The making of Boyhood

12 years in the making, director Richard Linklater tells us how it happened

The making of Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater cast Ellar Coltrane when he was aged six to star in a coming-of-age film that took 12 years to shoot. The pair look back at pictures from the set.

US director Richard Linklater embarked on a labour of love when he started filming Boyhood 12 years ago. Not knowing how his cast would grow and change he gathered them every year to produce a remarkable film about growing up in Austin, Texas. The film stars Ethan Hawke as a deadbeat dad, and Patricia Arquette as the mother of the family. Linklater cast Ellar Coltrane at the age of six to play Mason who grows from being a long-haired child to a slim teenager right before our eyes. His physical and personal growth over 12 years is condensed into two and a half hours. The drama is unique in the film-making process and the end result is a film that’s an experience for the viewer as well as the cast. Here Coltrane and Linklater discuss some of the shots from the film.

Age six

Richard Linklater: ‘I chose Ellar because I liked how his mind worked. He seemed like an interesting kid. He wasn’t cookie-cutter. My biggest collaborator on this movie though was the future. The architecture of the film was mapped out, but I knew events would intervene. Filmmakers are control freaks who try to bend things to our will, but I had to give that up.’

Age 11

Ellar Coltrane: ‘I was so relieved to get a haircut! Richard had asked me not to cut my hair, so it was great to see it go. Filming didn’t intrude on my life mostly. It took about two weeks a year, tops. My close friends knew, but I tried to not to talk about it or gloat. I didn’t tell my first girlfriend for a long time. Then, one day, I told her I was in a film. She was like, “What the hell are you talking about?”’

Age 13

Richard Linklater: ‘This is Patricia with Ellar. When I discussed the project with her, she was like, “12 years, really?” But I said, “Where are you going to be 12 years from now? You’ll be looking for a part, and I’ll be trying to get a film made.” Every year I’d talk to her and Ethan Hawke about this evolving family, about where their characters might go over time.’

Age 14

Richard Linklater: ‘Directing my daughter Lorelei was easy. She grew up on movie sets. She knows what I do. It was a fun life project to have with her. But I focused more on Ellar when developing the story. I gave him assignments and asked him to note his feelings in certain situations, like with girls or at parties, so he could think about how his character would respond.

Age 16

Ellar Coltrane: ‘By now, my character was beginning to merge with my own life. Those are my own clothes. I felt confident, and a lot more of me was in the movie because I had more to put out there. I didn’t see any of the film as we went along, I never asked to. That allowed me to be much more in the moment. I never worried about the final film.’

Age 18

Richard Linklater: ‘The last scene of the movie was the last thing we shot. I don’t know if I’ve fully accepted that it’s over. Film is a manufactured thing. You work to maximise time, efficiency and money. But making Boyhood couldn’t have been further from that. There was never talk of a release, distribution, any of that. It was like working on a time sculpture.’
Boyhood is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday August 7.

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