In the Nebraska town where they lived…. A movie was filmed

SLEEPY EYE – Two City of Sleepy Eye employees have ties to a new comedy/drama movie starring Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach and Will Forte.

Directed by Alexander Payne, the movie “Nebraska” was nominated for the Palme d’Or (highest prize) at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Dern won the Best Actor Award at Cannes.

Released last month, parts of the movie were filmed inside and outside of a Plainview, Neb. home and vehicle repair shop formerly owned by Sleepy Eye Street/Utilities Superintendent Bob Elston.

Other parts of the movie were filmed outside a Plainview bar and grill, but the inside of bar scene was filmed elsewhere, Elston said.

“They painted some of the buildings in town to make them look like they wanted them to,” Elston said. “A number of Plainview residents were used as movie extras without speaking parts. My daughter and son-in-law live two houses down from my former house. The guy that bought my old house told me about it when movie filming began in Plainview in 2012.”

The movie was also filmed in Buffalo, Wyo.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Lincoln, Neb.

Sleepy Eye City Manager Mark Kober was Plainview city manager from 1991 to 2000 before he moved to Sleepy Eye to take a similar job.

“The movie looks interesting,” Kober said. “Plainview, is a nice, little town about 75 miles west of Sioux City.”

The black-and-white movie begins in a chilly time of the year in Billings, Mont., with Woody Grant (Dern) walking down the side of a highway. He’s an old man on his way to Nebraska to collect a million dollars from a sweepstakes notice he got in the mail that he thinks he has won.

Frustrated by his increasing dementia, his family debates putting him into a nursing home – until his son David Grant, who is played by Will Forte, finally offers to take his father by car, even as he realizes the futility, according to a synopsis on the Cannes Film festival website. En route the father is injured, and the two must rest a few days in the small decaying Nebraska town where the father was born and where, closely observed by the son, he re-encounters his past.

Lessons learned in the movie include the American sense of dignity coming from family values, which fade away when money is added.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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