Richard Linklater On ‘Everybody Wants Some!!,’ ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Before’ Hitting the Criterion Collection
With Everybody Wants Some!!, Richard Linklater returns to the youthful hangout vibe of Dazed and Confused, this time focusing on a college baseball team in the ’80s as they party around town on the weekend before school starts. The cast, made up of relative unknowns, has an easy chemistry and flowing dynamic, something Linklater has learned to orchestrate masterfully over his thirty-year career.
The story is inspired by Linklater’s experience as a college athlete in the ’80s when he met teammates who would become lifelong friends. As always, he captures the everyday idiosyncrasies of his characters’ personalities in subtle ways we probably don’t notice, consciously. What is noticeable, though, is how entertaining and surprisingly profound it is to spend time with these brutish baseball-heads as they run wild, unsupervised, in a land where they’re kings, as long as they can keep their eye on the ball.
In a roundtable interview, we spoke to Linklater about Everybody Wants Some!!, which opens this Friday, April 1st.
Did Boyhood‘s success help this movie get made?
This [movie] has an interesting relation to Boyhood on a lot of levels. I conceived them at the same time. I started shooting Boyhood when I started writing and thinking about Everybody Wants Some!!. I started writing notes and I thought, I have this film about growing up, but I also have this college movie. Somewhere in ’05, ’06, I actually wrote the script and tried to get it made. I was having trouble getting it off the ground. Filming the very last scene of Boyhood, I was telling the actors, “I have a college movie…” and it hit me that that movie starts right where this movie is ending. I hadn’t really planned it that way but I thought, that’s perfect. There would be this continuation with a very different character. The success of Boyhood helped me get it made. It did help.
When I was in college, I was a nerd, but all of my friends were like the guys in the movie. So, watching this movie was kind of special for me because it was like hanging out with those guys again. A lot of my other friends never wanted to hang around those guys because they viewed them as stereotypical jocks. I like how your movie captures what’s special about their little sports bubble they live in.
The funniest guys I was ever around were these teammates and roommates in college. Just hilarious. None of them had any comedic aspirations. “I’m going to be a comedian! I’m going to be a writer!” It never crossed any of their minds in that regard—they were just making the best of their situation. I think it’s baseball, too. Football, basketball—they’re really different sports, you know? Baseball has a lot of time around it. You have to be relaxed. In football, there’s no room for humor—you could get killed! You’re just dialed in. It’s like going off to war. If you fuck up, you’re dead. In baseball, you’re relaxed and focused, which is kind of a hard thing to balance. But baseball requires it and the arts require it, and you do better. So if you can be kind of funny on the bench, it’s good for the team. A [baseball] coach will keep a light attitude while a football coach isn’t farting around. Baseball is just different. It’s a different mentality.
There are some parallels you can spot between this movie and Dazed and Confused. The hazing scenes, the character arc of someone entering a new phase of their school life, being dismissed and guided by their more seasoned peers. Did you make any conscious efforts to echo back to Dazed and Confused?
I didn’t have to. I was always very upfront that this was sort of a sequel. If you imagine Mitch’s character, played by Wiley Wiggins, playing better and getting a scholarship, this would be where he’d show up at college. It’s a different guy because I waited so long—Wiley’s, like, 38 years old now. I think I was always upfront about it being, that was my high school, this is my college. It’s a similar kind of ensemble vibe, so that’s as far as that goes. I think the humor, the initiation you mentioned—I think it’s more sophisticated, more psychological. You can’t get any worse than paddling and treating girls like hot dogs. That’s really low. This movie is more subtle. I thought [the connection between the films] would be more subtle and for people who knew the films. But I think they found out that, with a cast of relative unknowns, that that was an appealing aspect. So many people have seen Dazed that it would become a marketing element, which is okay with me because it just so happens to be true. [laughs]
The chemistry between the cast members is great. I’m wondering if you had any bonding sessions with them.
Oh yeah. It was, like, enforced. I have some land outside of Austin. I built a farm and I have a bunkhouse. They lived there. I was like, “Hey! This is your home for the next three weeks.” They all moved in and it was just the most fun work-play environment. They just jumped in, man. Full-force. We’d rehearse scenes and the guys who weren’t in it could go swim or play ball or just have fun. It was work, play. Work, play. In the evening, we’d watch a movie. Something period, something related. We never got off making the best movie we could. I think I’ve gotten better at casting over the years. I’ve learned things.
I think I’ve gotten better at casting over the years. I’ve learned things. In an ensemble environment, the wrong person, the wrong energy, will throw it off. I think, for instance, two guys—Niles and Beuter—are kind of on the outs with the team to a large degree. You could cast weirder actors who are kind of different, but that risks throwing off the vibe. I went to those two actors and went, “I want you to come in and do serious character work.” Juston Street had played some pro ball. I said to him, “What about Niles?” and he said, “I know that guy! Every team has one guy like that.” I said, “Why don’t you play that guy?” He said, “Yeah…I get it.” We had fun. We just went way out there with that guy. Will Brittain, who plays Beuter, he’s a serious, good actor. I think it’s the way the rest of the cast responds to that. They see them come in and do serious character work for technically less likable characters, and it ups their game. It sets a good example. There’s a pecking order to the cast. There are four or five parts that are smaller, four or five lines in the script. It’s about getting those to be additive, to make those real people who wouldn’t be forgotten and round out the ensemble. There’s a pecking order to the cast. There are four or five parts that are smaller, four or five lines in the script. It’s about getting those to be additive, to make those real people who wouldn’t be forgotten and round out the ensemble. The guys with the bigger parts were very generous.
Did the script change at all during those three weeks you were in the bunkhouse?
Yeah. It’s really about me adapting the script to this new cast I have. To me, that’s the crucial creative moment. The chemical magic happens there. That’s where the text, these preconceived ideas, meet real people you’re entrusting to carry the spirit of the movie. It’s important in every film, but with an ensemble, you’re collaging. “I don’t think you would say that. But you would.” I just took his line and gave it to someone else. It helps me as a writer in kind of the way you workshop theater. You have weeks of hearing it and you’re like, “Hmm…” Things I thought would be a running gag in the movie many years ago I just see not achieving liftoff. It’s kind of funny, but not that funny. I notice it’s not becoming what I thought it might, so it just kind of goes away.
It’s a fun process. You’ve got to get it right in the rehearsal. By the time you’re shooting, it’s just kind of an extension. On the day, we’re not filming and letting them do stuff. There’s just no time for that. I feel less secure with that. I don’t understand the idea of improv on camera. Any improv or new ideas, I just call that workshopping. That happens in the rehearsal. People always accuse me: “The whole film’s improvised!” Name one film that that could possibly work. I don’t understand it.
The last time I talked to you, it was with Julie [Delpy] for Before Midnight. You both said one of your favorite things about making that movie was the food.
We were in Greece! [laughs]
What was one of your favorite things about this production?
That’s so funny. Food is like a lot of things—you don’t even remember. Being an American, you don’t remember those things. But in Greece, you remember the food. [My favorite thing for this movie] was the cast. Their energy, their spirit. It was just fun. I’ll always have that. There’s something rewarding about working with young talent. They’re not jaded yet. More veteran actors have been burned in movies where they did what the director said and they don’t like it. “Maybe I shouldn’t listen. How vulnerable should I allow myself to be? Should I protect myself? Keep myself in my range of what I know will work even if it will embarrass me? Even if the film sucks, I’ll be okay. Or should I push myself out there for the movie?” Some actors quit doing that. Some of the best actors in film history quit doing that. I could list a lot of names. There’s something great about young actors who are giving everything of themselves and are there for each other.
[I was also] seeing if I could do it. It’s been a long time [since I’ve done one of these] big, youthful, ensemble things. My daughter just graduated from college, so instead of being the cooler older brother or uncle I was in earlier parts of my career, I’m technically old enough to be their dad! I met their parents the other night and it was like, “Oh! We’re the same age.” I thought I was, like, a little older than the cast. But I’m much older. When I was in college, none of them were near being born at the time. The gap’s getting bigger, but it was fun. I can’t help but think I’m a better director. I’m more confident, I know what I’ve done. It’s experience. You subtly see what goes wrong on other movies. They’re not glaring errors, but they’re things you can improve. You do that on every movie, and you carry that forward to your next opportunity to get it right.
The college atmosphere is so amazing in this film. You have all these little details. You have on character framed so that the graffiti behind them says “eat shit.” Finnegan has the old man pipe he hangs out of his pocket so everyone can see how cool he is. Were those details you knew for the characters and atmosphere as you were writing it or were they being put in during production?
A director’s job is to say yes and no to about 900 things a day. If Glen Powell comes up and says, “Hey, you know…Finn needs a pipe.” It’s up to me to go, “Oh no, Finn would never have a pipe,” or go “Yeah, you know, that’s a good idea.” He’s kind of this faux sophisticated guy in his mind. You’ve got a quick decision to make. You just have to have an instinct for it. That Truffaut film, Day For Night…my favorite line is when he goes, “I get asked questions all day long. Sometimes, I even know the answers.” I’ve found, as a director, [when someone asks] “Do you want the red thing or the blue thing?” you have to go, very definitively, “That one.” Everyone feels someone knows the answers.
Criterion’s confirmed Boyhood for the Criterion Collection. A lot of people are very excited for that. When is that going to be released and what kind of special features can we expect?
I think a little later in the year. We have a ton of behind-the-scenes stuff they have to work with. It’s a uniquely documented process. Photos, video…there are cool things coming. Interviews with the cast members over the years, the kids growing up. It’s always great as a filmmaker working with them. It’s that final little resting place for your movie. With Criterion, you’re good with them forever.
Are the Before films coming this year or next year?
I’m not sure of the release date for those, but I feel good that they’re doing the trilogy and Boyhood.
And someday this one too.
I hope so. When you get into studios, sometimes it’s a deal. I think it can work out. The Before films were from three different entities, so sometimes you have to wrangle those rights and get it all worked out.
I think Temple Baker is amazing.
Three of these guys we drew from college. Temple had played some high school ball. Those smaller parts…I wanted those guys to be athletes. I didn’t want to film around them. I wanted to film around the guys with the bigger parts. I just didn’t want to have to work that hard for the smaller parts. Temple had that raspy voice. I was like, “You’re the ultimate roommate!” He’d never acted, and he’s playing the dumb, drunk guy, but he’s brilliant. He’s way high in his class, aced his LSAT. I’d reference a movie or a book and the rest of the cast [wouldn’t know it,] and I’d be like, “I’m old. Different generation.” But he’d seen every movie, read every book. He sneaks up on you. I could tell similar stories about every guy.