At first glance Bob Nelson might seem like a regular islander, working on his lawn or enjoying the scenes at Ebey’s Prairie. But Nelson will step out of the shadows this year and into a tuxedo.
Nelson wrote the screenplay “Nebraska” and it’s been nominated for five Golden Globe awards, including best picture and best screenwriter.
It’s up against screenplays from “Her,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle.” The award show will take place on Jan. 12.
The film and Nelson’s screenplay are also nominated for numerous awards, including six nominations from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, six nominations from Film Independent Spirit Awards, and two nominations for the film from the Screen Actors Guild. Nominees for the Academy Awards will announced on Jan. 16.
Nelson can still hardly believe it.
“It’s purely delusional,” he said.
Nelson moved to Freeland from Kent in 2005 after vacationing regularly to the area. He said he’s always loved the island and its community.
“The only bad part is we can’t come here on vacation anymore,” he said.
Nelson wrote the “Nebraska” screenplay 10 years ago after working on the show “Almost Live!” for a decade. The show featured a group of Seattle-based performers who wrote and acted comedy skits.
“I was itching to try a drama; before this I wrote straight comedy,” he said. “Mixing the two appealed to me. To put something out there close to what I’d experienced to see if people relate.”
For Nelson, the biggest challenge was writing the screenplay. He had never written anything longer than 5 minutes before this, he said. He spent more than a year writing a story that held together for an hour and 45 minutes.
When Nelson began to write the screenplay, he said he wanted to see if it could get into a small film festival and then go straight to DVD.
“That was my highest hope,” he said.
For the screenplay to attract the attention of renowned American film director Alexander Payne, become a film and then shown at national premieres never crossed his mind, he said.
The film, shot in black and white, follows a father on a journey to retrieve $1 million from a sweepstakes letter he received in the mail. The father, played by Bruce Dern, convinces his son, Will Forte, to accompany him on road trip from Montana to Nebraska and claim his winnings, meeting friends and family along the way. The film, directed by Payne, reflects on family relationships and life in the midwest.
Nelson said he drew from memories of visiting family in Nebraska and was inspired by a story he heard on the news of a man traveling to claim his fortune.
“Our story is so simple, in a way that makes us lucky (when up against the other films),” Nelson said. “It’s a simple-old fashioned story.”
Telling these stories about regular people and making a profit is a something Payne does well, Nelson said, and is a key reason for the film’s success.