The cast of “Boyhood” has proved it can keep a secret.
The Richard Linklater film was screened Monday night for a group of tastemakers at CAA with Linklater in attendance with the film’s stars Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelai Linklater and Ellar Coltrane. Twelve years in the making, Linklater began shooting in 2002 when leading man Coltrane was only 6 years old; the story follows him through the age of 18. Though people were vaguely aware of the film — for years it was listed on the IMDb as “Untitled 12-Year Project”— it wasn’t until recently that more information became available.
“It’s been a 12-year secret,” said Hawke at a reception following the screening. “It’s this weird project that started as an experiment and pretty soon into it I realize it was going to work and I had to keep my mouth shut.”
The film chronicles the young life of a Texas boy named Mason, played by Coltrane, and his divorced parents, played by Hawke and Arquette. Linklater’s daughter Lorelai plays Mason’s sister Samantha. Lorelai, who just turned 21, said she had no problem taking direction from her father. “He’s pretty chill,” she noted, adding that she asked him to be in the film. “He was happy about me being in it because he knew where I was going to be for the next 12 years.”
As for seeing himself age 12 years on screen, Hawke was nonplussed. “I’ve been seeing myself age on screen since I was 14,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, we all see ourselves age. It’s devastating and awesome and depressing and enlightening — all those things.”
After premiering to raves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Boyhood” also played the 64th Berlin Intl. Film Festival, where Linklater won the Silver Bear for director. It will be released theatrically on July 11 by IFC Films.
Though it’s early in the Oscar race, Linklater could earn a nomination for his original screenplay; he’s been nominated for adapted screenplay with Hawke and Julie Delpy for both “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.” He could also be nominated for director for the first time, something that would greatly please Hawke, who noted, “The idea that he’s never been (nominated for director) is getting to be preposterous.”
Linklater spent the entirety of the reception fielding raves from fellow directors like Gus Van Sant and Catherine Hardwicke. Also praising the film was Michael Apted, who has explored similar territory with his “Up” series series of documentaries, in which he’s checked in every seven years with the same group of Brits beginning from the age of 7.
The film uses more of a fly-on-the-wall approach to tell its story of an ordinary family. Or, as actor Matthew Modine told Linklater enthusiastically, “It stabs Syd Field in the heart.”
Linklater noted that he used many snippets of his own boyhood in the film, including a scene where Mason and his friends hurl saw blades at walls. During the scene, many audience members were audibly gasping, as if expecting something bad to happen to Mason. “Audiences are very conditioned,” Linklater said with a laugh. “But most of us do manage to survive childhood, statistically.”
While Linklater admitted he felt some “relief” in sharing his film with the world finally, not everyone in his cast agrees. Arquette recalled when Linklater first told her about the concept of the film. “You know when love happens to you and you can’t say no? Every cell in my body said yes,” she said. “The only time I ever said no on this project was last year, letting it go. I didn’t want it to be the end: I don’t want to give this to the world, I don’t care what their opinion is, I don’t want them to get to have a say in that.”
“It’s just so goddamn personal. I just feel like if you don’t love it … maybe I hate you,” Arquette said with a laugh.