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Originally published Monday, July 21, 2014 at 12:03 AM

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A 12-year film odyssey results in ‘Boyhood’

An interview with director Richard Linklater, who filmed “Boyhood” over a period of 12 years.

Special to The Seattle Times

Coming up


Opens July 25 at the Harvard Exit. Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use. For a review, go Thursday to or pick up a copy of Friday’s MovieTimes.


Filmed over a period of 12 years, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” shows a Texas family literally growing up on camera, as their precocious child, Mason, navigates the perils of first grade through high school.

Partly truth and partly fiction, Mason is played by Ellar Coltrane. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are his parents, and the director’s daughter, Lorelei, plays their older daughter. The result resembles an epic home movie, though it was cast through relatively normal auditions.

“Ellar was kind of the most interesting kid I met,” said Linklater when he brought the movie to SIFF last month (it opens July 25 at the Harvard Exit).

“I liked the way his mind worked. His parents were cool. They’re both artists and there’s the practical consideration that this film could be a big thing in his life, for better or worse, so I needed them aboard.”

Some aspects of the film are unique, though they bear a resemblance to the nonfictional British “7 Up” series created by Linklater’s friend, Michael Apted.

“You can’t really ask a 6-year-old to commit to anything, much less 12 years of their life,” said Linklater, who turns 54 on July 30.

“But Ellar grew into it and enjoyed it, you know, every year he never wavered. He was looking forward to it and became a collaborator. And I think I got lucky. By the end he looked like this rock star. Such a good-looking young man, such an interesting guy, so thoughtful.”

Linklater’s daughter took a slightly different approach.

“She just kind of demanded the part,” said Linklater, who had cast her in one of his earlier movies, “Waking Life” (2001). “It made sense to me for practical reasons. I knew where she would be.”

More than with most movies, “Boyhood” needed to keep track of its cast members, some of whom had other assignments and deadlines to meet.

“We’re all juggling schedules,” he said. “Every year there was this wacky practical side to the movie that’s not on the screen, but as you can imagine, to only film a few days a year of an actor’s life puts you in kind of a lower priority to the ‘real’ things they’re doing.”

While he was putting “Boyhood” together, Linklater’s own directing career hit a peak, including the darkly comic cult film “Bernie” (2012), the charming backstage comedy “Me and Orson Welles” (2009) and last year’s “Before Midnight,” with Hawke and Julie Delpy continuing their Oscar-nominated series about a young couple who approach middle age together. (They first played the characters in 1995.)

Linklater says he spent a year in preproduction on “Boyhood” and a year in postproduction on the film: “You couldn’t just drop it for a year. You had to be ready for the next year. Every year it’s like you’re making a new movie, but you did it 12 times.”

Looking much like the casually dressed, hair-tossed Austin, Texas, hipster he played in the opening sequence in his first hit movie, “Slacker” (1991), he hopes “Boyhood” develops its own momentum.

“I wanted the whole film to feel like a memory — a lot of weird memories, like ‘Why am I remembering that?’ ‘Why am I staring at a bird or something?’ Who knows what resonates with you, something that’s just your own. It wasn’t scripted, you weren’t forced to act in it, it’s your own impression of something.”

On the other hand, graduation ceremonies or birthday parties may fade into insignificance.

“There are these big moments in your life, which are supposed to be (landmarks), but often you feel like you’re a supporting player, it’s obligatory and you feel like an extra in your own memory.”

John Hartl:

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