Boyhood was ‘painful to watch’ for Lorelei Linklater

Richard Linklater's daughter balled through her first watch and had to brush up on her Brit Brit for the 12-years-in-the-making film

Arts+Culture Q+A
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Ellar Coltrane with his on-screen sister Lorelei Linklater Courtesy of Universal UK

Perhaps you've heard the story. Richard Linklater starts filming Boyhood in 2002. He finishes filming 12 years later. Over those dozen intervening years, he films an undeniably well-rounded time capsule of popular culture (the soundtrack includes Sheryl Crow's "Soak Up the Sun" and Coldplay's "Yellow") and what could possibly become his magnum opus: a genre-defining, coming-of-age drama that centres on the life of Mason, a young boy who cruises through life with a questioning mind and a string of deadbeat dads alongside his sister Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater). She had to beg her father for the role of a lifetime (pun intended). Fittingly, she opens the film with a screen-stealing rendition of "…Baby One More Time" and rides out the trailing years as Mason's sassy, yet supportive, sis. What she wasn't expecting was to drown in her own tears when she first watched a rough cut of the film. After a jaunt to Stone Henge ("It was so cool!"), Linklater gets candid over the phone about what it was like making a film with her legendary father and how the floodgates burst when she first watched it back.

How old were you when filming started on Boyhood?

Lorelei Linklater: I was nine.

Do you remember what your dad (Richard Linklater) said to you to get you involved?

Lorelei Linklater: I don’t remember specifics, but he just said, 'We’re doing this project that will span 12 years', then he told me the characters and I figured out that one of them was my age, and I was very interested in acting at that age and I begged him for the part.

Were there any auditions or was it more of a case of ‘Please, dad let me do this!’?

Lorelei Linklater: Umm, it was more like that yeah.

Was he apprehensive at first to get you involved, do you know?

Lorelei Linklater: I don’t think so, I think he was happy to have me as part of it. At that age, I’d seen some of his films. I knew what he did I’d hung out on a lot of his sets and went to visit him a lot on set, it was kind of a normal thing for me.

Was there any point throughout when you realised how big this project was?

Lorelei Linklater: I don’t know, yeah, as I got older I realised it was pretty massive undertaking, but my dad’s pretty chill. He always played it down as just something we’re doing. At times I thought, 'Wow this is really informal', I hope we get it together to finish it. There definitely were parts where it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, why is this scene going in a movie?!’

“At times I thought, ‘Wow this is really informal’, I hope we get it together to finish it. There definitely were parts where it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, why is this scene going in a movie?!’”

Ellar said, 'No matter how close I get to people no one really understands what it's like to grow up like this in front of a camera'. I wondered if you felt the same way?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah, definitely. It’s a very unique situation for sure. I think a lot of people who are child actors – it's a weird thing. We weren’t famous or anything but we did have this weird life where there were cameras on us.

Was it your idea to do the ‘…Baby One More Time’ lip sync?

Lorelei Linklater: No, to tell you the truth I was not actually a fan of Britney Spears! We actually had to learn that song. We did several songs actually but I was more into show tunes at that age. I’m trying to remember which ones, it was a long time ago! I don’t remember, but I know there were other songs.

What kind of show tunes were you into?

Lorelei Linklater: My favourite movie at that age was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe and I loved the song ‘Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend’. I think we actually might have recorded that. I loved to sing that song; I love to sing and dance, just not to contemporary pop. I do like pop music. It's that certain thing that it gives you: the adrenaline rush, that instant gratification.

What was it like watching that first scene back for the first time, when you saw yourself opening the movie?

Lorelei Linklater: I was a little bit horrified. It’s a pretty painful experience to watch and I'm not going to lie. It was bad, the first time I really couldn’t enjoy the humour because I couldn't get back the ‘Oh my gosh, I look terrible. I can’t believe this. Why was I ever filmed?!’

“It’s a pretty painful experience to watch and I'm not going to lie. I really couldn’t enjoy the humour because I couldn't get back the ‘Oh my gosh, I look terrible. I can’t believe this. Why was I ever filmed?!’”

Your dad wouldn’t show you guys any clips until everything was finished. Are you glad that he made that decision?

Lorelei Linklater: Um, somewhat. Yeah, I‘m somewhat glad of that. I think I was probably a bit less self conscious having not seen it.

That’s a good thing though, right?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah, I think so.

You seem a bit unsure!

Lorelei Linklater: Well, yeah, I don’t know… I think it’s a good thing.

Did he give you a lot of direction?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah there was direction, it was not completely improvised, definitely a script. But the script was malleable, we were able to change it as we went along if we wanted to.

Was there anything that happened during filming that you had to write into the story?

Lorelei Linklater: Well, it was the one year where I had red hair. That was my hair – it wasn’t for the movie, so I guess there was that. My dad just told us to go with it, that it was fine. I liked to dye my hair as a teenager. I dyed it a lot of different colours: blue, red, pink.

What did it feel like literally watching yourself grow up on screen for the first time?

Lorelei Linklater: It was really hard to watch. I watched it with my boyfriend just at my house. We watched a screener. It wasn’t quite finished, but I watched it with him. I was crying for most of the time. It was hard – I was really unhappy with the way I looked in the movie. I didn’t relate to the person at all. I just felt like, 'Oh my gosh, was I really that ugly as a kid?' It was really hard, and thinking they got me on so many off days, like why? They picked the worst days. I‘m not even watching myself grow up I’m just watching a particular five minutes out of one particular day.

So did you come to terms with that or is it still something you struggle with?

Lorelei Linklater: Well, I’ve watched it several times since then. It’s gotten a little easier, but I try to comfort myself about it.

Was there any point when you felt like you just didn't want to do it anymore?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah, towards the middle years I definitely didn't want to be part of the project. There was one year, I think it was the Harry Potter year, I asked my dad if my character could be killed off.

What did he say?

Lorelei Linklater: He said no! No way, that would be too dramatic for the plot. So I stayed in it and I’m glad I did, towards the later years I looked forward to filming.

I heard it was tough to get people scheduled filming at the same time…

Lorelei Linklater: We had a hard time getting Ethan (Hawke). He’s extremely busy he always has a lot of projects going, so it was sometimes hard to arrange for him to be there. As for the story, I didn’t understand how my dad was going to put it all together. I didn’t even know what the story would be like; it was a series of random life scenes, he didn’t share with us how he was going to put them all together.

“It was really hard to watch. I was crying for most of the time. I didn’t relate to the person at all. I just felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, was I really that ugly as a kid?’”

What are you most proud of in the film?

Lorelei Linklater: I’m proud of the time that I bowled a strike on camera, that was pretty cool. Ethan had to catch a plane that day, so there was a lot of pressure, everyone was worried that I wouldn’t be able to, and I got a strike the second time I tried! Pretty cool. I’m proud of that. I really like bowling. I still go pretty often. That alley (in the film) is right across the street from where I worked in high school. It’s pretty near my house so I’ve been going with my dad all my life. I go with friends, I bowl a lot!

What's something that people might not know about the film?

Lorelei Linklater: What people might not know is that both my boyfriend and Ellar’s girlfriend at the time of filming had small appearances in the film. We both were in long term relationships towards the last years of the film, and his girlfriend is the hoop dancer when he’s with the girlfriend in the movie and they’re visiting Austin, walking down the street.

Oh and they go to get fries at that diner?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah, and they’re just walking down the streets of Austin. Ellar’s actual girlfriend is the hula hoop dancer on the street, she’s very pretty. Then my actual boyfriend is in the party scene where Ellar shoots the game and then goes to a party and then gets home late and gets yelled at by his stepfather. At the party it shows me for a split second handing a guy a shot and that’s my actual boyfriend.

Are you still together or no?

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah, I’m still with him.

What about Ellar and his girlfriend?

Lorelei Linklater: No, he’s not with her anymore but they were together for a while.

In a way it really seems like you helped to push cinema forward. Now people can conceive of these huge projects and time spanning stories.

Lorelei Linklater: Yeah definitely, I think it definitely opened people’s minds more. I’ve often wondered why people haven’t been more experimental with cinema in the past. I hope that it will open people's minds and spawn more experimental time pieces. I’ll hopefully pursue acting in the future. I’m starting a project this month. And possibly directing, that’s not what I’m focused on now but I’ve done a couple of short films for fun and I definitely see that as a possibility in the future.

Boyhood is out in cinemas now

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