It has been over 20 years since the cult, coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused. We sat down with the creative mastermind behind it all – writer and director Richard Linklater – to talk about his latest film Everybody Wants Some!!, which he describes as his ‘spiritual sequel’ to the 1993 classic. Along with him were two of the stars of his new film Tyler Hoechlin and Glen Powell.
Linklater is one of the great pioneers of independent cinema as well as the mind behind various movies such as School of Rock, Waking Life, the Before trilogy and, most recently, the Oscar winning Boyhood. He is known for his often candid depictions of suburban culture, the passage of time and generally exploring humanist topics of everyday moments and life.
Everybody Wants Some!! is a sports comedy set in 1980 during the weekend before the first week of university in Texas. It follows a group of freshmen as they drive around campus chasing girls, playing baseball and partying as they get to know one another and plan their futures.
As far as you can remember, was there a specific film or filmmaker that inspired you to start making your own stuff?
God there were just so many! But there’s different types of films that inspire you at different times in your life and when I was a little kid I saw the Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, you know that film? And like it blows your mind and there’s films along the way but it took me a while to realise that film was my medium and I think when I first got interested it was really the lower budget personal indie films that seemed accessible. You know it’s like, I can’t make Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull or Copolla’s Apocalypse Now, something practical gives you inspiration to feel like “wow, I can make a movie”.
Do you kind of feel like if it weren’t for independent films you wouldn’t have got into cinema?
Yeah well I feel like a lot of the stories I want to tell aren’t these big grandiose stories, I’m kind of a minimalist so I like to take small stories and look for more depth within something that’s kind of minimal. I didn’t have epic stories to tell in a way, I mean you end up doing all sorts of different movies but I think initially I approached it more like a novel or something on a smaller scale. It’s kind of perfect for an indie or a low budget scale thing.
Speaking of the beginning of your career, one of your earlier films, Waking Life, was an animation. What prompted you to enter into that medium?
It’s really just storytelling, you know, I had this idea in my head about the narrative of Waking Life as it is: a story that would be kind of a story within a story within a story. It was kind of a layer of stories and dreams and the idea in my head never really worked as live action. I had been thinking about it for years and years and it’s important that the films you make in your head…well they have to work…and that one never really worked. It’s a good example of ideas meeting technology. Some friends of mine were developing this animation technique that I saw and it immediately clicked! Like if this idea looked like that then it would work! In this kind of imaginative, realistic yet humanly constructed drawn world it just hit me. You have to think how technology works, I had the story I wanted to tell and I was just looking for the form for it. I think I did it with Boyhood too in a way; I had a story I wanted to tell but I had to create a form to tell it and I hadn’t seen that kind of working methodology before. I think that’s what a director does, you spend your time not just having a story, but knowing how to tell it. That’s the challenge.
Let’s talk about Everybody Wants Some!! Can you give us a little overview of the film?
College. It’s a college movie. You know, I made a high school movie a long time ago, Dazed and Confused, and personally that was my high school and this is my college. I wanted to deal with those years in a way, so it’s personal and yet a challenge to make a big ensemble comedy. But I don’t really know where to start, it’s just kind of a story in my head from my own life that I tried to make a movie out of. I first thought of this in 2002 so it’s a long gestation, and I’m just glad I finally got the chance to make it.
When we went to the press preview we were the youngest there by maybe 20 years and it seemed like we were laughing the whole way through. We felt like the humour of the film and its themes seemed to cater to our age group.
Did you think so? See when I do this I’m directly connected to it because I lived through that time. I have a very good memory so it doesn’t feel that long ago and I could go back and think “if I had these film making skills as a college kid, this is the film I would have made”. I don’t know if juvenile is the word, but I wasn’t making this film as an experienced middle aged director, I was really kind of making it what I thought would have been funny then. Maybe I’m immature but it wasn’t hard to get back into that mindset. I kind of make the film from the perspective of someone that it’s aimed towards. But yeah, thanks for that because I didn’t want to make it unrelatable for young people.
You mentioned Dazed and Confused just there, you’ve said in interviews that you consider Everybody Wants Some!! to be a kind of spiritual sequel to both Dazed and Confused and Boyhood. So which of them would you consider this film more closely related to in terms of style or in terms of the universe?
Ooh, I don’t know… In a way, probably Dazed, just because it’s back in that time frame, it’s an ensemble, it’s a comedy… Boyhood’s really just for me, personally. You know even as I was filming the end of Boyhood I told the actors “you know I have this other film that kind of starts right here, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to make it.” And I got to make it one year later so I was happy with the way that worked out.
We heard in preparation for the film you had the whole cast live in a house together and gave out iPods to everyone with a specific list of tracks on them. What were you hoping to achieve with that?
Just bonding, the movie asks a lot. You’re supposed to believe that these guys have known each other for 3 years, well, the older guys at least. You can’t just fake that. If you showed up as an actor and you do one table read and then the next day you’re filming, I don’t know if you could fake the certain kind of realism and the feeling that I’m going for. So really I didn’t know any other way, I had this bunk house on some land outside of town where I live, so yeah I just moved them all in there together for 3 weeks. And you know, some of them were a little older, one guy had just been married and it was like “well, here you are, you’re going to be in here with 11 roommates. Sorry but you’re going back to college!” It was kind of a vacation, we were working but we were playing because we could swim, we could play ball…at night we were shooting pool or playing ping pong. None of them could beat me.
A lot of your films are obviously about specific and brief moments in time. Your characters tend not to have an explicit past or set of future goals. Do you find that these techniques like moving everybody into a house and making them listen to certain types of music are useful in helping your actors to develop multi-dimensional characters?
That’s observationally very correct; you don’t know much about them. You never really learn what they’re studying or where they’re from, you just have to accept their reality. But that’s how we go through life, right? You just meet people and you kind of get a sense of them but you don’t really pretend to know them, but then you still feel like you know them on some level. That’s the experience I try to recreate. I think movies get too bogged down when they try to explain all motivations. Movies are a powerful medium; people get it so you can just jump right in, you don’t have to explain it all. I tend to make these movies that are within a certain time structure that it’s so not about their past or future, it’s about that moment of their reality so you need to get into that.
There’s a character in the film – Willoughby – he seems to be a kind of external voice of reason. Did you consciously decide to present him this way? Do you identify with him a bit?
I like him because he’s a thinker. He’s contemplating the world and he’s searching, and that’s my kind of character. I loved making that, Wyatt Russell’s great to work with too, he’s really the coolest guy in the world so it was so fun. But yeah, I like that kind of character, and that’s what college felt like to me; you’re around the older people and they seem to know more than you. Like when someone’s like “here’s some music, here’s a book, have you ever read this author? Check it out!” That’s a great point in life. I just wonder, when does that curiosity stop? Hopefully never. Willoughby was the right person at the right time to kind of turn you on to things.
Finally, we thought we would ask you a little bit about diversity in Hollywood, specifically in reference to minorities and to women. In your films, especially the Before trilogy and Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, women are very well represented. Is this something that you aim to do?
Yeah, and I have another film that’s about a middle aged woman’s midlife crisis, it’s called “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” and it’s a thing that I’m going to make within the year. But yeah it’s important because movies are so public, but actually it’s a deeper question than what’s on screen. You look at the production leaders, the political leaders, the positions of power, it all looks the same. But then actually, if you look deeper into it and you go to the meetings, there is so much that’s hidden. I would say as far as women go, women are very powerful in Hollywood. At the end of the day there’s fewer women directors than men, there just are, and I think that’ll change over time, or at least I hope. But if you go and look at the executives, the agents, the managers, women are everywhere. They really are a strong presence, they’re just not in that final director’s seat but I feel like they’re working their way there. The more women there are in power in the studio, it’s up to them to bring other women to the forefront, and it’s all the same with minorities! Like when they gave Spike Lee an award recently he got up and said “Well I guess it’s easier to be black and president than it is to be black and be the head of a studio.” And he’s right. It’s not an elective office, it’s a business position and there’s a lot of money and power there. So basically it’ll change. I’m just glad that those issues are up because they need to be.
Tyler Hoechlin and Glen Powell
Could you give us a little overview of your characters, who they are, what they do, their roles in the film?
Tyler Hoechlin: I play Glen McReynolds. He’s the team captain and he’s a bit of an asshole to the new guys, as is called for for upper-classmen, it’s just kind of the way it is. But he’s kind of there to make sure the team stays focussed and he’s an incredibly competitive guy who hates losing at anything, baseball especially. He’s just kind of overseeing everything and enjoying his last year of college before he goes off to play some professional baseball.
Glen Powell: And he’s the strongest moustache in the group.
TH: A very very proud moustache.
Were you in second then?
GP: I’ll take second moustache. Yeah, I play Finnegan. Rick kind of referred to him as a hedonistic philosopher. He loves to get as much as he can out of life. He’s smart. Actually Rick referred to him as a guy that kind of, he didn’t actually exist in real life, he wasn’t part of Rick’s college experience, but he’s what everybody thinks they were when they were back in college. When people look back on their college and high school experience, they say I was like the coolest, I was the best baseball player, I was the best dancer, and before we started Rick was like you are that guy, he’s like be good at everything. Win at everything, that was kind of the motto before we started. Augie Garrido, the University of Texas baseball coach, said “win at everything” and that kind of became like a weird mantra for the competitive nature of the whole team.
This film is about the weekend before college starts, our Freshers’ Week. How closely does it mirror your own experiences at university?
TH: I don’t remember my first weekend so maybe that means it was similar… I don’t know. It could mean that it was similar or just nothing eventful happened and so that’s why I don’t really remember. But there’s definitely times in the movie that remind me of certain days at university back home. I don’t think we ever got as rowdy, there’s more consequences in real life than there are on a movie set. You actually get in trouble, but we had some rowdy nights like that. Every time I say this he gives me this look because he thinks I was such a saint in college and for the most part I kind of was but I had my nights.
GP: Tyler is the greatest guy you’ll ever meet but he’s always like “dude, we tore it up” and I’m like “you were in bed by midnight”. This guy got home at midnight last night, I got home at two.
TH: That’s true, he beat me last night.
You’re so competitive, it’s just like the movie.
GP: We’re just competitive non-stop, no matter what it is.
TH: It’s true, it’s true, we compete about who goes harder
GP: Who was the worst person last night? That was me.
TH: He was at a karaoke bar last night until 2.30.
GP: I was at a karaoke bar.
TH: I was just out till 1.30 so…
GP: I had no songs to sing, my voice was feeling a little shaky, I didn’t think I could perform…
Tyler, you played baseball in college, did that attract you to the film and can you do the thing in the movie where you slice a baseball in half with an axe?
TH: I did do that thing, it’s in the movie!
GP: There’s no CGI in that, that is all Tyler Hoechin.
TH: I don’t encourage anyway to attempt that trick but yeah, we threw a ball, I swung an axe and it split in two pieces.
I can’t even lift an axe so it was very impressive.
TH: Do you have an axe, we’ll do it right now!
GP: Every time we say “get an axe and a baseball, we’ll do it right now”, nobody has an axe or a baseball on them.
TH: You guys don’t really have baseball here.
GP: “I can lift 10,000 pounds. You don’t have 10,000 pounds? Lame, alright.”
We know that in preparation for the film, Richard moved you guys into a communal house. How did you all get along and how did it affect your process of characterisation?
GP: We hated each other so we had to act really hard throughout the movie.
TH: Act hard. That was our other mantra. If you’re not a good actor, act harder.
TH: Hopefully, I think it’s obvious in the film that it was such a great group of guys. To throw twelve strangers in a room… I mean, you knew Blake a little bit?
GP: I knew Blake a little bit. He was on the same show as my roommate. He was on Glee-
Who’s your roommate?
GP: Chord Overstreet. Chord and I have lived together for like five years at this point and so Blake and Melissa and all the Glee kids would always be at our place, and so I just kind of knew Blake vaguely and then I found out that we were chemistry reading together. There were three people left but the other guy was a rogue choice that came through at the last moment and I was like oh this was totally teed up for us to win. Blake and I already knew each other and he was obviously the guy and I felt pretty good about it. But I don’t know if that chemistry even really helped that much because there was immediate chemistry with everybody. It was so weird, my first day as soon as I got down there was just like such a great group of guys, there’s not one rotten apple in the bunch.
TH: No, everybody clicked so fast, and it’s funny because we always went straight to the ranch every night. Actually the first night we were there, we were at the hotel and we all sat around the table out by the pool until like 3 in the morning and everyone just hung out there, and I think Will Brittain who plays Billy, some of his friends showed up and we all just sat around the table for hours.
GP: Which table? At the ranch?
TH: No, not at the ranch, at the hotel.
GP: What hotel?
TH: There was a hotel-
GP: Oh on the first day of shooting?
TH: First day of shooting, and we just kind of hung out and right away from the first night, nobody went to their room to call it a night early, everybody just hung out.
GP: We had no personal space the whole time. Remember my spot? I had that cool rooftop thing, everybody was over there all the time. It was crazy, there was like nobody ever really left set, we were always hanging out. But that’s rare, because a lot of times you shoot with people all day long and you’re kind of like ok I’m ready for some personal space at the end of the day, but it was never that way. Work together, eat together, shower together. Quote me on that.
TH: Go to bed, wake up together.
GP: There were twelve guys and we all slept in one bed. Granted, it was a king. A California king actually. Twelve guys. Two Snuggies.
Did you guys find yourselves living totally as yourselves or did parts of your character come into your day-to-day life?
GP: Tyler’s the nicest guy in the entire world, there’s not one ounce of Glen McReynolds in him.
TH: I think the only thing I have in common with Glen is the competitive thing. But even then, it was funny because we would always play foosball with Wyatt and Forrest, and him and Forrest were always on a team and Wyatt and I were always on a team, so that kind of made it into the movie. And he does have this one shot that’s so annoying because it’s so effective and it works like every time. But Wyatt has gotten really good at defending it. But every time it would happen I would always say “It’s the same shot!” But I would never yell at Wyatt, I was just yelling in general that it was the same shot and I would get mad at myself. We were doing the scene I was like yeah I’d probably get mad at Willoughby.
GP: What’s great about that is that kind of sums up the movie because a lot of these moments existed in real life. Art imitated life in a big way on this one. Rick loves to collaborate, we got to talk stuff out. He’d say “what would you do here?” And we’d be like “Oh, we play foosball”, you know? He witnessed that.
TH: We acted that scene out for him in his game room actually and he was like “Oh, OK cool, we’ll do that”.
Did you ever play him?
TH: A couple of times
GP: Rick is a guy that sticks to his strengths, he likes to win. And he’s not a big foosball player. He’s ridiculous at ping pong.
GP: Like ridiculous. What’s weird is that he’s this intellectual guy who was like a jock and you kind of forget that. He was a potential pro baseball player.
TH: He played baseball in college, yeah.
GP: And so, you see him on the pitching machine and he’s cracking these things over the fence, it’s crazy.
There’s a ping-pong bar in Glasgow, you guys should take him out.
GP: What’s it called?
TH: Cool name for a bar.
Speaking of Richard, how did you find that your experience of working with him differed from working with other directors? Were there any specific challenges or any rewards?
TH: I’d say how creatively encouraging Rick is as opposed to being so execution-focused. He kind of encourages you to continue to think of things, as opposed to being like “hey how are you going to do that thing I told you to do?”
GP: “How are you going to say that line?”
GP: He’s always just like “is that the best line? What do you think about that? What would you do here?” He does that, so it’s like you’re constantly being critical.
TH: There was a documentary that somebody did on him that was at Sundance this year and it was a bunch of people he had worked with – Jack Black and Mcconaughey and these guys that they interviewed – and I forget who it was that said it, but someone said “he’s great at directing with questions”. Instead of saying “do this”, it’s “what do you think?” and he makes you think about it and makes you find it on your own. So even if there’s an answer that he wants, he’ll lead you there with questions so you feel connected, and so it makes sense to you, and so that you find whatever that is. He’s great at doing that.
GP: Every actor has a different process and I’ve worked with directors who just go “I don’t need to talk character just now, just tell me what you’re looking for or how you want to approach this”. And with Rick, he does get there and it’s the shortest path between two points but it’s the most fun path. And it’s, I think, the most creatively fulfilling. And there were days when he’d be like “I was thinking about the editing and there’s this beat – what could be put in there?” That whole bit where he sucks cream off my finger? Rick and I came up with that five minutes before we shot it because he was like “what can we put in there?” That’s the kind of director he is. He’s seeing the movie, he’s watching things play out in his head, and that’s why I think the movie rocks. He gives a lot of power to his actors. I think he’s definitely the most giving director hands down.
TH: Oh yeah, in existence.
Just before we wrap up, The Glasgow Guardian has a wide readership, many of whom are obviously quite young. As the film deals with college students, we just wondered if you had any last minute words of wisdom for our readers while they’re coming of age?
TH: Be present. It seems like a kind of fad topic but I think it’s so underestimated how important it is, These things [gestures to iPhones] have kind of changed the world in like amazing ways but at the same time I think that the reason why we bonded so well on this film is because we did put our phones away. Usually on sets you can have them in your pocket and be like “Oh it’s my character phone” and check them between set-ups and stuff. We all left them in our trailers because it was 1980, you couldn’t have them anyway, and we didn’t bring them on set. No-one wanted to check their phone and see what was going on somewhere else, you were just where you were. So much of the movie, like when they walk into the disco, the whole first disco thing, just watching them just be where they are, it’s just like “oh God, I miss that”. You can’t go anywhere now that is a social environment and not see people being actually incredibly anti-social, and always just looking at what’s happening next as opposed to looking at what’s happening right now. Enjoy the time, it flies by.
GP: I’d just say, you know, it’s the ‘University of Glasgow’, not ‘Glasgow University’. I think everyone needs to remember that.