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Richard Linklater on 'Boyhood,' a Film Literally 12 Years in the Making

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Mason (Ellar Coltrane) investigates his father (Ethan Hawke) in the film Boyhood


While most people would call writer/director Richard Linklater’s new independent movie Boyhood one of the film industry’s most ambitious projects, the Austin-based, two-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker describes it a bit differently.

“It was just such an impractical and crazy idea,” Linklater, 54, said during an interview with the Current after Boyhood premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in March. “It sort of defies typical, organizational thinking.”

Linklater, best known for films such as Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and the Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight), shot Boyhood over the span of 12 years with the same cast. The approach allows audiences to witness the film’s lead character Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) grow up right before their eyes. The film also stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s divorced parents who try their best to create a stable upbringing for Mason and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), despite life’s mad curveballs.

[Review: Linklater's 'Boyhood' is Life Told Through the Small Things]

 

Boyhood is sort of in the same vein as your Before trilogy except that you didn’t make three films out of this story. Did you approach the projects the same way?

You know, they are two very long, time-based projects, but they’re very different. The Before trilogy had some gaps in time. Boyhood was a constant thing. It demanded to be told this way and required constant attention. With the Before films, I didn’t have to think about the next one for seven or eight years.

The script was completed prior to shooting, but it seems like you were open to adding to it. I mean, you include a scene referencing Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run, which I’m sure you didn’t know would happen six years prior.

Yeah, one year we were shooting in the fall during the Obama/McCain race and I thought the moment was worthy of adding in. Even if it didn’t end up being a huge cultural moment, it was real. We were just trying to be honest about that moment. The film wasn’t trying to reflect on too much pop culture. I wanted to reflect on what it’s like as a kid growing up and having everything coming at you—from the culture to the way you pick up on your parents’ politics. Everything is sort of in your face.

You know, most directors would’ve simply cast three or four actors to play Mason at different ages.

I think I just have more patience. I thought there would be more beauty this way. I mean, it’s completely understandable to do it the other way. You cast an actor as a kid and then you cut to a new actor as an adult. It only makes sense.

Yeah, but then sometimes they don’t even look alike.

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