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Seriously Funny

Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte turns to drama.


Merie W. Wallace/Paramount Pictures

The last time Diablo caught up with Lamorinda-raised Will Forte, he was starting his eighth season on Saturday Night Live and starring in the raunchy action comedy MacGruber. This month, he appears in a very different kind of movie: Nebraska, an adventure drama from acclaimed director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants). The black-and-white film drew rave reviews at the Cannes, Toronto, and Telluride film festivals.

You’ve gone from the lowbrow laughs of MacGruber to working with Alexander Payne. Did you have a deliberate strategy?
[Laughs] No, I would have never expected this to happen. I loved the script and felt a connection to the character, so I taped myself doing the scenes. I didn’t hear anything for four months, and then I got a call to audition for Alexander in person. And I got the part. Which was a thrill because I would have been happy just to hear that he had liked the tape.

What was it like to shoot in black and white—and to see the film for the first time?
As we were making it, we never thought about it being in black and white. You forget about that and just concentrate on the story. But when I first saw it, well, it was beautiful.

There are so many exciting things that I have gotten to do because of this film. I am trying to savor every moment. I never thought I would go to Cannes as anything but a spectator, so to be part of a movie like this was unforgettable.

Nebraska and your next film, Life of Crime, both have a 1970s feel to them. What are your memories of going to the movies in the ’70s here in the East Bay?
My earliest memory of a movie is seeing All the President’s Men at the drive-in, and my parents made me cover my eyes in parts. I’ve seen the film as an adult, and I still can’t figure out why I needed to cover my eyes.

But the most important film of my childhood was Star Wars. I must have seen it 20 times in the theater. For Halloween, I couldn’t decide if I would be Luke Skywalker or C-3PO, so I kept changing my costume all day. 


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