Friday, August 08, 2014

This boy’s life: Q&A with Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane, stars of ‘Boyhood’

The new movie “Boyhood,” which opens today at Baxter Avenue Theaters, was filmed over 12 years, starting in 2002. The cast and crew shot a few days each year, and all — including leading man Ellar Coltrane, who was 6 years old when he was cast — were free to walk away at any time. But they made it to their intended endpoint. Will they continue, and release “Manhood” in another 12 years?

Director Richard Linklater and co-star Ethan Hawke, who plays Coltrane’s father, have also collaborated on “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” a trilogy that also follows the same characters through many years. Linklater’s credits also include “Dazed and Confused,” which took place over one night, and the hit “School of Rock.”

We spoke with Coltrane and Patricia Arquette, who plays his mother, to learn more.

Insider Louisville: Rick (Linklater) and Ethan and Julie Delpy made the “Before Sunrise” movies every nine years, and keep on surprising us with more of them. I’ve read that this movie is done and there won’t be more, but I have to think that you’re still filming a little bit every year.

Patricia Arquette: No — we haven’t even been through a year where we haven’t been filming. And the funny thing about the “Sunrise” series is that we started making this movie before they made the second one (2004’s “Before Sunset”). They made the second one while we were filming this one.

IL: You think the “Boyhood” experience gave them the idea to continue that series?

Ellar Coltrane: I think it gave him the confidence to do the long-term thing.

PA: Rick does have a very specific relationship with time, and long-term relationships, and the exploration of intimacy – which, oddly enough, a lot of filmmakers don’t have. If you look at his body of work, there really is nobody else in the world that would curate their career in the way Rick has … Because we’ve been friends for so long, he’s said things at times, like, “When we were on ‘Dazed and Confused,’ we got a great response,” but Rick himself was, like, “You know what I think I didn’t do so great with the movie was explore females in an interesting way.” My character in this movie, he really wrote a fleshed-out, complicated person.

IL: And you all had input on your characters and the story itself?

EC: Very much so. It was a constant reflection and amalgamation of the experiences and the perspectives of everyone involved, really. There’s very little that’s direct – I mean, none of the characters are based on any one person, but pretty much everything that they go through is informed by something that one of us experienced or heard about or witnessed or was related in some way.

IL: Was dialogue scripted before, or did you all just talk about ideas?

EC: No, it wasn’t improvised on camera. Rick would usually come to us with a rough draft, but that’s pretty much it. A couple days to a week, just try to workshop it, see where the dialogue could go using our experiences and our emotions, and our own words, to flesh that out. Then he would take all of that and create a final script by the morning of the shoot (Arquette laughs), but when we were on camera, it was always a script.

IL: Even when you were 8 or 9, he would listen to your input as much as the adults?

PA: Yeah, even when they were 7. The first year, I remember him saying, “You guys will be fighting in the car. What do you think you’d be fighting about?” And he meant it. He had a lot of respect for them. And also, he would laugh at things they would do. He thought, “It’s beautiful that we have children as part of our species. It’s an incredible honor to watch them grow and change.” He wanted to capture that.

IL: As an adult, and as a woman, did you think about how your appearance would change from year to year, and how you might feel about seeing those changes at a later age?

PA: Well, you know, I have been with myself all those years (everyone laughs). It wasn’t a really giant shock to me. Part of the discussion was, what does a woman really look like? And not wanting to Hollywood it up, and not wanting to be an actress in a movie playing a mom, but actually, what would this mom look like? This woman is an academic, and a mom, and there’s a lot of things she’s really interested in. Not to be attractive to the biggest number of men possible (laughs), or to Hollywood in general. So, I felt good about my acting choice when I watched it. I wanted to challenge the status quo in my business. And you know, we all have our egos.

EC: I think there’s something very comforting also about seeing these moments of yourself that, taken out of context, might be embarrassing or self-judgmental in a certain way, but seeing it all together, in context, such a larger span of time and such a large part of yourself – you see it in a different way, I think. It’s easier to take it as a complete assessment.

IL: Ellar, during those years, were you watching (Arquette’s TV series) “Medium”?

EC: I’ve actually never watched an episode of that. I’ve seen a lot of her movies, though. I don’t watch much TV.

PA: My own kids never watched it. Not for any other reason than I didn’t want my children to really be aware of me as an actress. I wanted their experiences to be a personal one, and not impacted very much by what happens when we see someone in a movie or on TV. Suddenly, you have this weird, distorted image of them, a little bit … I think my daughter saw one thing on TV – she’s 11 now – and saw “Holes” and hated it because my character died in it. I don’t have posters of movies in my house. I try to minimize what I do because the world already distorts it a lot.

IL: This is the kind of movie a lot of people were making in the ’90s. More independent, there’s no stuff blowing up –

PA: Yeah!

IL: Do you feel like you had to work in TV over the last decade because the movie parts haven’t been as good, especially for women?

PA: That’s definitely the case, but I think that’s been the case for a long, long time. They’re also about young people falling in love, whether it’s working out or not working out, and I’m not complaining about that. I think that’s part of human beings’ stories that we’re telling. But I’ve aged, and on “Medium,” the writing was good, it was a really interesting part. I also like that network TV is free – you have commercials, but other than that, you can be in some trailer park and have entertainment. You can be in an old folks’ home and have some entertainment. It’s also a different discipline of acting, because you have to learn to work really quickly. And you don’t have the same relationship with the director. You have to be fast on your feet and act on your own instincts. It’s very different, and it’s taught me a lot.

IL: Patty, you’ve been the young ingénue and now you’re the mother. Ellar, you’re a young, handsome fellow. If you were offered “Transformers 5,” would you take it?

EC: I don’t think I would (laughs). Yeah, I know what I like and I know what I want to do. I’m confident that I can find projects that can fill that.

IL: Are you committed to acting? Or is it just one possibility for you?

EC: Yeah, it’s obviously the biggest thing right now, but I’ve got a lot of interests. And I want to do all of them with the right frequency to maintain that.

IL: What else have you been working on?

EC: A lot of visual art, mostly — painting, drawing, photography. I’m interested in music right now. I’ve been doing some stuff on my computer, instrumental banjo. It’s a strange instrument. My dad’s a musician, and banjo’s one of the few instruments he doesn’t play. I think, subconsciously, that’s why I gravitated toward that one (laughs).

IL: How Hollywood have you had to get? Do you have representation, scripts you’re reading now?

EC: I’m working with a manager. The scripts are definitely starting to come in. I’m just sort of biding my time at the moment, just because I’ve been pretty overwhelmed with all the promotion and the release of the film. But the next few months will be a very exciting time.

IL: You must be tired of people treating you like some magic trick.

EC: That’s not really true, though. It gets overwhelming, and I get tired of answering the same questions, but as far as being approached by people, I feel so lucky that, by the nature of this project and the kind of vulnerability expressed, people will approach me with the same vulnerability and treat me with a genuine attitude. Just the little bit that I’ve watched other actors or musicians deal with their fans, it feels so impersonal so much of the time, the way people are approached. For the most part, it’s been people approaching me on a very personal level, looking me in the eye, wanting to express real emotions. It’s incredible.

c. 2014 Insider Louisville

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