Though Richard Linklater has been nominated for Oscars before — for both 2004’s Before Sunset and its 2013 sequel Before Midnight — Boyhood marks the first time the filmmaker has earned a nomination for Best Director. It’s an accolade long overdue, given Linklater’s consistent effort to push the boundaries of both independent and mainstream cinema. But then few films are as unique as Boyhood, shot over the course of eleven years with actors Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (who’ve both earned Oscar nods for the film) and newcomer Ellar Coltrane, who began production when he was six years old and finished at eighteen. I chatted with the affable Austinite on the red carpet of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (at which he received the Outstanding Director of the Year Award), and he discussed the long strange trip of Boyhood, as well as his next film, That’s What I’m Talking About, which he describes as a sequel to one of his best-loved movies, 1993’s Dazed and Confused…
NERDIST: Boyhood is such an unusual project that it almost seems like an idea a character in one of your other films might have. I could imagine, for example, Ethan Hawke describing it to Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise.
RICHARD LINKLATER: Yeah, that’s something he might have conjured up. [Laughs.]
N: The fact that it’s different on so many levels, and offered so many new ways of making a film, both from storytelling and business perspectives, did that help motivate you in making it?
RL: I was really just trying to tell this story, and this was the only form to tell it in. I didn’t think of anything beyond that. With every film, you gotta tell the story the right way.
N: So form followed function?
RL: Yeah. It was the only way to tell what I was trying to express about what it feels like to grow up, on kind of a sub-verbal level. You know what I mean? It was a visual experience, and the experiential aspects of aging and growing up in the movie could only be played out over real time.
N: Was it surprising to you that this hadn’t been done before?
RL: When I had the idea I had never seen the film before. But you don’t know. Your film coming out is sort of like a scientist publishing their research — you have a paper, you put it out there to the community, and then it’s up to everybody to kind go go, “Well, you know…” They can pick it apart. So when it came out in July, I fully expected someone to say, “Oh, well you know, back in the ‘50s…” But it never happened. So I guess the peer review panel that is the world of film historians and critics and writers, they’re still weighing in. But they haven’t yet.
N: No, they have not.
RL: Yeah. And after twelve years I can kind of tell you why no one’s done this, to tell you the truth. [Laughs.] And I can also tell you why it’s not gonna happen again, certainly not at any level bigger. If there’s any more money, it’s too big a risk. You can’t get insurance, you can’t get coverage. You can only insure someone seven years.
N: Your next film’s been said to touch on something you’ve explored before — baseball. What can you tell us about That’s What I’m Talking About?
RL: I actually shot that in the fall. It’ll be out later in the year. It’s [set] in the first weekend of college, so there’s hardly any baseball. It’s a college baseball comedy with no college and no baseball. [Laughs.] How’s that for a pitch? It is one big long weekend of partying and chasing tail.
N: Are you revisiting the days of Dazed and Confused?
RL: Yeah, yeah. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to a Dazed sequel. I mean it takes place in 1980, so it’s like if Mitch Kramer from Dazed went to college, it’s when he would have been a freshman. And it starts right where Boyhood ends. It’s a sequel to two movies — Dazed and Boyhood.
N: One of your other films will soon be adapted into a TV show — School of Rock…
RL: Yeah, I’m not that involved with that. I’m just executive producing. I think that’s gonna be a cool thing that they’re doing for Nickelodeon, but I’m not showrunner or anything.
N: Based on what you’ve seen, is it safe to say it won’t be redundant? That they’re finding new stories to tell with the material?
RL: Yeah, yeah! The guys who are kind of spearheading things have a lot of really fun, exciting new ideas. No, they’re good. So, you know, you hope something like that is fun for a new generation of kids watching TV. Anything that brings the rock ’n’ roll into their living room isn’t a bad thing.
N: One would think that’s an absolute good.
RL: Yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see. I’m hopeful.
N: Thank you, Richard.
RL: Thank you!
Linklater will again walk the red carpet at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 22nd at 7 EST/4 PST. For more movie awards fun, check out the winners of the 5th Annual Nerdist Movie Awards!