Former "Saturday Night Live" funnyman Will Forte takes a risky turn with "Nebraska," a black-and-white family dramedy from director Alexander Payne that premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival and is already garnering plenty of award-season buzz for his co-star, Bruce Dern.

The actors play a bickering father-and-son duo in the film, a road trip feature opening this week that centers on their quest for an elusive (and highly improbable) sweepstakes prize located in the eponymous state.

Along the way, they discover plenty of familial surprises and metaphorical dead ends, but the real shock of the film is just how handily Forte holds his own with dramatic powerhouses Payne and Dern.

Yet Forte's casting in such an offbeat role wasn't a strategic career move, it was something better -- extreme luck.

"Beggars cannot be choosers," Forte says. "This was just not planned, at all. It just happened. It came out of nowhere and was just so surprising at every step of the way."

After receiving and loving the script, Forte was still convinced he'd never nail such a role.

"I just thought there was no way I would ever get to do this," he says. "I would never get cast in an Alexander Payne movie!"

That didn't stop Forte from going for it, however, and after a big batch of audition tapes, an in-person meeting with Payne (a career highlight, he says) and nearly six months of waiting time, he got the part.

Still suspicious of his good fortune, Forte didn't let himself believe that "Nebraska" was going to come to fruition until the studio sent him to Nebraska to begin filming.

"All right, they paid for a flight out to Omaha, they cannot go back now. Too much financial investment has been made," the 43-year-old actor says, laughing. "I felt like I reached the point of no return."