Screenwriter Bob Nelson is having a good day. “I got an email from Sears saying I got $5 in points,” he explains. “So that was pretty good.” Anything else happen? “Oh yeah, the Academy Award thing,” he deadpans.
Specifically, Nelson received a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Nebraska, his first produced movie script, which he wrote over a decade ago. The writer admits to being somewhat awed by the competition in his category, a lineup which includes Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell (American Hustle), Spike Jonze (Her), and some dude named Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine). “Those are some legends of screen that I’m mixed in with,” he says. “It looks like an Onion story to me. You know: ‘David O. Russell, Woody Allen, Spike Jonze, and Area Man nominated for original screenplay.’ It is a cliché, but just being nominated is the thing and for me that’s especially true. Anything else would be gravy and at this point.”
In all, the Alexander Payne-directed Nebraska secured six nominations, including a nod for Bruce Dern in the Best Actor category. “I was on the set and I was watching him and I thought, Well, you know, Mr. Dern might have a pretty good chance,” says Nelson, about the actor’s nomination. “As far as the rest of the film, it’s hard because it’s so small in scope. It’s a simple little family story so I really wasn’t thinking in those terms. On the other hand, Alexander Payne has a history with the Academy Awards and there’s always that in the back of your mind. I was just very concerned that the movie not be a disaster and the headlines would be ‘Bob Nelson mars Alexander Payne’s wonderful directing career.’”
That, of course, did not happen. Indeed, it seems like the only way Nelson’s day could get any better is if, like Dern’s character in Nebraska, he received a letter which led him to believe he had won a million bucks. “That would do it,” he says. “Sears came up a little short.”