Nothing dates a film like technology. However, the iMacs, Game Boys, PlayStations, social media, and video games in Richard Linklater's groundbreaking new movie, "Boyhood," are a welcome way to contextualize 12 years of action. I chatted with Richard Linklater about "Boyhood," which stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and its make use of tech as a structural device. Richard Linklater\'s Boyhood traces Mason\'s (Ellar Coltrane) development from boyhood to manhood. You typically make movies that span 12 to 24 hours, yet this film spans 12 years.
Why mess with your signature style? It blows my average out of the water, if you adapt the baseline.
With each film, you have a story to tell, and I spend my time thinking about how exactly to tell it. What's the right form for it? In a complete lot of my films, I'm trying to create some reality, and I think I've largely replaced traditional plot devices with time-structural devices that feel a little closer to how we go through life or process time. It's innate in the human brain to create structure, and it's the same with these stories. There's a big structural component and not as much plot. The idea for this is simple fairly, so this basic idea came to me that broadened a specific cinematic canvas to tell this story.
Knowing you'd be working with these actors for 12 years, which considerations were important during casting particularly? Hopefully somebody you wanna hang out with for 12 years. It's a relationship; it's a family. Patricia and Ethan were easy. I had worked with Ethan before, and I had a long talk with Patricia.
The potential was seen by them. The young kids were more of a wildcard.
My daughter wanted to be in it, so I never cast that part. On the logistical side, that was a safer choice for me, because I knew where she'd be every year. But Ellar Coltrane was the big one, obviously. That was one of the biggest choices, where you hope you're right but you follow your instincts.
I make a huge joke about it: It's like getting the next Dalai Lama, where you put out the items from his next hope and life that he picks them. But he's a really cool kid, like he is in the movie. He's very sensitive and thoughtful. I don't know any other way to put it. He was very conversational and very passionate about movies. I was just hoping it would be a positive thing in his life. It was all the good things about being a young kid actor.
He got to learn a lot from Ethan and Patricia, have a surrogate family all these years. It was like summer camp.
But there was no finished product, so there was no accountability for what we were doing now till. But now he's 19, so he has a young-adult mind that he can wrap around it. Being a famous, little-kid actor can really up screw you. We've seen it, and we don't have to worry about that here. The known fact that the film was shot over 12 years has become its most prominent feature. I know. I wouldn't have predicted that. I was warning Ellar, in the last couple years, that he's investing his life, but that no person is necessarily going to see the movie because it's so small and intimate.
I didn't really count on the concept behind it being the pitch. But it is a compelling idea, and something you've never seen before, so in a real way it transcends the gimmick nature.
But it's a fairly easy thing, like everyone ages 12 years in a movie. I've never seen that, in order that alone becomes a compelling idea. You really drew great performances from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. It's a pretty enticing canvas for an actor to express themselves on. Actors think of a trajectory of a character, also to have a 12-year trajectory, they were so into it. They really explored the possibilities of that, and I found them very thoughtful and real. Also, in real life, they were young parents fairly, and I thought that was an important aspect to what we were trying to say here.
Over the span of the 12 years, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, who play divorced parents in the film, went through public offscreen divorces: Hawke from Uma Thurman, and Arquette from Nicolas Thomas and Cage Jane. Did that ever impact production? That's the downside of being a famous actor, that you stay in public, for mostly worse. But I don't think we ever talked about any of that specifically. I think it was more that Ethan and I were children of divorced parents.
As I approached it, I knew divorce from a kid's point of view, but this whole thing was a collaboration with our own parents. Everyone was a young kid once and had that relationship with their parents, and everyone who is a parent understands it from that perspective also.
So it's kind of refracted from all these different angles on our subject matter. The movie tracks time through tech devices and software such as Facebook and Twitter and the Organ Trail and Tamagotchi video games. How did you choose which tech to feature? It was so easy. We filmed what was in front of us just. Skyfire VideoQ plays Flash videos on your iPhone.
Film tech products, add 10 years, and you get the history. It was, "I like that game; let's use it." The film's a powerful document of the time. I knew those iMacs would look different someday always, because that's not going to be around forever and [is] going to look funny in 12 years. So you can wager on it and can tell time by them. But it was a bizarre notion to be shooting a period film in the present. What's your chosen app? I'm not a large applications person.
An iPhone is had by me, and I put it to use for text, email, etc. I did have a cool astronomy app, Star Walk, where you can point your phone at the sky and have it tell you what you're looking at. That was my favorite, and that's science fiction to me. But Ellar and I are making an app. You'll see within the year. It grew out of the movie.
It'll be one of those funny apps, but also practical.