Richard Linklater is no stranger to taking unusual approaches to filmmaking, though even the director behind the “Before Sunrise” trilogy seems to have hit another level with the sprawling, intimate character study “Boyhood.”
Filmed for brief periods of time over 12 years, it’s a surreal experience to watch right before our eyes the coming-of-age of Mason (newcomer Ellar Coltrane), who we follow from age six to 18, through the ups and downs of growing up, the various changes in his family structure and his own growing cognizance of his existence.
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, as Mason’s separated parents, are both excellent, but it’s clearly young Coltrane who shoulders the film, increasingly as he grows up and is tasked with more and more dialogue. We had the chance to speak with Coltrane about this most unusual experience, and below are five of the most interesting revelations we learned from the young star who is clearly going places.
1. Even though the movie is most unusual in taking 12 years to film – a bit at a time – the audition was just like any other. Coltrane was called in through his local agency in Texas. The only out of the ordinary aspect was the fact that there was no script or lines to memorize – Linklater just wanted to get to know the boys’ personalities.
2. Trying to gather the same group of people together once every single year seems like no easy feat, but the “Boyhood” team managed it. There was actually only one year when filming almost didn’t come together – because Linklater was working on “School of Rock,” but somehow things aligned and it came together in the end.
3. Coltrane began helping with writing more and more as the years went on. Linklater would keep in touch with him on what he was thinking of for that year’s shoot, and the actor kept mental notes on his everyday life, especially during big moments in any adolescent’s life, like the first time he talked to a girl alone. The scene where Mason talked to Sheena (Zoe Graham) for the first time at a party was one of the earliest examples.
4. Many of Mason’s personality traits, social interactions and hobbies also came from Coltrane. The big one is his love and penchant for photography. He’s also not a social media guy. Mason’s anti-Facebook rant was also a Coltrane contribution – it was heavily based on a conversation the actor had with Linklater before they shot the scene, and the director told him to type it up and use it on camera.
5. Though the filmmakers began editing the film together after every year’s shoot, Coltrane didn’t see any of it until after it was finished and only shortly before it made its world premiere at this year’s Sundance film Festival. But what he saw on screen wasn’t necessarily surprising – though meaningful and impactful – mainly because he only thought about it in abstract terms and not in terms of the finished product.
“Boyhood” will be released in limited theaters on Friday, July 11th.