Opportunity Knocks – Not Once, but Twice
A boy’s chance meetings with the stars of 'Boyhood'
By Rob D'Amico, 9:00AM, Wed. Jul. 16
It was a chaotic time of life for us as my wife and I traded off on time spent caring for our first child and trying to work on our businesses. So as yet another hectic summer day dawned in 2002, a knock on the door sent my wife, Rebecca, scrambling to scoop up the 9-month-old Alex and shush Banjo, the Labrador Retriever barking menacingly through the window.
A young man stood at the door with a clipboard and introduced himself as a member of a film team. The team would be shooting at the empty rental house next door, he said, and he wanted an OK from her, since there would be a lot of activity and some street closures during the following week.
Rebecca assured him that it would be fine, and then queried him about the film. The movie would be a story of a young boy growing up with two divorced parents. But the intriguing bit concerned how the director – Richard Linklater – was planning to film. “It’s going to take about 12 years,” the young man said. “Although not at this location!” Indeed, Linklater intended to follow the boy (Ellar Coltrane) – not a trained actor at the time – as he grew up, although with a fictional account that included stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette playing his parents.
The little pink house next to us on Goodnight Lane was a perfect location for the film team since it was tucked away on a quiet street in Brentwood, a small north Austin neighborhood, and it also offered us a unique chance to watch the filmmaking process from front-yard seats. We also had backyard seats to chat with Arquette over our chain-link fence when she took breaks to soak in a little sun. She was gracious, and eventually an opportunity arose to get a picture of her holding Alex. Arquette and Coltrane were the only cast members at the location. I saw Linklater in action, but even though I was a huge fan of his films, I never approached him. Interrupting a director at work seemed taboo, especially since I had made films before, and knew the intensity of concentration needed to keep everything moving in the right direction.
Eventually, the crew packed up and left the little pink house for good. We filed away the photo of Arquette and Alex in a scrapbook, and went on with life – which sent us more chaos the next year in the package of a little girl we named Piper. With a second baby, we outgrew our Goodnight Lane house and moved into a home on Eason Street in our favorite neighborhood – Old West Austin, perched up on the hills next to Clarksville, just west of downtown.
When again a knock came on the door one afternoon in 2006, my wife encountered another young guy with a clipboard, and she simply assumed he was a canvasser collecting signatures and donations for environmental organizations. When he started his spiel about getting an OK to film next door to our house, my wife started to smile nervously. “Is this a Linklater film?” she asked.
“How did you know?” he replied. By this point she was thunderstruck, as was he when she explained the story of our experience in Brentwood. She invited him in to show him the scrapbook with the photo and learned that this time it would be Ethan Hawke at the location for a few days.
Having Linklater’s crew show up twice for the same film in two different houses was a bizarre coincidence that probably only could have happened with a film being shot over 12 years!
The filming on Eason Street wasn’t as exciting, since it was all indoors with the windows covered with black sheets of plastic, and we rarely got a glimpse of Hawke, nor did I ever see Linklater. However, the crew was accommodating and scheduled time on the last day of the shoot for Alex to meet Hawke and get a quick photo with him. They talked about dinosaurs for a couple minutes – since Alex was clutching a large plastic one in his hand – then Hawke left, and the film exited our lives.
Nope, we never got another knock, although we often wondered how the filming of Boyhood was proceeding, or if it had stalled over the following 8 years. Until one day last fall I ran into Linklater at Mellow Johnny’s bicycle shop and realized that since he wasn’t directing, it was probably OK to introduce myself. “Yeah, I really need to get back to focusing on it and finish it up,” he said when I asked about his progress on the 12-year film.
Then I asked him if he was aware of the strange story of his two locations that landed next door to us. He remembered hearing about it from his crew and said it certainly was weird. I told him it was always our dream to have Alex attend the opening and get a photo with Arquette, Hawke, and Coltrane, so that we could add it to our little collection and compare the changes of all four of them over the past 12 years. “Sure, that would be fine,” he said, and I told him I hoped it would be somewhere like the Paramount to make it possible. But alas, Boyhood screened first at Sundance last January. We were out of town during a SXSW showing in March at the Paramount with Linklater, Coltrane, and Hawke, but not Arquette. But our family attended an Austin Film Society showing at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre with Linklater, Arquette, and Coltrane present (although sans Hawke) to get a photo with them. That will do for now, although somehow I think that fate will have Alex running into Hawke someday, maybe just a dozen or so years down the road.
A version of this story originally appeared on Rob D'Amico's personal blog.