From writer/director Richard Linklater, the indie drama Boyhood is a very unique and special project, in that it was filmed over 12 years with the same cast. As you watch Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow up, from age 6 to age 18, you will see him navigate all aspects of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations, and all of the moments in between. The film also stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, as Mason’s parents, and Lorelei Linklater, as his sister Samantha.
At the film’s press day, actress Patricia Arquette spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about the enormity of this project, why this film was such a huge priority for her, over the years, how powerful and moving it was to see the final film put together, how exciting it was to follow this character through so many ups and downs, that there were only tiny bits and pieces that got cut, and why the love of this family was so important to her. She also talked about what drew her to her next project, as the lead on the new CBS television spin-off, CSI: Cyber. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
PATRICIA ARQUETTE: We’d met once at a party for a couple of minutes, so when he called me, I didn’t know why he was calling me. He was like, “I’m working on this movie, and I’m going to shoot a week a year, for 12 years.” I felt like some alternate reality had opened up, and I got to peek into something so exciting, or like when love just comes in your life, and you feel it and know it’s true. I was just like, “Oh, my god, that sounds amazing! Are you thinking about me, possible?” He was like, “Yeah, I was wondering if you’d be interested.” I was like, “I’m in!” And then, I realized that I should ask what my part would be. But I never doubted this movie, for one second. I never felt anything but excited and joyful, and I loved the experience, until last year. When it was starting to end, I felt really sad about it ending and really worried about letting it into the world. After I saw the film, I was like, “When I’m a real old gal and my time has come, I will know that I was a part of a real work of art that’s something really special.”
Were there any years, in those 12 years, where the scheduling was particularly difficult?
ARQUETTE: Yeah, but I think more for the production side of it. There were times when Ethan [Hawke] was doing a movie, or I was doing a movie, or Rick [Linklater] was shooting a movie. There was a time that I was really behind on Medium and had to see about getting a four-day weekend. But, it was a top priority. I’d get a movie on my hiatus and be like, “I don’t know if I can do that movie or not. Let me see when Boyhood needs me.” It was really a huge priority to me.
Did the film take on different meaning, at different times of your life?
ARQUETTE: No, I just knew I really needed it. I knew I was really excited about it, as a film-goer and as an actress. And I was excited about stepping into that part, and then stepping back out of it and into other parts. We had this cumulative intimacy growing, every year, with each other. It was a shared experience that compounded upon itself. It was super weird watching the movie because you remembered when people got divorced, got married, had children, got cancer. There were multiple layers of time, just collapsing onto itself. We didn’t start with a complete script, so I didn’t have access to the scenes that other people were in, or what their relationship developed into. It was really neat watching all of that.
ARQUETTE: It was really powerful and moving to see these beautiful kids grow up. They grew and changed as collaborators, and I think the movie spun off with certain specific tendrils because of who they became and what they were contributing to it. It got more and more specific because of that. Those branches came from that and who they were, and really informed things. But even at the beginning, Lorelei was dry-witted, funny and a little sardonic and world-weary, and Ellar was a day-dreamer who was philosophical and sweet and open.
What was it like to follow this character through so many ups and downs?
ARQUETTE: It would be exciting sometimes. I’d be like, “Oh, she’s got this younger guy, and she’s feeling accomplished as a teacher. She’s feeling a little more in her power and she’s feeling good, and that’s great.” And then, sometimes were just darker. People sometimes say, “Why did Olivia make all these choices?” But, guys who have problems don’t usually immediately present themselves as guys who have problems. If they do, you walk away, but a lot of times, they’re very subversive about that. People assume that Ethan’s character was having healthy relationships, along the way. He was only seeing his kids, every other weekend, so it’s not like they were impacted by a lot of that or saw a lot of that. And as perfect or imperfect as the family is, she did the best that she could.
Was there a lot of stuff that was shot that got cut?
ARQUETTE: There are tiny pieces of scenes that are missing and alternative takes, but mostly not. We didn’t have the luxury of the budget or the days to shoot a whole bunch more. Very early on, Rick thought the movie was going to run two hours or two-and-a-half hours, and I didn’t think that was going to work because movie theater owners want a certain amount of showings. He was like “Fuck it! We took 12 years to make this movie. People can spend two-and-a-half hours to watch it.” Rick was super brave, the whole time. A lot of people second-guess themselves. We’re really programmed with the way things are supposed to be, what entertainment is, what a working formula for a project is, what people want to see and what financiers want you to put in, but Rick was really clear that life doesn’t need crazy, dramatic moments. And even when you think it’s going that way, it doesn’t.
ARQUETTE: Totally! Absolutely! I wanted to see the flaws. We would even discuss, in certain scenes, why she would let her husband comment about Mason’s nail polish without saying something, but I didn’t think she would. Maybe it’s a Texas thing, where she didn’t think you should get into a man’s stuff, or maybe it just wasn’t a battle she wanted to have, at that moment. Even Olivia is a therapist, I don’t think she would remember it, if Mason brought it up to her. She would say, “No, he didn’t say that in front of me. If he did, I would have said something.” People have blind spots that they don’t realize, and they don’t always say the perfect thing or make the perfect parenting choice. Anybody that stands back and judges this woman or this family should parade out their kids and talk about every perfect thing they’ve ever said and every perfect relationship they’ve had. I just don’t believe it. This is human. This is what’s true. We are flawed. We are raw. We are doing the best we can. We’re all growing up, as we go along. We love each other. We also have our own stories. She wasn’t an alcoholic, beating up her kids. I feel like it’s almost a sexist thing. People just assume that their dad wasn’t having those experiences. People have a lot of crappy relationships that don’t work out, and I’m pretty sure I’m right, statistically.
Do you think this is a film that you’ll watch and revisit again, at a later point in your life?
ARQUETTE: I think I will, yeah. I didn’t grow up, showing my kids my work or talking to them about my work. It wasn’t like, “It’s Tuesday night, let’s sit down and watch mommy on TV.” But with this movie, I said to my son, “I’m in this movie. I think you’ll like it. I’d like you to see it.” He was like, “Did you embarrass me?” And I was like, “I hope I didn’t. Why don’t you tell me afterwards?” And he said, “Mom, it was a really good movie. You did really good.” More than any movie I’ve ever been a part of, for a lot of people, I’m hearing projections. When people talk about her relationships, should she have had no relationships? Was this woman never supposed to take a chance on life? Should she have waited until her kids grew up? Are women not allowed to try to have love in their life? It’s strange.
You’ve done a lot of work on television, and you’re back for CSI: Cyber. With as hard as it is to get anything on the air now, was it reassuring to have CSI in the title and know there would be a built-in draw?
ARQUETTE: What’s really interesting about it is that, on any given day, 78 million people in the world are watching CSI. That’s kind of strange, but the idea of projecting yourself into a hut in Thailand or into a house in Dubai is such a cool reach to have. Not that I want to be the world’s biggest star, but I do want to be in a hut in Indonesia and I do want to be in a little apartment in Dubai. And I do think that weird shit is happening in crime on the internet. It’s sort of like landing on the moon. It was like, “Woah, what’s going on, on the moon?” We didn’t know. It’s still a little known frontier. And I’ve never really gotten to play a cop. That’s an interesting archetype to me. I’ve played a lot with the idea of art movies and network TV shows. I like blurring the lines. I don’t want the preciousness of anything. I want to be able to explore everything. I’m excited about it.
Boyhood opens in theaters on July 11th.