This story was originally published in The World-Herald on Dec. 10, 2003. 


Omaha native Alexander Payne said Tuesday that he plans to return to Nebraska next year to direct a film.

"Nebraska" will be a lower-budget, road-trip film shot in black and white.

"I've never done a black-and-white film, but they are so pretty, " said Payne from Los Angeles. "I wonder why they don't make more black-and-white films."

"Nebraska, " by Los Angeles-based screenwriter Bob Nelson, will be the fourth film shot by Payne in Nebraska. "Citizen Ruth" was shot in 1995, followed by "Election" in 1997 and "About Schmidt" in 2001.

In the new film, an old, alcoholic man persuades his son to drive him from Billings, Mont., to Lincoln to redeem a sweepstakes ticket, although the son believes the "winning" ticket is one of those "you-may-already-be-a-winner" letters.

On the way, they stop in the small Nebraska town where the old man grew up.

"It's just a nice little comedy, " Payne said. "This is the first movie I haven't written myself, and I feel great about not having to write it."

Payne was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar with co - writer Jim Taylor for "Election." He directed Kathy Bates and Jack Nicholson to Oscar nominations in "About Schmidt."

Payne will work on the new film with "Election" producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, who just produced "Cold Mountain."

"The two producers sent the script to me, asking my advice on who might direct it, " Payne said. "I liked it a lot and said, 'How about me?'"

Payne said he'll probably make the film with his usual crew, including film composer Rolfe Kent, who has worked on all of Payne's feature films.

He said he is negotiating with Universal Pictures subsidiary Focus Features to produce "Nebraska, " which he hopes to start shooting next fall. The budget could range from $1 million to $10 million, he said.

He did not say where in Nebraska the movie will be filmed.

According to figures from the Nebraska film office and Avery Pix Inc., the "About Schmidt" production company, Payne's three films have had a combined impact of more than $7 million on the state's economy.

Payne said a cast hasn't been selected. He is known in Nebraska for using local people as extras and in small roles.

Payne's latest film, "Sideways, " stars Thomas Hayden Church and Paul Giamatti. "Sideways, " shot in the California wine country, was the first feature film Payne directed that was not set in Nebraska.

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