By J. Rentilly
JUST WHEN WE thought we had figured out
Will Forte—an eight-year vet of Saturday
Night Live—the 43-year-old actor reinvents
himself with a quiet, poignant performance in
Alexander Payne’s heartfelt Nebraska, nominated for six Academy Awards, and out on
DVD this month. According to Payne, Forte
was cast for his sense of “wonder and damage.”
“It’s just so different from anything I’ve
ever done,” says Forte, whose performance has
been lauded by the National Board of Review
and the Independent Spirit Awards. “It was
really a dream job, and a chance to try something brand-new.”
The Costco Connection: Nebraska is a film
about the difficult relationship between the son
you play and his father, played by Bruce Dern.
Has your father seen the film?
Will Forte: Yes, he has. My whole family
came out for a screening in Northern
California, and we watched it together. It was
a very special experience to share this particular film with them. They’ve been so supportive of me through the years. I’ve made them
watch so many disgusting, horrible things
that I’ve done in the movies that it was really
nice to share something like this with them.
CC: What personal impact did making this
movie have on your life?
WF: I think I’ve always been a very good son.
I have very good and wonderful parents, and I
treat them with the love and respect they’ve
always treated me with. But making this movie
made me want to be an even better son.
CC: Do eight years on Saturday Night Live pre-
pare you for making a film like Nebraska?
WF: They’re incredibly different experiences,
that’s for sure. Saturday Night Live is just a
sprint from Monday to Saturday and you get
one chance to get it right. It’s super exciting
and you’re running on adrenaline and you’re
hoping for the best. Making a movie, you have
more time, you have more takes, but you have
to work to keep your energy up and consis-
tent. At the same time, they’re not as different
as you might think. You’re still learning lines
and doing make-believe in front of a camera.
CC: When you were cast in Nebraska, you
went through a period of extreme self-doubt.
How did you work your way through that?
WF: It’s just this thing I do, part of my process
as a human being. I kind of cripple myself with
self-doubt, I overthink everything, and then I
actually have to go do the thing and it’s never
as terrible or terrifying as I imagined. (Laughs)
In fact, with Nebraska, it was the most comfortable, gratifying experience I’ve ever had.
CC: Making this film, you spent three weeks of
12-hour days in a car with the legendary Bruce
Dern. What did you learn from him?
WF: Bruce would always give me this advice:
“Be in the moment. Just find the truth of the
scene.” I’m not a trained actor, so that just
seemed like drama school hogwash, but the
further we got into the movie, it really made a
lot of sense to me, and then I started thinking,
maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do in comedy too. The truths might be very different,
the levels of reality might be different, but you
have to commit 100 percent either way.
CC: You came to the world of performance later
in life. You were working at a brokerage firm
well into your 20s. Tell me about that.
WF: That’s what my dad did, so I figured it’s
what I should do too. I didn’t know what I
really wanted to do, or maybe I did and was
just afraid to go after it. So I decided to do
what Dad did. After a while, I realized I had
to try the acting thing.
CC: Kurt Vonnegut said, “If you want to really
hurt your parents … go into the arts.”
WF: (Laughs) I’ve gotten so much unconditional love and support from my family my
whole life. I had a very happy childhood, and
without that I never would’ve been able to do
comedy. The minute I told them I was going
to give comedy a try, they couldn’t have been
more excited for me. If my family hadn’t been
accepting of my desire to do comedy, I don’t
know that I would’ve taken a chance on any
CC: With Nebraska, it looks as though you’re
embarking on a new chapter in your career.
WF: I went into the whole Nebraska audition
process figuring I would never, ever get a shot
at playing this character. The script was so
beautiful. I’m such a huge fan of Alexander
Payne’s work. I figured this was way out of my
league. I didn’t figure anyone would take me
seriously for something like this. But there was
something about the character that felt very
familiar to me, and it turned out to be this
dream job. I’m hoping there will be some
other great roles around the corner for me. C
J. Rentilly is a Los Angeles–based writer.
Will Forte gets serious in Nebraska
Bruce Dern (left) and Will Forte play
father and son, chasing pipe dreams
Nebraska is available
HD combo packs in
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