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Q&A: Kent native Bob Nelson on his Academy Award nomination, experience

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months for Kent-native Bob Nelson since the screenwriter got the early morning call telling him his screenplay for “Nebraska” was nominated for an Academy Award.

The somber yet heartfelt road trip drama/comedy about a father’s quest to claim a million dollar lottery prize he believes he won received six nominations overall including best picture, director (Alexander Payne), actor (Bruce Dern) and supporting actress (June Squibb).

Nelson now calls Whidbey Island home. But the veteran of the local TV comedy sketch show “Almost Live!” says he’s had to spend all his time in Los Angeles since the nomination and while it’s been the experience of a lifetime, he’s looking forward to “getting back to normal.”

We caught up with Nelson as he took a quick break from the seemingly non-stop interviews and meetings before Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony:

MyNorthwest: How has life changed for you since Nebraska was nominated?

Bob Nelson: Usually, I’m a pretty low key guy living in the woods and all of a sudden I’ve been thrown into all of this, interviews and Q & A’s and screenings and parties, so quite a bit. It’s been fun – my wife and I have tried to enjoy it, but come March 3rd we’re going to be very happy to be going home as well and maybe I can get some work done.

MyNW: Has it been strange at all hobnobbing with all the celebrities at different events?

BN: There was the luncheon for the Academy Award nominees and I sat at the same table with Meryl Streep, so that was pretty nice. And then they took a picture of all of us on risers so you’re looking around at all of these people you’ve seen your whole life. It’s an out of body experience…but everyday I think someone is going to come up to me and say you’ve got to stop telling people you’re nominated or we’ll have to get you some treatment.

MyNW: How much has the studio tried to manage you, telling you what to say, what to wear or how to act?

BN: They’ve been OK with the clothes. But the first time they saw pictures of me on the Internet, they sent a groomer to start doing my hair. The Kent boy haircut was not cutting it, so that’s their main concern. It might be a case where there’s so much to work on they just had to pick one thing in particular.

MyNW: How much has your basketball game suffered since the nomination (Nelson has played regularly with KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson and other Seattle friends for years)?

BN: I couldn’t make it up and down the court now, especially from all the rich food at all these endless parties.

MyNW: Are you looking forward to getting the $80,000 goody bag they give all the nominees?

BN: A lot of it is like face lifts and body treatments and spas I don’t think I’ll be using. All I want is some good chocolate, a nice little piece of candy or something.

MyNW: Could you have ever imagined you’d be doing all this ten years ago when you wrote the screenplay for Nebraska?

BN: I sat down in my house in Maltby out there in Snohomish, out of work, and was just trying to type out a writing sample to maybe get a job on TV or maybe get a little independent film made. It was when Alexander Payne became attached as director that it went from being a $2 million Sundance film to a Paramount release.

MyNW: How much has it affected your career?

BN: What’s nice is when Alexander said he was ready to shoot Nebraska a couple of years ago, I stopped taking studio assignments and went back to writing originals so I would have new scripts ready for when this hit. One of them we’ve already taken out has Joel McHale of “Almost Live!” and Community fame attached to star – and the producers of Juno attached and we’re trying to raise money. And I just put out another original we’re talking to financiers about this week. So I think the nomination has really helped these projects, at least getting the meetings and getting the money.

MyNW: Have you prepared an acceptance speech just in case you win?

BN: A friend called me yesterday and said he was betting on me, and I asked ‘what are the odds’ and he said 35-1. It seems a little weird for a 35-1 shot to be sitting down and writing a speech. I guess it could happen.

The great thing about the Academy Awards is they want you on and off as quickly as possible, so you have 45 seconds. So you don’t have to have much in your head when you get up there. My money is on David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Spike Jonze (Her). I met them both and they’re very nice. But I just went ‘why did they have to make movies this year?’ They can make a movie any year. It took me 57 years to get a movie made. They’re nice enough, but it seems a little spiteful.

MyNW: We look forward to seeing you on the telecast for the 30 seconds after they announce the nominees and show you in the little box on TV.

BN: My mom’s coming down. My mother still lives in Kent and will be there with my sister from Bend, Oregon so maybe they’ll show up as well.

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