Alexander Payne dishes on "The Descendants"

Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:24am EST
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By Iain Blair

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Over the past 15 years director-writer Alexander Payne has created a small but potent body of work that shows his talent for balancing comedy and drama including "Sideways," which earned Payne a screenwriting Oscar, and "About Schmidt."

His new film, "The Descendants," which even before it debuted in theaters this week was earning a lot of Oscar buzz, is another look at life and relationships that balances some fairly dark family moments with a lightness that comes simple from human frailty.

George Clooney stars as a Hawaiian land baron whose perfect life falls apart when his wife plunges into a coma after an boating accident. When King tries to reconnect with his two daughters, he learns that his wife had been having an affair. With his daughters in tow, he sets out to confront his rival.

Payne talked to Reuters about making the film and working with Clooney, who was nominated for Oscars for co-writing and directing his "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Q: Your last film was "Sideways," seven years ago. What took so long?

A: "I was pretty busy writing three scripts, one a sci-fi film about shrinking people which I'll hopefully make in the future, and doing a pilot, a short in Paris, and then I also got divorced, had surgery. Those seven years went quickly."

Q: What was the appeal of "The Descendants"?

A: "I liked the story. It's a very human story and I'd never seen it before, particularly set in Hawaii amid that kind of decaying aristocracy. I'm from Nebraska and I didn't know Hawaii at all or the complex social fabric there. It's a very strange and weird place."   Continued...