The walls of Richard Linklater’s production offices in Austin read like the diary of an avid movie lover. There are hundreds of vintage posters in every room: “The Clock,” starring Judy Garland; Jean-Luc Godard’s “Bande a part”; the Fred Astaire musical “Daddy Long Legs”; the 1956 masterpiece “Bigger Than Life,” which flopped at the box office; and “Straw Dogs,” to name a few.
“This is the tip of the iceberg of my collection,” says Linklater, the director of such modern classics as “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood” and “Before Sunset.” “I’d go to Paris and just go to the poster shop. Now you can do so much online.”
Linklater’s latest film is a similar ode to a bygone era. “Everyone Wants Some!!,” which debuted at South by Southwest before its April 1 premiere from Paramount Pictures, follows the arrival to college of a freshman baseball player named Jake (Blake Jenner) in the 1980s. It’s a movie based on the director’s own adolescence, complete with VHS tapes, mustaches, mud wrestling and an endless supply of booze. But the cast of up-and-coming male leads — including Tyler Hoechlin, Ryan Guzman, Wyatt Russell and Austin Amelio — made financing the project a struggle, until Annapurna’s Megan Ellison stepped in to bankroll the $10 million indie. Linklater spoke to Variety about the film, why it’s harder than ever to make movies about ordinary people and what’s next.
I keep reading this is a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused.” What does that mean?
It’s not a sequel. There’s nobody named the same. I started calling it a “spiritual” sequel, but I don’t even know if spiritual is the right word. I used it as an orientation to the material, because “Dazed” was high school and this is college. But if you want to get technical, if you think of the young guy Mitch in “Dazed” (Wiley Wiggins), it’s four years later if he had kept playing ball in that movie. Had I done it four years later, maybe it would have made sense to have Wiley in there.
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Did you ever consider a real “Dazed” sequel?
No. I’ve been thinking about this film since ’02. It took me a while. I was less conflicted about college than high school. High school needed to be exorcised. In college, you’re an adult. It’s an age for exploration.
There are two exclamation points in the title.
If you look at the Van Halen song, there are two exclamation points. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” has one exclamation point. So we have two.
Jeb Bush only had one on this campaign posters.
He should have gone with three.
When did you write the first draft?
Somewhere mid-decade—like 2005. I was busy making other films, but I was like “Ok college.” It started hitting me. My first draft covered the entire freshman year. It was 180 pages. It was this huge thing; it was too sprawling. It seemed impractical to get it done, so I distilled it down to the opening weekend before classes even started. I had to cut out things like the provocative teacher. Now it’s a college movie with no college. When I remember college, I remember the camaraderie.
Was it a hard film to finance?
Yeah. I tried in ’09. It never really got going. It was surprisingly hard, even though I talked about it in “Dazed” terms. I didn’t have the adult roles because it’s not a sequel. It’s going to be a bunch of young people, which inevitably means there are not a lot of stars that age. It only got going when I talked to Megan Ellison. She was like, “It’s really funny.” I said, “Yeah, it’s always been.” I had written it for Paramount from way back then. They controlled it, so they just partnered [with Annapurna]. It was a reluctant studio low-budget comedy. They are still not sure what to make of it. That’s evolving.
Your lead actor Blake Jenner had previously been on “Glee.” Had you seen the show?
No. I still haven’t. I heard about it a lot. It hasn’t really come my way. Tyler was in “Teen Wolf.” Ryan Guzman was in “Step Up.” We’d be at a restaurant, half of them could be spotted at any moment, which is exciting — young people right on the verge. I wanted to get the sense of who they were. We had a pretty lengthy audition process.
And then all the actors moved to your ranch for a few weeks.
It’s a farm. I don’t know if you can have a ranch without horses or cows. But I have some miniature donkeys, one pig, peacocks and guinea hens.
Where did they sleep?
I have a bunkhouse that I built years ago, just because I was having big parties and friends were getting DUIs driving back. I wanted to offer them a bed — so they didn’t sue my ass. So I have a bunch of bunks. Here are these guys, some of them are married, and they are all living together. They embraced it.
How did you prepare them to enter the ’80s?
I showed them a lot of things that acclimated them—“Breaking Away,” that’s a wonderful college comedy; also, “Animal House.” There were disco dance lessons. We did that in town. I didn’t know heading into the film how I felt about this era. But I think somewhere in the disco dance lessons, I realized people don’t really dance like that anymore. You dance alone. I told them, “The disco era is about sex.” People did drugs. It was like foreplay. It was grindy. It was raunchy. There’s raunchy now, like twerking. It’s kind of nasty. I don’t really know what that is. But back then, there was something primal, pure about it. That was a good time to be in college. It was pre-Reagan and pre-AIDS. The worst thing that could happen from sex, you get some crabs and you take some pills and get over it.
Since there were no cell phones in the ’80s, were they allowed to check them?
F— no. They left their cell phones behind.
Is all the music in the film from records that you actually listened to?
It was stuff I liked or appreciated. We were low budget, so if you can’t afford Michael Jackson, you get Jermaine Jackson. “Let’s Get Serious” is a great song.
How did you come up with the sex scene montage?
I don’t do that much in my films. It’s rare for me to have brief nudity and sex, but I was trying to hint at it. I didn’t want to get too graphic.
What are you writing next?
I’ve got so many projects, I’m not sure. I’ve got a few things going sideways because of the cast. Whenever your budgets get big, it becomes volatile.
Even after the success of “Boyhood?”
It doesn’t matter who it is, the studios don’t hand you $30 million. It’s just hard to get movies about humans, real people, made. It’s always a struggle.
Will there ever be a “Boyhood” sequel?
This is it. This is the continuation of “Boyhood.” This is what happens when he arrives at college. It starts right where “Boyhood” ends. But it’s a very different guy. I talked to Ellar [Coltrane] the other night. He came to the movie and loved it. I told him when we were shooting the end of “Boyhood,” overlooking the Rio Grande, I have this other movie I hope to make someday. It begins right here — a guy shows up at college and meets a girl. And so, I told Ellar the other day, you’re the better angel of my nature. Ellar, the “Boyhood” kid, wins out in the long run of who I ultimately was.