By Steve Fisher
COMING;OF;AGE movies aren’t new.
Every generation has great films showing a
young person’s big awakening. But, as writer-director Richard Linklater points out, other
films focus on a life-changing incident. He
found a unique approach with Boyhood, a
low-budget film that has found international
box-office success, and award validation.
“I couldn’t really land on the exact moment
of childhood I wanted to depict,“ he tells The
Connection in a phone interview on his way to
catch a flight. “My impulse was really about
the whole process. Growing up, how we change,
how we become who we become. Recasting
only works if there are large leaps in time.”
Linklater had a huge aha moment.
“What if I filmed a little every year? I
could cover the whole thing. In my mind, the
whole movie was there. The way it would feel
and look. You go into the theater, sit down
and 12 years go by, and you leave the theater.
The way life flows by. In a narrative, not a
documentary,” Linklater explains.
He started with an outline of what he
wanted the film to capture. The plan was to
set aside a few days a year to film. “It was
always going to be a series of scripts,” he says.
“It was kind of like 12 films, basically.
“[The concept] was the easy part. The
harder part was who the hell’s going to fund it,
how are you going to do it,” Linklater recalls.
“Artists get it. Financing people go, ‘What?’
The first time I ran it by Ethan Hawke [who
plays the father], he looked at me with this
odd face and a twinkle in his eye and said,
‘Yeah, that sounds cool. Let’s do it.’ ”
Linklater’s next call was to Patricia
Arquette, who plays the mother with an affin-
ity for abusive husbands. She, too, got it and
signed on immediately.
“They both were so dedicated to those
characters,” says Linklater. “They had no
qualms about aging or their bodies changing.
It was really cool. That’s what the movie is
really about. Kids grow up, but so do adults.”
Linklater's daughter, Lorelei, lobbied to
play the older sister, but the key was finding a
boy who would be willing to grow up on cam-
era. “It was the single most volatile issue. That
could have gone any direction. I knew that’s
where the greatest change would go,” he
recalls. “But that was all completely avoided
because he was great. He was the right kid, the
right parents. The right everything.”
That was a young Austin, Texas–based
actor named Ellar Coltrane, 8 years old when
they started, 20 when the film wrapped. Both
of his parents are artists and had a complete
understanding of what they were allowing
their son to do.
“They grasped the undertaking or the
ambition of it. I think they thought it would
be a fun thing in their kid’s life. He was an
actor,” explains Linklater. “I wouldn’t have just
pulled a kid off the street.”
Coltrane more than merely grew from
boy to man. He matured as an artist as well.
“It mirrored life in general,” observes
Linklater. “You’re kind of confident and blus-
tery as a kid, you get a little older you go
through puberty, maybe you get a little quiet,
maybe a little self-consciousness enters in.
Just the way you process life, you could see it
on his face. He was more and more of an
artistic collaborator. Every year. A little more
to say about the character. A little more about
the big picture.”
Boyhood recently was nominated for
five Film Independent Spirit Awards, includ-
ing best picture, best director, best support-
ing actress (Arquette) and best supporting
What matters for Richard Linklater is
what individual viewers take from the film.
“I want you to care about these people,”
he says. “To have experienced a life really
examined and to feel this family and their
multiple perspectives. I want you to care
about the mom and the dad and how they’ve
grown, as well as the kids. The film is really
about this collection of intimate moments,
and hopefully it all adds up to something you
care about.” C
PHOTOS COUR TES Y IFC FILMS
Patricia Arquette (left) as Mom
with Ellar Coltrane as her son,
Mason. Below: Director Richard
Linklater confers with actor
A boy’s life
arts & entertainment
Boyhood is available
1/6 in Blu-ray combo
(with DVD and Digital
HD) in all warehouses.
Boyhood uniquely captures
Click here to see a trailer
for Boyhood. (See page
14 for details.)
a story of growing up