Earlier this afternoon I took part in a Carlton Hotel round-table chat with Nebraska costars Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb. Dern was the life of the party, going on about everyone and everything, a totally crackerjack raconteur telling the greatest stories about John Wayne, Alexander Payne, Walter Hill, etc. Sharp as a tack and a naturally affable charmer. The Cowboys, The Driver, Drive He Said, Castle Keep, The Laughing Policeman…the publicist had to drag him out of the room.

Nebraska costar and likely Best Supporting Actor contender Bruce Dern, especially if Dern works the circuit. The guy’s a natural and he’s been humping it since the mid ’60s…almost 50 years.

Nebraska costar Will Forte — Friday, 5.24, Carlton Hotel, 2:55 pm.

Nebraska costar June Squibb.

I need to arrange a sitdown with Dern later this summer just to hear his stories. He’ll definitely be in play as a Best Supporting Actor contender later this year, especially if he works the cirucit. He’s a natural, and he’s been humping it since the mid’60s. 45, 50 years. I’ve spoken to Dern before (the last time was up at Sundance) but this time I fell in love with the guy — go figure.

Forte was humble and honest and real, almost to the point of being a little too bend-over-backwards nice. He’s quite good in the film but who is he really? All funny guys have dark streaks, but that wasn’t the game today. I get that. It wasn’t “this is who I really am, smart-ass attitude and all.” This was “I lucked out by being cast in a fairly good Alexander Payne film and I’m quite happy about that, and I just want to say the right things and be cool about it.”

Not surprisingly, Forte totally ducked my question about his Nebraska character, David Grant (son of Dern’s Woody Grant), being in a possibly-over-but-possibly-still-on sexual relationship with a character played by Missy Doty, who played the tons-of-fun waitress whom Thomas Haden Church went home with (only to nearly get killed by her husband) in Sideways.

I told Forte that while I’ve seen guys who look like him hooked up with women who are ample and busty and zaftig and maybe even a little chubby, I’ve never seen guys like him with a steady girlfriend as plus-sized as Doty. Some guys are chubby chasers and that’s cool, but I’ve never seen a thin, nice-looking guy with an obese girl in my entire life. Chubby, zaftig, overweight…okay. But not obese. I’ve seen obese guys with hot girlfriends, but that usually happens because the obese guy is rich. Or rich and funny.

The bottom line is that Payne cast Doty as Forte’s girlfriend because he wanted to get a rise out of guys like me. You know he did. He knows it’s a provocation. Don’t buy that elegant smoothie act — Payne sometimes likes to do the nervy thing.

Today N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis wrote the following about Squibb’s performance as Forte’s mom and Dern’s fed-up-to-here wife: “June Squibb turns Woody’s hectoring, quietly complicated wife, Kate, into a minor miracle. Mr. Payne makes her a saving grace.”