Home  >  Movies & TV

Screen Shots

Taking aim at the best and worst of movies and television.

Five questions with Alexander Payne

Posted 12:00am on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013

Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne is equal parts filmmaker and film buff.

The Omaha-born filmmaker, for example, found time while premiering his latest, Nebraska, at the Cannes Film Festival to see 10 other films (including the four-hour Cleopatra restoration). And he chased that with a five-day moviegoing binge in Paris.

Payne, 52, who has an elegant manner to match his refined tastes, frequents film festivals. He habitually programs repertory theaters. He filled a recent sleepless night with F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu, which he hadn’t seen.

With the release of his black-and-white, father-son road trip film Nebraska, the director reflects on his life at the movies.

1 Where did your love for movies begin?

Growing up in Omaha in the ’60s and ’70s, we could see foreign films all the time. … Then when we were teenagers, because it was in my neighborhood, we could walk to the university and see 16mm prints of second-run foreign films on Friday nights. At 16, we were watching The Night Porter and Amarcord and Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I was always in search of silent film.

2 Some critics have questioned whether there’s sometimes an ironic distance between you and your characters.

Not in my heart. I find often, not always, that those who accuse me of making fun of the characters are themselves the most arrogant. Not always, but often.

3 Do you watch films with your crew while prepping a film?

During pre-production, I have movie night at my house. We start about 10 or 12 weeks out with just a few of us, and by a week or two before shooting, my house is jam-packed with crew members. It’s pizza, salad, wine and beer. And that’s it. Sometimes during post, I do Friday-night movie night with martinis.

4 How do you consider this era? Many have pointed this year to Steven Spielberg saying Hollywood’s blockbuster-heavy business is headed for “implosion.”

If that’s true that some of the old-growth forest, the big, big trees, are toppling over, well, too bad for them. But on the other hand, maybe some new growth can sprout up. I’m all for — this is my mantra — the $20-$25 million adult comedy and adult drama that has a generous amount of shooting days to make a good film.

5 When The Descendants came out, you regretted that you weren’t making films quicker. Nebraska is coming out two years later, which is an improvement.

The thing is, I can make them relatively quickly if I just have the screenplay. The only holdup is the screenplay. I want to be making two movies a year. I’m exaggerating, but certainly one every year, year and a half. On the other hand, I want to speak only when I have something to say.

— Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?


Hey there. or join DFW.com. Your account. Log out.

Remember me