April 27--NEW YORK--Will Forte takes a breath and measures his words carefully, as Will Forte is generally wont to do, when asked how a man known for comedy suddenly finds himself in some finely wrought prestige dramas.
"It wasn't a conscious decision to start doing this," the actor said in an interview here earlier this week. "It just kind of happened."
The "Saturday Night Live" veteran is speaking just as his new film, the Ireland-set "Run & Jump," is world-premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival. It's the first of what will be two unexpectedly dramatic turns for the 42-year-old actor. He will again be under the press lights for "Nebraska," Alexander Payne's father-son road trip dramedy, when it premieres at the Cannes Film Festival next month.
As for "Nebraska," Forte landed the part somewhat fortuitously. He'd gotten ahold of the script from his agent and, on a bit of a lark, sent in a tape to Payne. When he didn't hear back for four months, he thought his shot was over. "I went for it even though I didn't really think I could get it," said Forte, who described himself, seemingly only half-joking, as "a worst-case scenario kind of person." Then he got a call to come in for a reading, and soon after landed the role.
Forte acknowledged Cannes was not a place he imagined himself ending up. (He's never been to the festival and seemed eager to learn about the rites of the glitzy springtime circus.)
What "Nebraska" itself looks like remains to be seen. Payne's movie, which he has long wanted to make, is said to contain autobiographical overtones--the director grew up in the state--but beyond the road trip (shades of "Sideways"), the father-son relationship and a plot point involving a potential lottery win, much about the film remains in the shadows.
Forte wouldn't offer much about the film but allowed that, for all the serious themes, "Nebraska" will have its mix of Payne-like human comedy "I think audiences are going to laugh," he said, calling it a movie that's "dramatic and beautiful--there are a lot of things going on."
As for Forte's own juggle, he said he's slowly coming to terms with it. "I'm used to doing things that are big and dumb. In a lovable way, of course." he said after pausing for a minute to contemplate the issue. He took another breath. "This is all really new."
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