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Richard Linklater directs Ellar Coltrane at a Blueberry MacintoshCourtesy Matt Lankes/IFC Films

How Richard Linklater soundtracked Boyhood

The director talks through the tall order of cherry-picking a decade’s worth of hits

By now you've likely heard everything there is to know about Richard Linklater's Golden Globe-winner Boyhood. The snowball of chatter started rolling last summer in the run up to the film's release; now it's grown to Elsa's-snow-fortress-from-Frozen proportions. It was filmed over 12 years, one week per year. It follows a young boy (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up and learns to deal with the harsh realities of life. But while sitting through it's run time, a decade's worth of music – Soulja Boy, Sheryl Crow, Arcade Fire – probably washed right over you without a second thought. Forget filming a movie over a decade, how about trying to soundtrack it? Linklater, together with his music supervisor Randy Poster ("We’ve worked together since the 90s") singled out decade-defying songs that they both resonated with and felt would push the story forward. A couple of "non-starters" along the way had to be axed for copyright reasons, namely Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Outkast's "Hey Ya". Their loss. Here, Linklater reveals how he approached the mammoth task of soundtracking a decade long film and zeroes in on his favourites.


"A score wasn’t going to work, it had to be songs coming from that year or that time period. I actually tried a little bit (with a score) and I thought there might be a theme or something. Anything ethereal or nothing outside the movie worked in that regard. It had to feel like it was coming from your observations or your visual or oral. The film didn’t want an author behind it."


"Unlike the film itself, which we were shooting every year, a lot of the music wasn’t so pressured," says a perenially laid-back Linklater. "I was taking notes throughout the time of songs I liked or things that seemed to be in the culture. So we had the opportunity to wait and see how a certain piece of music trickled through the culture over the years."


"I asked some people of about Ellar’s age and gave them a list of songs from say 2004 and say, 'Okay, here are all of these songs. Here’s ten I like, what do you think?' And they’d say, 'This was terrible', 'I got sick of this song', or 'This one’s played at every party'. Then I got them to write little narratives about the music. I like that some of these songs, almost all of them were attached to someone’s personal experience. It wasn’t my experience the way I could walk you through certain soundtracks toward other movies of mine. But this, I was out of the demographic.


Lorelei and Ellar, the kids in the movie, weren’t really much help for the longest time because their tastes weren’t really of the moment. When Ellar was seven years old he was listening to Rage Against The Machine, Tool, System of a Down. His tastes were like a cool 15-year-old. So he was never good for, 'What are kids your age listening to?' Cos all his friends were older and his tastes were older. He wasn’t like a normal kid. And Lorelei was into medieval music, she was in another century altogether so she was no help. She barely knew who Britney Spears was. When she did that song we really had to work it out."


"Who knows how the career goes or if the band breaks up – I just remember 'Soulja Boy'. My nephew was so obsessed with that song for a long time so I know that’s real to him, so I was not averse to getting songs I knew would put people back to a particular place and time. I’d put 'Crank That' in that category of ‘not really (one I'd listen to)’. When I hear it with young people at that time I was like, 'I can see why you guys like that but it’s not on my iPod'."



"I remember begging Win Butler from Arcade Fire, I said, 'Hey you don’t know how much the album The Suburbs and some of the songs on that influenced and infused their way into the last portion of the last several years of this movie. So I got to communicate the importance of a song like Deep Blue.

We’re from the suburbs of Houston so there are real memories and I get it, so everything they’re talking about and the music I really kind of feel connected to. The beauty, the poetry, the eeriness. I just never questioned it. When the movie goes to black that was the song. I’ve had that before when you have that great moment and you can’t get the rights to it so I feel very, very fortunate."


"I’d heard a lot about them and then I saw them at ACL one year and they did 'Crazy'. I just like their energy and ironic usage. It’s around the time in the film where the stepfather’s kind of freaking out and he’s been drinking and he’s acting a little crazy. That one’s a little on the nose but it’s such a good song."


"That’s funny because hardly anyone knows Freddy Fender anymore, but my editor had put that one up and I liked the energy of it at that moment. It’s great and I grew up on Freddy Fender."


"The Dog Song... Well Charlie’s in the movie and it was fun to work with her early in the movie. Ethan’s character doesn’t really make a career in music, he’s hoping to earlier on. But Charlie’s character does so I thought it would be neat at the end for him to revisit his old roommate and maybe with a song that makes it seem like it was written or something. We never got that detailed into it but you know when they go to visit him Charlie kind of whips up that as if it’s a sound check song. Charlie’s amazing."


"A lot of the music was specific to the character who’s listening to it, like when you’re driving around with your parents, often it’s your parents' taste. So I thought that’s what Olivia (Patricia Arquette) would be listening to as she drove whether it’s on FM radio or maybe she has that album. It was fun to have that in there and it was very much of the time too. I met Sheryl once – we were at a dinner together so I sat by her and we talked about politics. She’s really cool and I liked her a lot."

Boyhood is available on Blu-ray and DVD from 19th January