Boyhood: Richard Linklater Dishes His "Life Project"

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In the 12 years that Richard Linklater filmed Boyhood a few weeks at a time, he made Waking Life, School of Rock, Before Sunset, Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly, Me and Orson Welles, Bernie and Before Midnight. Now, that's commitment!

Boyhood Richard Linklater Ethan Hawke

As teased in the Boyhood trailer, the film is the story of a boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), and chronicles his life from six to eighteen. It stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his parents, and the film also stars Linklater’s daughter Lorelei as Mason’s sister Samantha.

From year to year, Linklater and his film family would gather and preview what was to come before separating for another long period of time while each would go off and do other projects.

“We’d end each year and kind of talk about the next year a little bit -- what I felt was coming next year. Given everyone’s schedules and busyness, this was everyone’s side project – my own included. I was doing a lot of other films in these 12 years and everybody was busy,” Linklater told Movie Fanatic.

“But we would always talk about it. It was always on a burner; it was something to think about. Ellar and I would often get together and talk about next year a bit – and Ethan. We would talk on the phone – whatever. But it would get real intense once it was around time we would shoot.”

As we stated in our Boyhood review, Linklater and team were really gifted in their efforts, but also quite lucky. One piece of evidence of that was when they filmed at a Houston Astros game and the director needed something huge to happen. It did. Someone hit a home run!

“At the baseball game too, again we felt we were blessed from the film gods. We had filmed the whole scene and we just needed something for the Astros to do offensively – which for them that year was a huge challenge. Maybe someone will hit; we just need something to happen on the field,” Linklater said.

“Right where we were pointing the lens, Jason Lane hits a home run. Not out of the frame but right down the lens…no digital. That’s a real home run in a major league game. Pan over, Ethan’s going crazy. We couldn’t believe this happened! I could get the best center in baseball and say, ‘Hit it where the camera’s pointed.’ And they can’t do it.”

There was also the question of which pop culture references to use and what to ignore. Some, like the kids reading Harry Potter, seemed like a no-brainer. But others, time would tell whether they would make the cut.

Boyhood Richard Linklater

“That was part of the fun of this, having your antenna out there. Not only were you collaborating with incrementally aging and growing-up actors, but the culture and what is going on in the world,” Linklater said.

“When we started this movie, the Iraq war had not started. Every year you had some choices to make about what you wanted to represent in the movie and will that be remembered. We were making a period film but in the present, which is an odd thing to do. Where would the changes come? What does it mean?”

One thing Linklater is known for in his films, watch Dazed and Confused online for proof, is his musical sense. How on earth did he choose which musicians and songs would provide the soundtrack for a 12-year journey?

“Music is really powerful and puts you in a place in time. I waited until the end to put all the music in the movie to see how time was treating a lot of different music. It’s a lot of different things in the movie. It’s serving a lot of different purposes -- the tastes of the characters that were listening to it at a given time. I wanted it to reflect the culture as you perceive it as a kid,” Linklater said.

“It’s not your music. Maybe it’s your older sibling’s music. Maybe it’s coming out of the car radio from friends, music that’s in the culture, but not really yours, and then there’s your music as you mature and get your own taste. It runs the gamut there. We were really lucky too. We got a lot of great music for a low budget film. We were fortunate that these artists came aboard for not much money and were willing to be a part of the process.”

But, Linklater stressed that pop culture and even historical moments were never at the forefront of this effort. “It was not what I wanted the movie to be about,” he admitted.

For Linklater, and everyone, he admitted, this is not only a story for the world to see, but a document of their lives over the last 12 years.

“This movie was just a life project for all of us. We were committed for all of these years and you could just have your antenna out. That’s a good way to go through life. ‘Oh, that could feed into this.’ Or, ‘That would happen to a friend of mine.’ Or, ‘This memory I hadn’t had in all these years just came to me about something from my own childhood.’ It was all in play all these years,” he said.

“That’s what made it kind of the fun life project it turned out to be.”

A Boyhood Family
Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane and director Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei star in Boyhood.

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