Monday, I had the pleasure of participating in the New York press junket for BOYHOOD. In attendance were writer/director Richard Linklater, breakout star, Ellar Coltrane, and industry strongholds Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette. With the film’s highly anticipated release, everyone in the theater was eager to get some deeper insight into this innovative new film. Below you will find some of my favorite highlights from the afternoon.
This movie is about growing up. Can you tell us what you remember about your first kiss?
Ethan: My first kiss was with a girl named Cindy at the Hamilton roller rink during slow skate, and she said to me, “Do you like Jack Daniels?” And to that I said, ” Yeah, too bad he died.” And I don’t know what I meant! I don’t think I knew who Jack Daniels was, I think I thought it was Jimi Hendrix!
Patricia: I do not remember my first kiss. That doesn’t mean I had a lot of kisses. I think I was pretty young. I’m sure it was a peck. I don’t remember. I do remember one kiss. I didn’t know why but I really didn’t like the way this guy kissed me and he was a friend of a friend and he was a pro skater and he’s the only guy I ever gave a fake number to… and years later he murdered his girlfriend… (audible gasp from the press)… So there!
How did this project change the way you think about cinema; and your idea of what cinema is and what cinema could be and should be?
Richard: Embarking on this… I had never seen this film before… I had kind of figured that at this point people would be pointing out to me that this film had in fact been made in some country but it never has happened. No one came forward with a film that felt original to me that I haven’t seen so it felt like some huge idea at the time, very simple but an idea that I had based on years of thinking about. Cinema in general, storytelling, narrative story telling. The possibilities of it in relation to time and structure. I mean I have spent my adult life thinking about that stuff but in this film I was solving a particular problem so… it sounds arrogant or something but like a scientists who goes to sleep at night and dreams of formula for his whatever that solves his problem. It’s kind of like well you’re a scientist to begin with and you’re thinking of the problem so you get to answer this… I think film is still a wide open frontier in storytelling.
Patricia: I just want to say as far as cinema goes, I feel like I’ve watched this really strange shift in cinema and of course in my career, I’ve seen it sort of become a business of bankers and spreadsheets and I think the way that Rick chose the restraint in which he directed this movie… with the collaborative openness and the balance of those two things he didn’t tell the obvious dramatic story. And most people would say, “ You’re not following the formula, you’re not catering to this demographic,” and there’s philosophical elements of the human connection and communication and space for the human relationship. If this movie does well, first of all, financiers are going to have to re examine being a little more supportive… And I think that young film audiences enjoy it, so as we move more towards technology in our human communications the more we’re going to have the need to see movies that are about humans.
Ellar: I think there’s this sort of tendency or need to gravitate towards towards like hyper-drama, ’cause that’s the only thing that makes a story worth telling is big fantastical moments that don’t happen to most of us and I think it’s really powerful to kind of dwell on the little things.
Ethan: It’s interesting though that the movie actually does get a lot of power of our preconditioned experiences at the cinema of thinking something big is going to happen. You watch the unbelievable tension and minutia of the movie because we’re so conditioned to think something horrible must happen. You wouldn’t just be watching some people drive to the university if there wasn’t going to be a car wreck, right? What I love about that is that’s actually how I feel about my life. A lot of my life is wasted worrying, you know. And the movie actually captures the feeling.
Was it fun to meet every year and what was that experience like? Did any of you everhave a doubt, “What the hell am I doing?!”
Ethan: I think I can collectively say we were all only grew to love it more and more and more and more. At first it seemed a little bit like a fun experiment and then it turned into something I love so much, you know… I remember years ago being a rehearsal room with a great Tom Stoppard and he was talking about how plot is this unfortunate device that the audience just needs. And what’s funny is… he talked about the obvious example of Lawrence of Arabia…you can watch that movie and 25 years later you remember him standing on top of that train and this feeling of power when he was becoming fully actualized of who he wanted to be in this kind of close up. And he said, “I couldn’t actually tell you where in that story that is or what’s going on I just remembered I was moved by it… and Rick is kind of daring with this movie to kind of forego what Stoppard thought were these necessary bogus plot [moments]. Our lives don’t have plot and he felt that narrative does and this movie kind of skirts around that.
Richard: I’ve replaced plot with structure.
When asked about the transformative power of art…
Ethan: The most beautiful experience for me about making this movie is watching Ellar become a creative entity unto himself. I think there’s a version of this movie, if the movie didn’t work it would have been a stunt or a gimmick around time, and it’s Ellar’s performance and creativity and passion in the movie that, you know, elevates us all as a central figure. It makes it more than structure. The structure is working but it requires a certain level of inspiration. And watching you (Ellar) survive adolescence and and you let the movie be, and not just Rick’s expression but also yours, and so that was happening in the movie and it was happening on set.
Patricia: The beautiful thing about getting paid for art or not… on some level it is a little spark of the life force, or whatever that is. In acting, you have to get past your own head and your own ego and all these f****** barriers and walls to just get to a place where you’re hoping your present enough to be in a scene with someone who is pure, to get out of your own way to listen to a director who has a beautiful vision and just be there. Showing up every year, meeting with each other, building on each other….it was collaborative and it built upon itself. I felt safe and I trusted the process and it was jumping into the void from the get go. But it was just, you know, when you’re in the right hands and you jump into the void together really great things can come of it.
Ethan speaks to a subject on his mind during Q&A…
Ethan: I’m surprised that people don’t write about more, which is, how awesome it is to see Patricia as this character in this movie and to see a real woman who is a mother and a lover and more than one thing and a movie. I feel so proud to be part of a movie that respects her character the way this movie does and I feel it’s so real and so true … in life we see it all the time, but I don’t see that woman and movies. I don’t see her… real three-dimensional human being and it was so exciting. And the women in my life who have seen the movie so appreciate it. And I think she’s also not just good she does stupid things and smart things. I just love it.
BOYHOOD premieres July 11, and will have its nationwide release July 18th.