It took 39 days for Richard Linklater to make Boyhood. Well, actually, to be more precise, it took him 39 shooting days, spread across 12 years — more than 4,000 days — to complete the ambitious cinematic experiment, which follows a boy and his complicated, constantly evolving family as he grows up. Linklater cast Ellar Coltrane as young Mason when he was only 6 years old, and began shooting in 2002. Every year after, the cast — which includes Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s divorced parents and Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei, as Mason’s sister, Samantha — would reunite for three or four days to film a new chapter in the life of a boy. The finished result — a fluid 12-year odyssey compressed into 164 minutes — premiered last night at the Sundance Film Festival, and critics were quick to heap praise on the filmmaker and the cast.
Linklater had just finished making Waking Life and Tape in 2001 when he sat down to write a film about childhood. But he was stymied by the cinematic limitations of relying on a singular time or event to express all his themes and ideas. “I didn’t really have enough to say about one moment,” he said last night, during a post-screening Q&A. “And so I just got this ‘Eureka’ moment of like, ‘Well, why couldn’t we just shoot a little bit and encompass all of it?’ so that was the idea.”
He pitched the idea to Hawke, his frequent collaborator, before they’d even decided to reunite for Before Sunset, the second in their Before trilogy with Julie Delpy. “We were just sitting at a little cafe in New York, and he got this weird look on his face and said, ‘That’s like the craziest idea… but yeah, I’m in.'” READ FULL STORY