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Hooper meets Hollywood for Payne's latest film

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HOOPER — Hollywood came to Hooper on Monday.

A film crew took over the town’s Main Street to shoot a scene for the upcoming movie “Nebraska.”

“I never would have dreamt that anything would have happened around here for me,” said Karen Bahrs, owner of the Sodbuster Saloon, where the scene was shot. “This is pretty much a laid-back town until something happens.”

The film crew also will be at the Sodbuster today before leaving town, and has shot at several other locations in Nebraska, such as Lyons, Plainview and Norfolk.

“It has been an amazing experience so far,” said Will Forte, one of the film’s stars. “We’ve only been here for two weeks, but everyone’s been so welcoming and it’s a very different experience out here. I’m used to California. It’s really fun getting to spend time here.”

Several Hooper residents also had the opportunity to appear in the film as an extra, and Bahrs was slated to play a bartender.

“I can’t wait until it comes out to see my friends in the movie,” said Malisa Knoell, a waitress at The Office Bar & Grill, which opened on Monday for the filming.

Knoell was scheduled to work today, but had a good view of the Sodbuster, located across the street.

“I’m going to be peeking out the window the whole time,” she said.

Bahrs said she originally was approached in August about using her bar as a location for the movie.

She met with director Alexander Payne, a Nebraska native, and other people associated with the film.

“They were down to earth,” Bahrs said. “They just came in like regular folks.”

Dennis Washington, production designer for “Nebraska,” said the Sodbuster was appealing for a variety of reasons. One, he said, was that it matched well with a bar in Plainview that was used for exterior shots.

“It’s one of the best-looking bars I’ve seen,” Washington said. “It’s the tone of the walls with the dressing, as we call it, on them, and just the configuration of it.”

Like Forte, Washington also has enjoyed the time in Nebraska.

“It’s fascinating because our job in a film like this — where a lot of it is the locations that we find — it’s amazing to go around and look at everything,” Washington said.

Hooper City Clerk Roxanne Meyer was pleased that people took notice of the town’s charm.

“I think mostly that they’re interested in the historical buildings, and where they’re at is one of the oldest buildings on our Main Street,” Meyer said. “It’s kept its character — inside and out — just like a lot of our Main Street.”

Bahrs is hopeful that having a portion of “Nebraska” shot in Hooper will be a boost to businesses after the movie is released.

“Even over the weekend I had a few people coming in and saying, ‘So this is where it’s going to be,’” Bahrs said.

Forte, known for his work on “Saturday Night Live,” has enjoyed his first experience working with the Academy Award-winning Payne.

“It’s just a dream come true to work with him,” Forte said. “I’ve been such a huge, huge fan of his movies, and to get to be part of one is a major thrill.”


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