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'SNL' star Forte's dramatic debut in Payne's 'Nebraska' will help open 26th Virginia Film Festival

November 1, 2013


Nov. 01--Screening of "Nebraska"

Virginia Film Festival

7 p.m. Thursday

Paramount Theater

$15; $10 students, seniors and local educators



Fans who remember "Saturday Night Live" star Will Forte as an elite operative with a fondness for explosives in the "MacGruber" parody sketches and feature film will get a chance Thursday to see Forte make a different sort of impact.

In "Nebraska," a new Alexander Payne drama that'll be screened on opening night of the 26th annual Virginia Film Festival, Forte makes his dramatic debut playing a son who sets out on an illuminating road trip with his aging father in search of a sweepstakes prize that he's not sure even exists.

The actor, however, counts himself squarely in the "you already may be a winner" camp. His prize was landing a role in a film by a director he admires.

"This is just about as far from 'MacGruber' as you can get," Forte said with a chuckle. "It's fun to get an opportunity to do something so different. You read a lot of scripts, and it's so different from anything I've ever had a chance to do."

Forte and producer Ron Yerxa will be on hand for Thursday's official festival opener at the Paramount Theater.

For Forte, the sense of serendipity still hasn't worn off.

"I am so excited about the movie. I still can't believe I was able to be in it," Forte said. "On a professional level and on a personal level, it was a delight."

In "Nebraska," Forte stars as David. "I play Bruce Dern's son," he said of his character. "I don't have a lot going on in my life; I'm a little bit stuck."

Woody Grant, Dern's character, keeps walking away from his Montana home, which has family members worrying about the elderly man's health, frame of mind and ability to keep living on his own. But Woody isn't wandering; he's determined to walk to Nebraska to claim a sweepstakes prize that he's convinced he has won.

David offers to give his dad a ride to Nebraska to collect his prize, because he wants to be there to protect his father in case it's all a scam, Forte said. The father-son road trip takes on a new significance when a detour sends the men to Woody's small-town birthplace.

For Forte, getting the chance to perform with Dern and become his friend was among the film's many blessings.

"He's so good in this movie," Forte said of Dern. "He's such a good actor. In real life, he's a real chatterbox; in the movie, he plays a man of few words.

"We got to be quite close by the end of it. I can't say enough about him."

Forte praised the working environment Payne created for his cast and the teamwork it nourished.

"The family in this movie is nothing like my family, but there's something familiar about these characters," he said.

So will the funnyman say yes to another dramatic role?

"Oh, yes," he said. "I want to do a little bit of everything.

"This wasn't part of some big career plan to go into drama. It's just something I never expected.

"I just came up in comedy and love comedy. You start to think of yourself in a certain way. I'm just so happy doing comedy."

Forte said audience members can expect some well-chosen comic touches in "Nebraska" to help tell the story.

"There's a lot of humor in it as well," he said. There's a little bit of everything in it, like life is."

The same can be said for this year's festival. There's even a screening of "MacGruber" set for 9 p.m. Nov. 8 at Newcomb Hall Theater, which will give audience members a chance to see Forte's comic character in the big-screen version of the "SNL" sketch parodies of "MacGyver."

This year's festival will pack in more than 100 films and a variety of discussions and events before drawing to a close Nov. 10.

Doors at the Jefferson Theater will open at 9:30 p.m. Thursday for the Opening-Night Gala, which will include the big-band music of Kool Kats Lite, hors d'oeuvres by Harvest Moon Catering and grown-up beverages from Trump Winery and Starr Hill Brewery. Tickets are $75, and you must be at least 21 to attend

Tickets for "Nebraska" are $15 and $10. For a full schedule of festival events, tickets and details, visit Tickets also may be purchased at the University of Virginia arts box office in the Drama Building or by phone at 924-3376.


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