Payne tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he first read Nebraska -- a film about an old man who is beginning to show signs of dementia -- as a comedy "with moments of gravity." Payne also directed Election, About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants.
Director Alexander Payne finds comedy in the crises of his flawed protagonists: a struggling writer in Sideways, a retired widower in About Schmidt and now a family man who must reassess his life in The Descendants.
He directed and co-wrote the satirical films Citizen Ruth and Election. His newest film, About Schmidt, is also a social satire. It stars Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates who have both been nominated for Academy Awards for their roles. About Schmidt is loosely based on the novel of the same name by Louis Begley. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor won the Golden Globe for best screenplay for About Schmidt.