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All you need to know about… Richard Linklater

BY Farhana Gani

1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

All you need to know about… Richard Linklater

Boyhood, the much-discussed film sensation of 2014, hit the headlines again as it scooped this week’s Golden Globe awards for Best Film and Best Director, as well as a best-supporting actress gong for Patricia Arquette.

he same group of actors were filmed over 12 years to record a fictional drama out of their true physical changes and developments. It’s a remarkable feat of ingenuity that brilliantly captures the feelings of parents and children about the accelerating march of time and the fleeting nature of childhood.

If you haven’t yet had the full pleasure of Linklater’s genius, here’s a quick guide to help you catch up…


Slacker (1991)

This seemingly plotless, documentary-style comedy-drama follows a collection of misfits around Austin, Texas over the course of a single day as they expound their theories about anything from social exclusion and terrorism to joblessness and government control of the media. Linklater plays the role of a UFO watcher bending the ear of his taxi driver, and announces himself as a filmmaker to be reckoned with.


Dazed & Confused (1993)

With a still tighter focus, Linklater turns his lens on a group of teenagers on the last day of term at a suburban Austin high school as they wallow in ‘hazing’ incoming freshmen, hitting on each other and skipping class in favour of substance abuse. Notable for early screen outings by Matthew McConaughey, Jason London, Cole Hauser, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck and Parker Posey.


Before Sunrise (1995)

before sunrise

The first in a pitch-perfect romantic trilogy co-written with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, in which American and French twenty-somethings Jesse and Celine meet by chance on a train and disembark in Vienna, where they spend a night roaming and getting to know each other. Their frank and revealing conversation is guided by the almost certain knowledge that they will never meet again…


SubUrbia (1996)

Linklater directs Eric Bogosian’s adaptation of his intense and disturbing play about a group of kids in a Boston suburb who hang out outside the local convenience store. (Here the action – no surprise – is displaced to Austin.) As they riff about someday doing something with their lives, they are visited by an old school friend who went off to become a rock star and just could be their guiding light.


The Newton Boys (1997)

Taking in a wider sweep of Texas and even states beyond, this is Linklater’s gently comic retelling of the true story of prolific 1920s bank robbers the Newton Gang. Matthew McConaughey and Ethan Hawke again star as the band of brothers prepares an audacious swoop on a mail train, abetted by Dwight Yoakam’s explosives expert Brentwood Glasscock.


Waking Life (2001)

A striking animation created with stylised artists’ drawings over each frame of digital live action, in which Linklater examines issues ranging from the nature of reality and dreams to situationist politics and existentialism. Told from the viewpoint of an unnamed protagonist (Wiley Wiggins), the film makes playful reference to Slacker and in one scene Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy reprise their roles from Before Sunrise.


Tape (2001)

An intense adaptation of Stephen Belber’s three-character, one-act play, set entirely in a seedy motel room. Ethan Hawke again stars as Vince, a hot-tempered, hard-partying drug dealer who is visited by his old friend Jon, a documentary filmmaker, who proceeds to record their conversation. The arrival of Vince’s ex Amy (Uma Thurman) then sparks a debate about dark secrets and fabrications.


School of Rock (2003)

Linklater’s biggest-budget and highest-grossing film to date sees Jack Black as a rumpled rock singer and guitarist masquerading as a supply teacher at a prestigious prep school – with dreams of forming a new band. Linklater scoured the US for talented and characterful kids who could carry a tune, and the broad comedy is intercut with beautifully caught moments of teenage self-expression.


Before Sunset (2004)

before sunset

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy step forward for part two in the Sunset trilogy. This time the pair meet in Paris and once more their encounter is played out in extended scenes of real time as they spend an afternoon together. He is a now married writer and she’s an environmentalist with a steady boyfriend. But their old intimacy is quick to resurface as they rake over the lost years with tender amusement and regret.


Bad News Bears (2005)

Linklater was given another biggish budget to attempt to replicate the commercial success of School of Rock with this remake of a 1970s comedy about a down-at-heel baseball coach and his team of no-hopers attempting to compete in a ferociously competitive California Little League. Billy Bob Thornton and Sammi Kane Kraft reprise the roles originally played by Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal, and the film broke even without hitting one out of the stands.


Fast Food Nation (2006)

The director is in more familiar territory in this ensemble piece based loosely on the Eric Schlosser book about the dark side of convenience eating. Starring Greg Kinnear, Bruce Willis and Catalina Sandino Moreno, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but was a relative failure at the box office. As Willis's character Harry Rydell aptly observes, “most people don’t like to be told what’s best for them.”


A Scanner Darkly (2006)

An animated adaptation of the Philip K. Dick SF fantasy in which undercover detective Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) enlists the help of a group of small-time drug users to bring down the distributors of a new brain-damaging drug known as Substance D. On a budget of well under $10 million, Linklater was able to persuade Robert Downey, Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder to co-star with Reeves.


Me and Orson Welles (2008)

This British-American period comedy based on a coming-of-age novel by Robert Kaplow stars Zac Efron as a teenage actor unexpectedly offered a part in Orson Welles’ Broadway production of Julius Caesar. Christian McKay plays Orson Welles and Claire Danes is love interest Sonja Jones, and the backstage dramas and settings are superbly realised.


Bernie (2011)

The ever-alert Linklater spins out a satisfying black comedy from an article in Texas Monthly about a gospel-singing sunny-dispositioned mortician who befriends a wealthy, mean-spirited widow and becomes her companion on a series of expensive holidays. But then things take a murderous turn. Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey star.


Before Midnight (2013)

Linklater, Hawke and Delpy scratch the 9-year itch to bring another compelling episode in the lives of Jesse and Celine – who are now an established couple, with twin daughters conceived when they met for the second time in Paris. On a summer break with friends in southern Greece, as they approach middle age doubts emerge about whether the reality of their relationship can ever match up to the fantasies they conjured together in the past.


Boyhood (2014)

Setting new parameters for a coming-of-age drama, and wringing exceptional commitment from his loyal cast, Linklater filmed for a few days each year for 12 years to capture the physical, mental and situational changes in a fictional family. As the years fall away, the focus rests on the boy Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Mom Olivia (Patricia Arquette), as he transforms from a pudgy kid to a gangly teenager ready to flee the family nest and start a new life at college.

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