When “Nomadland” won the Academy Award for best picture last month, Nebraska landed its second best-picture Oscar — 38 years after “Terms of Endearment,” which was filmed primarily in Lincoln and won five Oscars.
“Nomadland” was nominated in six categories, winning three, with Frances McDormand, who produced the film, taking the best actress Oscar and Chloé Zhao named best director.
For “Nomadland,” Zhao brought her cast and crew to Scottsbluff, where they filmed for several days. The film brought McDormand back to the Scottsbluff area, where her husband, Joel Coen, and his brother, Ethan, had filmed a segment of their 2018 anthology, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
That was reminiscent of nine years ago, when Hollywood came calling and Norfolk answered. Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne filmed a movie in and around the Norfolk area. Payne’s movie was shut out at the 2013 Academy Awards despite being nominated for best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, original screenplay and cinematography. “Nebraska” lost out to “12 Years a Slave” for best picture.
During their time in Nebraska, Payne and his crew set up shop in Norfolk and filmed in several area communities.
Payne wanted to make sure the town had “the standard couple of bars, but also the town newspaper office, banks. ... There was just something about Plainview in general that struck me,” he said.
Thus, Plainview was transformed into the fictional community of Hawthorne for the black-and-white film, and numerous parts were cast in Nebraska, including 21 local residents cast in various roles and 227 people hired as extras.
In addition to Norfolk being the “hub” for the cast and crew, the film gave Norfolk a Hollywood feel for a special screening of “Nebraska.”
Before the film was shown at the Norfolk 7 Theatre, moviegoers attended a champagne reception at the Divots Conference Center that featured Payne and cast members Laura Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb.
“Of all the places I’ve shown this movie, I was most excited to show it here,” Payne said of Norfolk.
The movie added about $1.5 million to the state’s economy as Payne and his cast and crew spent 30 days filming in Nebraska.
“We may not have Hollywood knocking on our door,” state film officer Laurie Richards said then, “but we definitely have piqued the interest of independent filmmakers and companies.”
As “Nebraska” and “Nomadland” have shown, this state can and should continue to pique that interest as the setting for future movies.