From the New York Times: (Nebraska author Kurt Anderson took a road trip across the state with Payne in his 1988 station wagon in an assignment for the newspaper):
Driving through Seward (population 6,964), we pass the Rivoli Theatre, where “Blue Jasmine” and “The Grandmaster” are playing. “They’re showing Woody Allen and Wong Kar-wai in Seward, Nebraska! Hip little town.” Out in Ogallala (population 4,737) a decade ago, he recalls, “I met a guy who remembered Coppola shooting ‘Rain People’ there in 1968!”
From the New Yorker:
The loveliest, most poignant scene in the film takes place in the sleepy office of the town’s newspaper, where David goes in quest of information and chats with the elderly editor (Angela McEwan), who, it turns out, has history with the family. It’s the scene that quietly wrenches the movie apart and makes the distant, unspoken past vibrate with a revived passionate power. It’s a scene that Payne doubles with another, of Kate’s own long-silenced reminiscences; the two women’s performances—McEwan’s, tremulously discursive, and Squibb’s, brashly so—are the true heart of the movie.From the Daily Beast:
Out of nowhere, the year’s funniest female performance comes courtesy of 84-year-old journeywoman actress June Squibb, whose turn as an expletive-hurling mom in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska will have you in stitches.
June Squibb steals scenes from two very funny guys Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk. Were you immediately confident that she could nail those really bawdy punch lines?From the AP:
Yes. I was immediately confident when I saw her audition. That character has the most flashily written part, so I needed an actress who would really be able to go to town with that dialogue.
Black-and-white serves as a beautiful backdrop to what is essentially a dying Midwest. Was it difficult to view your home state in this blighted light?
Over time, not just in Nebraska but everywhere, younger people leave small towns, and the small towns begin to be populated more by their older citizens. At the economic times we’ve been living in recently, and especially for this film, black-and-white acquires a kind of Depression-era feel. That aspect had not existed when the screenplay first reached me nine years ago. But the fact that it was in the air when we turned the camera on in 2012 added, I feel, a very interesting comment. Not just on small town Nebraska or small town America, but on the state of the country in general. It’s not a devastating critique in the film by any means. It’s a gentler film than that, but I’m glad it’s there. Even lightly.
Payne: 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.From Esquire:
AP: Why is that?
Payne: Because they're so good. Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd are like Da Vinci, Giotto, Michelangelo. The first comedy that really knocked me out was "Modern Times."
AP: Some critics have questioned whether there's sometimes an ironic distance between you and your characters.
Payne: 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.
I won't criticize Hollywood for the other films it makes, but I do lament that we don't have more intelligent, literate, human films about Americans. I wish there were more than eight or ten films made by studios, which all get pushed into distribution in the last quarter of the year and are expected to gird for awards battles, and I don't think that's very fair. I want to see good human movies throughout the whole year. I lament the loss of — let's call it the $20 to $40 million adult comedy and adult drama like we used to have frequently. I'm very proud to be an American filmmaker, it's a rich heritage, but it's just that today quality has dropped...
Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando. Monty Cliff, Fred Astaire, Dorothy Maguire, and Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett both — they're all from Nebraska. We have talent! Tons of talent. But I really don't know why