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SXSW Kicks Off with Mud Wrestling and Booze in Richard Linklater’s ‘Everybody Wants Some’

SXSW Film opened with the world premiere of “Everybody Wants Some” on Friday night, complete with mud wrestling, booze and disco. That was just onscreen at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, but the antics inside the auditorium also got a little wild.

The audience was laughing and hooting throughout the Richard Linklater comedy, centered around a 1980 college baseball team, often over sips of beer (served at the laidback concession stand).

Festival director Janet Pierson introduced the film, reminding the crowd of the director’s Texas roots. Linklater set the evening’s screwball tone by pretending that the president (who had given a SXSW keynote speech earlier on Friday afternoon) had planned on attending. Then, on a projector screen, he showed a handwritten note that was supposedly from Obama, with scribbling in red ink: “I had a blast in college in 1980! Rock on – Barry.”

At the film’s after-party at the swanky South Congress Hotel, Linklater tried to keep up the charade. “It was real,” he told Variety, before admitting the truth. “It was a joke,” he finally said, adding that he had at first wondered if the president would really attend, before realizing heavy security precautions would complicate the screening.

Linklater has always shown a talent for casting young up-and-coming actors — from Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused” to his longtime collaborator Ethan Hawke—and “Everybody Wants Some” follows that tradition. The consensus in Austin was that many of the actors in the ensemble, including the film’s lead heartthrob Blake Jenner, could soon become household names.

“Casting the movie, they are all athletes,” Linklater said. “Some of them don’t play baseball, but I was looking for that swagger you get with the young entitled athlete.” He added that their audition tapes required for them to throw and catch balls, and that he had the actors living on his Texas ranch for three weeks as they fine-tuned the screenplay and built chemistry. “No one wanted to steal the show,” said Tyler Hoechlin, who plays baseball player Jake. “Everyone was pushing everyone else.”

To get them into character, Linklater had his actors listen to 1980s music non-stop, and he wouldn’t let them high-five in a contemporary way. “Everybody Wants Some” relishes in many 80s touchstones, including landline phones, mustaches and VHS tapes.

The post-screening Q&A took one more unexpected turn when a high school student in the balcony extended a prom invitation to co-star Zoey Deutch, who plays the love interest in the film. After a few moments of sustained applause, she accepted. “Yeah,” she said. “I won’t wear heels, though. Sneakers only. Is that cool with you?”

“Everybody Wants Some” opens on April 1 from Paramount Pictures.

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