helped set the tone for the day to come, though I wasn’t expecting as many laughs as we shared. Below you can see our conversation, where we talk Nebraska, working with the legendary Bruce Dern, and lots of other things…including Capri Sun. Enjoy, and stay tuned for my other interviews later on next week. Here you go:
Joey Magidson: So, I keep hearing what a nice guy you are.
Will Forte: Oh shit!
JM: I know, a lot to live up to.
JM: One of my friends in the business, Mike Ryan…
WF: Oh, he’s wonderful, he’s wonderful.
JM: I actually also have an old friend who is a costume design intern I think, and she said you were great. And also that you’d recognize her as a girl with purple hair.
WF: Hmm, girl with purple hair…oh, I know who you’re talking about!
WF: My brain is not with me.
JM: Neither of us have had a lot of sleep.
JM: So, you’re in this movie Nebraska.
WF: Wait, what? (laughs)
JM: Yes, with Alexander Payne even directing.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that during this whole time there was a consistent banging sound in the room we were talking in. I tried to ask a few questions, mainly about him getting cast in the role instead of certain other folks, and he tried to answer, but we were both so distracted that Will suggested we try to find another space.
WF: Do you want to go somewhere else? This sound is crazy.
JM: Well, I don’t want to get in trouble, but if you’re leading, I’m following.
WF: Yeah, let’s go somewhere else.
JM: I guess you noticed how distracted I was?
WF: No! You were great, I was…(laughs), it’s crazy in there.
After the girls at Paramount found us a different room to talk in, the interview continued…
WF: Oh, this is much better.
JM: Yes, so, I was struggling to get out a question about you getting this part over people like Casey Affleck and Paul Rudd.
WF: Hang on, lemme close the door, since we’re going to go deep! I didn’t know much at all about the casting process, I mean, I have been involved in the industry for a while just as a writer, then went to SNL, and somehow just don’t really know anything about all of this (laughs). I mean, my agent will tell me that this person is the head of this, and I just never really logged that stuff in my brain. But overall, the feeling was, looking at this movie, I definitely knew who Alexander Payne is! I read the script and thought about what an amazing script it was, and you know, I don’t know who else was up for the part, but I knew there was a bunch of other people and there was no way I’d ever get it. Actually, I almost didn’t even submit a tape, and I’m just happy that I did, since it’s been an amazing experience. I was just as surprised as everyone else when I got cast!
JM: I feel like some of those other names are bullshit sometimes…
WF: I mean, I haven’t really ever asked, well briefly once I talked to Alexander about it, and I don’t think, I mean I didn’t even ask him, he just brought up other people he had been thinking about. It was some names that people had been talking about, but also some that no one had talked about. And I will not disclose it!
JM: On the train ride over I had looked up the rumored names of other folks, and they do strike me as partially ones generated just to build buzz on whatever end.
WF: You know, I hear those names and I think those guys would have been great and I have no idea what made him go with me.
JM: Well it worked.
WF: I’m so happy that he did!
JM: I think it works also because people don’t have any set expectations in terms of what you would bring to a role like this.
WF: Yeah, you’re probably right.
JM: You know, you see X, Y, and Z actor and think about how they kind of set you up with certain expectations…
WF: I bring with it a set of low expectations! (laughs)
JM: Hey, you were the one at the New York Film Festival joking that Bruce and June and Alexander kept referring to you as not a real actor! (that was a joking response by Will to the other folks talking about the non-actors cast in supporting parts) Honestly, I don’t think it’s low expectations…maybe just seeing you exercise a different acting muscle?
WF: It has been just an amazing experience. Yeah, this script was just, everything that surrounded me just made it easier than it should have been. Once I got out of my head and stopped worrying about all the things that I couldn’t control…
JM: I do that too!
WF: Oh my god! Yeah, I am the worst! So, after that part was over, which didn’t end because of me, it ended because Alexander and Bruce and everyone else were so nice to me and made me feel really comfortable. If I’m left to my own devices I will just drive myself crazy, so they were good about putting the brakes on my crazy train.
JM: I was about to say, if everything else wasn’t enough, acting against Bruce Dern…
WF: Oh, I know. Absolutely! Every time I would hear another piece of the puzzle it would both excite me, because all of the decisions seemed to be working perfectly, but it also terrified me because I’d go “oh no, what if I’m the one who drags this wonderful movie down!”. So it’s this weird pressure I put on myself in that waiting period before production.
JM: I think what you brought to the role is one of the reasons why the movie is as good as it is. Everything feels realistic, both the comedy and the drama.
WF: Definitely. While I haven’t really done anything like this before, but the character, when I read it, was the closest to me as a person as anything I’d ever done, so it was in a way, that made it, you know, I knew what was to be done. At the same time, it was hard, because it made you feel very vulnerable, um, in a way that I’m not used to feeling. Usually, you’re hiding behind some kind of mustachioed character. You know, it’s amazing how different you can feel when you have a mustache on, or you know, if you’re wearing a wig or something. When you’re being a normal person though and acting like you act in your everyday life, it’s oddly very scary and difficult.
JM: I can imagine. I think it comes back to how every element of the film is reliant on another. Bruce Dern is amazing in the film, but Woody as a character is nothing without his son, your character. And for David, as fascinating as he is, he doesn’t have a movie without his father, just like Alexander doesn’t have a movie without Bob’s script, and so on. It’s this weird, not house of cards, but group effort. It’s interesting, though there’s no question there I’m realizing…
WF: (laughing) No, I know what you mean. That’s one of things that made me nervous about it, realizing that this script is so beautifully written and all these characters are weaved together in such a way that one rotten apple could ruin the barrel…or whatever that saying is. That’s the first time I’ve ever used that, and I’m excited to do it with you!
WF: I wanted to, as Bruce says, pull my oar. It was scary too, because that was a boat I was not used to being in, to go with another stupid analogy. I’m sorry!
JM: That’s awesome though…
WF: This is my first cup of coffee though! It’s my first cup and this is a two cup day…
JM: I’ve just had a Capri Sun Lemonade.
WF: Oh my god! I have such feelings of delight with Capri Sun, except that I also have the bad memories of when you freeze them and cut yourself on the sides…
JM: I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t open one on the train…
JM: You just can’t get it, the little hole…it’s a mess.
WF: That’s good you’re wearing dark pants then!
JM: (laughing) To go back to words you never use, to keep up with you, I’m going to use a word I never use too. How about…ballyhoo?
JM: Moving on!
WF: I appreciate its use!
JM: I think, in the end, since I think our time is almost up, the movie is just really good, and you’re really good in it…
WF: Oh thank you. It has really just been such an honor to be in this movie. I’m proud of the stuff I’ve done, even the stuff people wouldn’t think you should be proud of, I’m, just all the choices I’ve made I’m happy with and I have no regrets, but you know, to be a part of something like this…I just never thought I’d get a chance to be a part of something like this, so it’s very special.
JM: It’s well deserved, and I think they’re coming to kick us out now…
(someone walked in then to tell us that time was up, but Will actually wanted to keep going)
WF: Well, there were some parts, we started late because of the banging, so if you want to keep going, we totally can. (to the Paramount rep) We’re just in mid question…
JM: Alright, well, to wrap it up…
WF: (laughing) Get to the point man!
JM: Movie’s good and you guys are going to show up in the Oscar race, so keep up the good work!
WF: It’s been so wonderful getting to see Bruce during this process, since we got to be very close during the making of this movie, much closer than I ever thought, and so to get to watch him do that performance, see how it came together, and now to get to see him get all this wonderful recognition, it’s been the best thing of all time. It’s just the friggin greatest thing of all time, and he’s such a different person from the guy in the movie, I can’t wait for you to talk to him! He’s just this vibrant character.
JM: I hope I don’t embarrass myself…
WF: He tells the greatest stories too! To see him just transform when the camera turned on, it was just a real treat and an honor to go through that experience with him, so I’m just so excited for him, for what a kick-ass job he did.
JM: Awesome, and congrats again!
We then just sort of chatted off the record a bit about random things, but it was just a wonderful time. Will Forte is just the nicest man, so much so that at the end of the day, he came up and hugged me, which rarely happens during a press day.
Nebraska is out now in limited release, so be sure to see it…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!