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Interview: Richard Linklater on spending 12 years making 'Boyhood'

Director Richard Linklater talks about making "Boyhood" without knowing where it would specifically wind up one year to the next, as well as indie film now.

Filmmaker Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" was filmed over 12 years. Credit: Getty Images Filmmaker Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" was filmed over 12 years.
Credit: Getty Images

Director Richard Linklater's new film, "Boyhood", is a unique, 12-years-in-the-making experiment, shot in short bursts over a long span of time to follow one young man (Ellar Coltrane) as he develops. We were curious how he managed to pull that off.

With a movie like this, filmed in such a unique way, how did you decide when to end the story?

I always had it planned out to end it when he goes off to college. I remember with that moment, the feeling like there was freedom over that hill — you know, leaving home, being out of high school. It's just different, felt like you were an adult or something. I always had that being the little denouement, I guess. I knew that for years. I didn't know the exact dialogue, but I knew that was the note to hit.

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It's impressive that you had so much of it planned out for so long.

Yeah, not the exact dialogue but every character trajectory. And then we had the luxury of being able to think about it for a year.

Were there any discoveries or surprises along the way that made it necessary to course-correct?

The thing was such a little incremental collaboration — a collaboration with incremental growth for the characters and the culture and everything, so there was never anything insurmountable or any huge curveballs that came our way. It was all kind of predictable. Like, "Okay, everybody's a year older." I got to kind of work through all that. So it was kind of as planned.

He's not the most talkative protagonist.

I wanted it to mirror how life feels. When you're a little kid, your parents are doing all the talking. You go where they go, you're so beholden to them, but as you get older you gain more agency and suddenly it's your tastes that dictate. So that seemed to me developmentally somewhat accurate. And he's a pretty laid-back guy, actually.

Richard Linklater is seen on the set of "Boyhood" in either 2008 or 2012. Credit: IFC Films Richard Linklater is seen on the set of "Boyhood" in either 2008 or 2012.
Credit: IFC Films

When you cast Ellar as a kid, was there any concern about how he might grow up as far as his personality or his looks?

If he had become a significantly different guy? I knew that he would become himself and the film would go there, so if he had ended up a 200-pound football player, it would be a similar story about a guy who… becomes a 200-pound football player. It would touch on a lot of the same things, probably, but in a different vessel.

Given how much the independent world has changed since you started, how do you think you'd go about making a debut film in 2014?

Oh gosh. I don't know, I think it's easier to make a film now. There are a lot more films made. I think it's harder to get them seen, it's harder to have any cultural impact or be seen much, so that's the challenge. I think a lot of it is the indie audience has gotten older, and I think young people aren't necessarily picking up the indies. The ubiquity maybe of the technology makes actually consuming films in a strange way less of a big deal for them. They just download them and whatever. It's a struggle to get them out there.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
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