12 years in the making

12 years in the making
Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater, Richard Linklater, and Patricia Arquette attend the "Boyhood" screening at Museum of Modern Art on July 7, 2014 in New York City.

No other actor knows Richard Linklater better than Ethan Hawke.

They have worked together for almost two decades, beginning with Before Sunrise in 1995. They even have joint Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013).

Now comes Boyhood, their eighth release together. It is a collaboration that saw filming back in 2001, shortly after they made Tape and Waking Life.

Shot over 12 years - for a few days annually - Boyhood is a remarkable film that captures the evolution of a young Texan named Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows from a child to an adolescent.

In the film, which opens here tomorrow, Hawke plays Mason's father, who despite having separated from Mason's mother (Patricia Arquette), wants to play a part in his life. Here the 43-year-old actor talks about what it was like to work on a very different kind of film.

Boyhood has been called a unique project

This one is. To see the story of a family told over 12 years - it has never been done before.

I've been making movies since I was 13, and I have never heard of such a thing. We didn't even know how to make deals for the movie! You can't be contractually obligated to do something for more than seven years.

If you know Rick (Linklater), it wasn't a risk. It was an experiment, really.

When the idea was first suggested, did you have doubts?

I felt sure it would work. It was around the time my son was born. Rick came to visit and said, "I keep having this idea for a movie." At first he was worried that my schedule would be too cumbersome. But I was sure I wanted to be involved.

So how did that work out?

Over the past decade, every time I took a job, I'd have to call Rick and say, "Hey, I'm thinking about playing Macbeth on Broadway. Can I shoot my section before previews start?" I've been doing that for 12 years.

Was there any year you couldn't do it?

There was so much flexibility in the DNA of the idea that it could even withstand Patricia doing a TV show.

Rick knew the beginning, middle and end of the story of this family. But how it zigged left and zagged right was determined by the most random things. Even people's haircuts!

How does it feel watching yourself over 12 years?

It's strange yet beautiful. It's not The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button or some elaborate gimmick.

It's a beautiful way to tell the story of growing up. People are always trying to make these growing up tales and you always have to boil it down to one moment of childhood.

Even something brilliant like To Kill A Mockingbird. It's a beautiful story but it's just one moment of a childhood.

So how does boyhood differ?

What's so miraculous about Boyhood is it's a collage of moments.

I love the end of the movie as you see how much is behind this kid. Every 18-year-old is staring at the world, but there is already this huge line of fallen dominoes that make up who he is.

The film is just as much about the family, as it is about mason

I always struggled with the title. Boyhood is not really appropriate. It's told through Ellar's eyes, but the movie is also about Mason's sister (Lorelei Linklater).

Our childhood can't be separated from our parents. Who they are and the choices they make have long term reverberations for the children. So yeah, it's fascinating to see how his father really changes over a decade.

Does boyhood have a chance in the awards season?

You know, I really try not to use that as a bar for success. It's my favourite movie that I've ever been involved in. But do I think Richard Linklater deserves a Best Director nomination for this movie? Yes.

This article was published on Aug 13 in The New Paper.

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