Alexander Payne Hopes No One Ever Sees ‘Nebraska’ in Color

Nebraska

Alexander Payne doesn’t want audiences to watch the color version of his black-and-white film “Nebraska.”

The director told the Canadian Press that he felt pressured by distributor Paramount Vantage to cut an alternate version of the dramedy in order to make it financially viable in the international market.

“To give them credit, the executives I was dealing with claimed, and I believe them, they really did want me to make the film in black and white, but the front office had major doubts because of money left on the table — that a black-and-white film seems ghettoized into being artsy-fartsy for the theatergoing viewers,” Payne said.

The Oscar winner said he was told that several of their television deals had “only color” stipulations so a black-and-white film wouldn’t reel in any TV revenue.

“Eventually I said, ‘I’ll even give you a colored version for those specific TV outlets in Moldova and Sierra Leone and Laos or wherever,'” he said. “So I made a color version. I hope no one ever sees it.”

Furthermore, screenwriter Bob Nelson’s minimalist script and the sleepy Midwest setting were conducive for a black-and-white palette.

“Something about the screenplay, the austerity of it, the austerity of the people and the landscapes it would evoke just felt black and white to me,” he said. “And not just black and white, black-and-white scope — Cinemascope, that big, anamorphic widescreen format.”

Although unintentional, he said “Nebraska,” which stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte in roles generating Oscar buzz, also captures the gloomy state of the nation in light of the economic slump.

“The film then acquires a kind of Depression-era feel,” Payne said. “It’s like a modern-day Depression film because of the black-and-white, but I wasn’t thinking about that before; it just happened because of when we were turning the camera on.”

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  1. Mark L. Power says:

    A brilliant film and not just because of the great acting and he fine script. Brilliant also because beneath the intellectual poverty of rural life human emotions are still the glue that holds everything together. It’s life in the backwater where’s little hope and much resignation and future historians would do well to look at this film and a few others to see what American life was like at a certain time. That said, this film would ring true to the inhabitants of any forgotten corner of the earth be it in India, Latin America, Russia – or Montana and Nebraska. Bravo Mr. Payne and company. And of course it should be in black-and-white, like the “Last Picture Show” or “Hud”, both of which came to mind when I was watching “Nebraska”.

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