In "Nebraska," Dern plays an elderly man determined to get from Billings, Mont., to Lincoln, Neb., to collect a sweepstakes prize he's convinced he's won.
The film is directed by Alexander Payne, the man behind "Sideways" and "The Descendants." Dern said he loves that the film is in black and white.
"I think stories can have more enormity to them if they look like what we're used to seeing in real-life or when we first started going to the movies," said Dern. "I think Alexander likes to feel with this movie he kind of peeped through the window of a family when he wasn't supposed to be filming them."
Will Forte, who plays Dern's son, reluctantly agrees to take his father to Nebraska to settle the sweepstakes situation once and for all. When they stop to visit family, a little miscommunication ends with everyone in town thinking someone's hit the jackpot for real.
Dern said he was excited to work with his director every day.
"And he said to me, 'Don't show me anything. Let me find it.' You know you have a partner for life," said Dern. "Movies are a team sport, and if everyone pulls their oar, you might just get somewhere that's not been done before."
Don't be surprised if Dern gets an Oscar nomination for his performance. "Nebraska" opens Friday.