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Payne: I chose Dern for his hair

Alexander Payne chose Bruce Dern to star in Nebraska: Photo © Payne: I chose Dern for his hair Photo

Nebraska director Alexander Payne has joked that he cast Bruce Dern because of his hair.

The 77-year-old actor was nominated for a best actor Oscar, and won several other awards, for his performance as elderly father Woody Grant in the drama.

"If nothing else, I cast for him for his hair. He's still handsome but without too much trouble: he looks like an old prairie dog," he said.

"So (I cast him because of) his looks and I knew him a little bit. I knew he could be ornery and sarcastic, but even if it's crusted over, you can sense tenderness in him - that quality."

Alexander added: "It just came to me. It's like looking for radio signals from outer space. I thought, 'Oh, that could be interesting'. It's not just because I knew his daughter (Laura Dern)."

The Descendants filmmaker revealed that Bruce was his only choice.

"When we met about the role, I asked him to read just one line. It wasn't an audition; it was just to help me out as I began to think about it. And he read one page of dialogue and the casting director and I were like, 'A-ha! We were right!' He was just the right guy," he said.

"There was no second choice. That was an exceedingly difficult part to cast. The only other people I could think about for that part are dead actors. I can't think of anyone alive right now."

Alexander joked that the film was shot in black and white because it was cheaper. "As a filmmaker, as a film buff, I always wanted to make a black and white film. Black and white is king. It's so beautiful. But somehow in this story, it came to me that it should be in black and white and I knew it would be cheap enough to do."

Nebraska is out on DVD now.

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