Interview: Richard Linklater – 'I was thinking about this film probably the whole time I was doing Boyhood. I make movies when the planets line up'
Acclaimed writer-director talks about his new film Everybody Wants Some!!, the 'spiritual successor' to Dazed and Confused
As confounding as he is consistent, Houston-born writer-director Richard Linklater has been one of US filmmaking’s brightest stars since he ambled onto the scene with his breakthrough movie Slacker in 1991. Nominated for five Oscars, he’s dabbled fruitfully in commercial comedy (School of Rock), sci-fi (A Scanner Darkly), true crime (Bernie) and satire (Fast Food Nation) but is best known for the gently interrogative, humane drama epitomised by the Before trilogy and, of course, Boyhood. The 1980-set, excitably-titled Everybody Wants Some!! is an emulation of his heady college days as an aspiring baseball pro, that also marks a return to the territory of the beloved Dazed and Confused. As the film prepares to open in the UK, we caught up with him.
How much of the film is based on your own college experience?
For the most part it’s very close. 18 of us lived in these two houses side by side – it was a kinda crazy time. I didn’t get taped to a fence though, that happened to a friend of mine.
The protagonist Jake (played by Blake Jenner) is marked out by his sensitivity in this all-male, super macho environment. Was that you? Were you the nice guy in the house?
Talking to my old team-mates, they tell me, ‘You were different, we always knew you would do something. You were reading all the time.’ I was an English major, a lot of the guys were Business majors. Still, there’s a lot of different personalities who play baseball, it’s a cerebral game.
Given that you’re depicting a group of guys and there’s all this testosterone raging, how do you avoid alienating certain audiences?
It’s a fine line, some people complain that the film lacks women. But I was trying to be very honest about what it felt like to be a young guy at that time. It’s not really a bully game, they’re not bad guys, it’s not dark-hearted but it’s definitely alpha male. That’s the point of view of the movie, they see women a certain way and objectify them, but then Jake makes this one real connection, with Beverly [played by Zoey Deutch], and you learn more about her.
You withhold the romance for a significant portion of the movie and it’s all the more impactful for it, a tender counterpoint to the hedonism that precedes it.
It allows it to go into another gear, the movie needs it at that point. That’s kind of the goal, you go out and you party but I think most people are looking to find someone they really like.
Was there a real-life Beverly?
Yeah, I saw her recently. She ended up teaching drama, she was an actor. She goes, ‘I’m Beverly, right?’ and I go, ‘Well, there were others, but yeah.’ I remember just being compelled toward meeting theatre majors, dancers, performers – those were my people.
There are some recognisable actors in the film but most of the young cast don’t bring a lot of screen baggage with them. Was that intentional?
For a lot of them it’s their first movie. There aren’t a lot of names that age who are stars anyway, plus the world needs fresh faces. There’s a lot of talent out there and not enough compelling parts. When I did Dazed and Confused way back we were in a similar situation.
The film delights in period detail but it’s also dealing with an experience that many people will relate to.
There’s something developmentally important about that transition between youth and adulthood. It’s a rite of passage to leave home and university is a safe place to be for a few years. You don’t have full responsibilities yet but you don’t have the baggage of being at home.
You were at college in 1980 but you also make the connection between a decade that’s yet to establish itself and young people who don’t quite know who they are yet.
It’s basically the end of the 70s. It was a cultural transformation point and it represents a personal transformation. You’re just finding yourself but the culture is too, it’s a pretty interesting moment.
You’ve described it as a spiritual successor to 1993’s Dazed and Confused, what do you mean by that?
Well, it’s the four years later. That was my high school, this was my college. Jake in this is sorta like Mitch, the young guy in Dazed [played by Wiley Wiggins] – he’s a pitcher too.
So why make it now?
I was thinking about this film probably the whole time I was doing Boyhood. It had a long gestation period. I make movies when the planets line up, when you get the financing, the right cast and someone will let you do it. I always have a lot of projects on the go, I’ve got about ten projects I’m working on now but I don’t know what’s next, we’ll see. I’m always trying to see what can get made or not. Too bad it’s such a big deal.
Everybody Wants Some!! is released on Fri 13 May.