Nebraska role brings ac­tor late-in-life ku­dos

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

LAs Nicholson’s star rose, so did Dern’s, al­beit less spec­tac­u­larly. He was fre­quently cast by im­por­tant old-school di­rec­tors such as John Franken­heimer ( Black Sun­day) and Al­fred Hitch­cock ( Fam­ily Plot). In 1972, di­rec­tor Mark Ry­dell chose Dern to be the guy who would kill John Wayne on­screen in The Cow­boys. For­tu­nately, Dern also worked with the up­starts of the Hol­ly­wood Re­nais­sance — guys who didn’t have a prob­lem with his shoot­ing The Duke — in­clud­ing Bob Rafel­son ( The King of Marvin Gar­dens, along­side Nicholson), Hal Ashby ( Com­ing Home) and Michael Ritchie ( Smile). If en­dur­ing star­dom proved elu­sive, the Illi­nois-raised Dern has stayed a work­ing ac­tor, ap­pear­ing on TV ( CSI NY, Big Love) and the oc­ca­sional movie. And if the parts got smaller, he was still shown ap­pre­ci­a­tion by di­rec­tors such as Quentin Tarantino ( Django Un­chained), Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola ( Twixt) and Joe Dante, who gave Dern the role of “Creepy Carl” in the ju­ve­nile horror movie The Hole. Dern, now 77, sees his star rise again with Nebraska, a sweet and salty road movie from di­rec­tor Alexan­der Payne ( The De­scen­dants, About Sch­midt). Dern plays Woody, a re­tired me­chanic who has been left on the bor­ders of se­nil­ity by al­co­holism, war and a trou­ble­some mar­riage. When Woody gets sent a no­tice about a po­ten­tial mil­lion-dol­lar prize from a mail-or­der com­pany, he be­lieves it is as good as cash, and com­pels his es­tranged younger son David (Will Forte) to join him on a trip to Lin­coln, Neb., to claim his prize. Dern al­ready claimed his prize — for top male ac­tor — at this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, and in this last week has been nom­i­nated in best-ac­tor cat­e­gories by the Screen Ac­tors Guild and the Golden Globes. An Academy Award nom­i­na­tion is likely, and Dern, who was last nom­i­nated 34 years ago for play­ing a dam­aged Viet­nam vet in Com­ing Home, is not one to shrug off a pos­si­bil­ity for an Os­car. OS AN­GE­LES — Some­times, you can tell a lot about an ac­tor by the com­pany he keeps. In the ’60s and ’70s, Bruce Dern kept very good com­pany in­deed. Dern and Jack Nicholson had a bond, forged when they were both hun­gry young ac­tors do­ing mo­tor­cy­cle/drug movies for Roger Cor­man be­fore hit­ting the Hol­ly­wood big leagues.


Bruce Dern, left, and Will Forte play fa­ther and son in Alexan­der Payne’s Nebraska, which is gen­er­at­ing Os­car buzz for Dern.

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