INTERVIEW: Richard Linklater, Director & Writer of ‘Boyhood’

Posted in Interviews by - July 16, 2014
INTERVIEW: Richard Linklater, Director & Writer of ‘Boyhood’

It’s 5:30 pm on a rainy Wednesday in Georgetown at the Capella Hotel. Richard Linklater has been doing press interviews since Noon, but stands to greet myself and the other two reporters (Lauren Bradshaw from ClotureClub.com and Matthew Razack from Flixist.com) with a smile and a handshake. After taking a picture together for the Boyhood Facebook page, we get down to business and discuss Linklater’s incredible movie that he filmed over a period of 12 years.

Boyhood stars Ellar Coltrane in a breakout performance, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei Linklater. The film opens in Washington, DC on July 18, 2014.

Lauren Bradshaw (ClotureClub.com): How did you come up with the concept for Boyhood?

Richard Linklater: It’s a big question. How long do we have 15 minutes? In a nutshell, I wanted to just try and tell a film about growing up and I had a story I wanted to tell and it was all encompassing, the ideas were over all of the years. I had kind of given up on the idea for a while and then this idea hit me. I thought, ‘Could it work’ and ‘I haven’t seen that before’, but I realized what I was doing was solving my narrative problem, that I could tell a story that encompasses a broader cinematic canvas. I just did it incrementally and that was the fun part. But the practically side, as you can imagine, is pretty crazy. It’s over 12 years, a lot of unknowns, how to get it financed. But at its core, it was just a new way to tell this story.

Lauren Veneziani (DCFilmGirl.com): I’ve never seen anything like this movie before, and since it was filmed over a 12 year period, when you are filming it, are you piecing and editing the movie together during the break periods?

Richard Linklater: Oh definitely. To do anything less would not be taking advantage of the time. I’ve been on many a movie set and you are half way through the shoot and you’re rolling and you wish you could take a few days off to hang out with the footage and see how its going. So I got to do that here. I got to film a few days and then edit this ever-growing thing and each year it got bigger, and edit that whole thing again. You know, I was doing other movies, so sometimes I would take three months and not think about it at all. But then I would come back to the film, watch the whole thing and ask ‘What does it need?” and “Is this working the way I want?” I have four cast members, some are growing subtle and some not so subtle.

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Matt Razak (Flixist.com): Watching the movie, as the years go by, each year seems pre-cognitive in how it encapsulates that year and what was going on then. Was that the nature of the beast or when you were filming a scene, knew that you really had to capture the feeling here?

Richard Linklater: Well, film is a powerful recorder of the present moment, it really is. One of the many odd things about filming this movie, particularly in the early years, especially in the first half, it wasn’t going to be seen for so long, it’s a period film. I knew that that computer was going to get a laugh, the first time we see him [Mason] in school, it was an iMac. I remember thinking, “Oh I’m going to put that in profile.” My daughter Lorelei, she is first generation Harry Potter all the way and we had those book release parties and that was cool. That never happened when I was a kid and that might not happen in the future for a certain generation. I grew up in the era, where we were always launching rockets into space, guys were orbiting the Earth, walking on the moon and I thought that would go on forever. Well, that is just normal now. It went away. Harry Potter, in a whole different way, it may never happen again and even if it does, I just wanted it to feel like a memory, what things might you remember from these years. I grew up in the Vietnam era, so there was always a war on TV, you were just aware of it. The main thrust of the movie though, was this family and [their story] was important to be said in the real world, so if it reflects that nostalgically, that was the intention.

Lauren B.: Building off of the nostalgia aspect, I feel like the music in the movie was another character, a lot of those songs were from my generation. Did you pick those songs as you went?

Richard Linklater: The music, I was able to do that at the end, I was able to see what resonated. Music means so much to you when you are ages 6 through 20 and you can tell if it when you were in 8th grade or that junior year high school dance and now I’m like, ‘Oh, Coldplay, they are new, they’re a recent band,” (Laughs) And now anyone young, they’re like, “No, that’s first grade!” It’s very vague as you become an adult and get older. Music is a real memory trigger. Music and smells are the two biggest triggers for emotional memory. I was trying to pick a lot of music I liked. I also had younger people write about what they thought the Top 10 songs of the current year were and that helped me out on some of the music. The very last song “Hero” by Family of the Year, I had a guy Ben working around me office and he turned me on to that song.

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Lauren V.: Your daughter [Lorelei Linklater] plays Samantha in the movie, what was it like for you to direct her and see her grow up on screen like that? Not a lot of parents get that opportunity!

Richard Linklater: Yeah, we all have home movies, but to be in a narrative, it was bizarre and beautiful and a fun part of our lives and very natural. It sounds like a big deal, but it wasn’t. Once she [Lorelei] realized there was an older sister role, she was like “Yeah! I want to play that!” And that was her at that age.

Lauren V.: You know that you can get her to commit!

Richard Linklater: Yeah, well I liked that because I knew where she was going to be every day, at least I hoped! (Laughs) It was a natural thing for us and it was fun, I’m really proud of her. But she could also fluctuate, the daughter-father permission, she would ask thing that an actor would never ask a director. (Laughs)

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Lauren B.: Did you have a straw-man of the script and it sort of evolved over time once you got to know Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke or different events in your life that helped shaped the script? Or did you know from Day 1 that this was the beginning and this was the end?

Richard Linklater: The beginning, end and big stuff, like the family moves, mom gets a new job, stepfather comes in the picture, the big architecture I knew. But a lot of its my own childhood, it might be specific to me, but one you adapt it to modern times and the actors, it’s a big collaboration. But I don’t think there is anything in the movie that wasn’t from my life or collaborators’ lives, it was all kind of real.

Lauren B.: So it was more of a collaboration, like if Ellar had an idea…

Richard Linklater: Yeah, by definition. They’re sitting around the campfire in the weeks leading up to that and he was talking about that Star Wars game he was playing and theorizing the future movie. It was like father-son bonding over Star Wars.

Matt R.: You kind of hit the nail on the head. (Everyone laughs)

Richard Linklater: Yeah, four more years go by, that was filmed back in 2008 and five years later they announce the movie. But that came from him [Ellar Coltrane] that was something in his life. I gave him yearly assignments, like if you go to this party, what are you saying to this girl and I would have him write down his experience. I wanted specific dialogues. It was kind of a living art project with him at all times. It was fun, he came up with a bunch of stuff, but at the same time we had to be like-minds. He brought so much to it, but then so did everybody else.

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Lauren V: Patricia Arquette is one of my favorite actresses and my favorite scene in the movie was near the end when Mason [Ellar Coltrane] is moving out and she starts crying. In that moment I just felt that she was his mom and they has such good chemistry together.

Richard Linklater: I know! When she saw the final movie for the first time, after the camping trip scene she goes “Why did you lie to me?” to Ellar (Laughs) and she was having all of these maternal feelings as she was watching the movie. But that’s how into it she was. But she is amazing and the most vanity-free person imaginable. She would say, “Oh its 10 am, I don’t need make-up in this scene, I’m a college teacher, not a Hollywood star.” She wanted to see herself age and she was just real. I only met her once and I called her up and we talked for two hours about the movie, about what it could be and I just asked her, “What are you doing in 12 years?” I said, we’re adults and we want to have jobs in 12 years, so let’s work together. But we still haven’t quite processed it all being over either. It’s unusual and it hits notes and we hear its coming out soon, but we don’t feel like we’ve finished making it. We won’t believe it until a full year goes by when we haven’t filmed. 

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