Everybody Has Some
In a round-robin interview, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Louis Black open up about their new films
Every South by Southwest, we rack our brains to come up with creative ways to cover as many movies as possible. But this one was a no-brainer. With Everybody Wants Some, Richard Linklater's "spiritual sequel" to Dazed and Confused, slated to open the Festival; his nine-time collaborator (and Austin native) Ethan Hawke appearing in two South By movies, Chet Baker drama Born to Be Blue and the Ti West Western In a Valley of Violence; and Louis Black – co-founder of The Austin Chronicle and SXSW and, with Linklater, a founding board member of the Austin Film Society – bringing the Texas premiere of his and co-director Karen Bernstein's Linklater documentary, Richard Linklater: dream is destiny, to the Festival, it just seemed like so much kismet. Why not have them interview one another?
So what happens when you put three filmmakers, friends, and lifelong cinephiles in a room and hit "record"? A pretty incredible conversation, it turns out. We've had to trim the transcript down to its bones here to focus exclusively on their SXSW films, but you can find online their entire conversation – a far-ranging, endlessly fascinating thing that ran from method acting and the tragic genius of Philip Seymour Hoffman and River Phoenix, to Oscar "bullshit" and how much harder it is to tap into joy as an adult. – Kimberley Jones
Everybody Wants Some
Richard Linklater: I was just so happy to be able to finally make this film.
Ethan Hawke: Yes, 'cause you had the script for a while.
Linklater: 10 years! You know, this is the film I've been trying to get made for a long time. So I was just so grateful. By the time of Dazed, for example, I had a little of, that kind of entitlement, "Hell yes, this is the script for my next movie!" This time out, every day I was just so happy to be able to do this.
Hawke: I remember reading the script. ... I literally had tears streaming down my face as I was reading it. I just couldn't believe it. Then having spent eight to nine years, then seeing it, then seeing those guys realize that – which is really hard to do. I mean to really get young men to feel comfortable and feel relaxed as a group of people.
I cannot wait for Friday night for the South By screening.
Linklater: Honestly, I'm actually really looking forward to the Paramount SXSW screening because I often don't. I'm like, "Ehh, I've already moved on to my next film." I just look forward to having the cast back together. I'm just so proud of them. Every one of them. There are a few bigger parts, but everybody, all of them, is there.... No one disappears.
Hawke: It's a true ensemble.
Linklater: Yes, yes.
Hawke: What was the story of Dazed, about them trying to take the music away from you?
Linklater: Just everything with Dazed was a hassle. Everything was a pain. I was just under attack the whole time. Someone had the great idea that I should get modern bands to record Seventies music. "It'll help sell the movie, so let's put some of those –"
Hawke: Great idea, right?
Linklater: Yes, it'll help sell the album.
Hawke: Don't have "Slow Ride," have ...
Louis Black: You had to give up your rights to the soundtrack to get certain songs.
Linklater: Yes, and they cut all the money, so they wanted to cut out a lot of the music just for finances. At the time, the executive at Universal had done the Reservoir Dogs album, and it was Seventies music and it hadn't sold well. So, she was convinced we had to get new music to sell records.
Hawke: It would ruin the film in your eyes?
Linklater: Yes, and they all thought I was crazy.
Black: But then the album went gold and they put out a second one.
Linklater: Multi-platinum. Somewhere between 2 and 3 million. It's almost triple platinum.
Black: And you got none of that?
Linklater: About a year or two in, they heard I had never got anything. They sent me, like, a box of Volume Twos. They gave me some free CDs.
Hawke: The ones that they didn't sell.
Linklater: Over the years I talked to one guy at the record company that released it and he felt it did really well because he had picked the order of the songs.
Linklater: I talked to Irving Azoff, he said how well they marketed it. He was really proud of the way they marketed it.
Hawke: It was a marketing coup.
Linklater: I said, "Really? It wasn't people just maybe seeing the movie and wanting the music from it?"
Hawke: It had nothing to do with that.
Linklater: I don't remember TV ads, or ads, even. But you guys are geniuses. Isn't that funny?
Black: With Everybody Wants Some – what about the soundtrack for that?
Linklater: So cool. Again, polar opposite experience. Like on Dazed, I wanted them to do a double [CD]. "Ah, we can't do it because of royalties." I said there's so much music. They did one volume and it was so unsatisfying, even though it sold. This time I knew how to pitch it: Okay, triple vinyl. It's so great, vinyl's back. Just imagine, because there's so much music in it. Triple. The compromise – I got double vinyl.
Hawke: So you gotta always ask for more. That's the lesson.
Linklater: If I wouldn't have asked for triple, I wouldn't have got double. But anyway, Warner Bros. is going to put out a double vinyl.
Black: A local music store owner told me that he's in business right now because of vinyl. Forty percent of his business is vinyl. And the mark-up per unit is higher. So he was in trouble a couple of years ago, but they're doing fine now because of vinyl.
Linklater: That's why I thought, "We're going to ride that wave." Anyway, the soundtrack is great. ... The music in the movie is more diverse. It's just the way I felt about 1980 as opposed to '76.
'76, I'm sheltered, FM radio, one-record-store town, it's just rock, you know? But this is everything. It's disco, it's country, it's punk. It's like punk, new wave, still metal, Van Halen, obviously. Stuff like that. But that's how it felt.
Also the metaphor there was just being in college. High school, you're trapped. College is like – everything's on the table. Wide open.
It felt that way musically, it felt that way personally, and so that's what the movie is. You're just overwhelmed with the absolute freedom of that moment in time. Being cut loose from all of those ... the oppression of family, school, you know, and all that, that I think was the subject in Dazed – this is sort of just the opposite. It's more fun. College is better than high school. This movie is better than that movie. That's how I feel. It's just more fun.
Born To Be Blue
Black: Let's talk about Chet Baker now; I know you two have a Chet Baker film that you're trying to develop together.
Linklater: Yes, we developed that in '97, '98? Oh, when we really got down to business – remember in Paris?
Hawke: Oh, you're right! We didn't get serious, but we had this script for a while.
Linklater: Yes, we talked about it for a while, and then we had a script. So we're in our 13th year of actually talking about it – but what happened was 13 years. Ethan aged out of being young Chet.
Hawke: As the years went by and I started to turn 32, 33 – started to be totally unbelievable because at 33, Chet was a full-blown junkie. ...
[To Linklater] I think it was actually a vintage "you" moment – of what makes you
you, the way your brain works.
I got a call from some Hollywood guy about how Brad Pitt dropped out of a Chet Baker biopic, right? They called me up and said, do I want do it, and I called Rick and said, "What do you think about this?"
I remember, you were just on the phone, [starts snapping] and you were doing something else and you said, "Chet Baker. A movie about Chet Baker. What's interesting about Chet Baker? Chet Baker is cool. Why is he cool? He's detached. Why is he detached? It needs to be a movie about detachment, about aloofness, what is aloof – what is caring and not caring and what is promised?"
You're like, "I'm not making a movie about a junkie! I'm sick of that – no drug use, it's boring! So here's what it is, it's got to be – it is a day in the life" – this is when your brain [to Linklater] just went, "It's a day in the life of Chet Baker, the day before he tries heroin, about the moment that he starts to believe in himself." ...
It took half an hour, that phone call, but we were just on this idea –
Linklater: And knowing biopics suck. Easily it's the hardest genre ....
Hawke: They're TV movies. They're a launchpad for an actor to give, you know, an Emmy award-winning performance. Very rarely are they cinema. Yes, there are examples. You know, Raging Bull being the greatest.
Linklater: The "day in a life" thing.
Hawke: That seemed to be really cool. Of course, one of Rick's other ideas that was really not a selling point with any financiers was that we were never going to see him play!
Linklater: How did we not get that financed? I don't know ....
Hawke: [With Born to Be Blue] we're talking about the Sixties. Chet Baker's already out of jail from Italy, he's already washed up. It's the period where he got beat up and he lost his teeth and he couldn't play anymore, so he had to teach himself to play again, which really took him about eight years. ...
It's the only time period of his life being sober again. But the tragedy of it and the thing that I find – my favorite aspect of the film, and the mystery of it, is that this guy who loved playing music so much he was willing to sober up to learn to play again, but no sooner could he play at the high level again than he started using again. And never stopped, you know, once he just got sober long enough to be able to play like he wanted to play. Once he could do that, he didn't care about any other aspect of life.
Being a junkie is about being away from the world. And it's about being an outlaw. You know, he didn't think of it as drug abuse, he thought of it as his medicine. And when your hero is Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday –
Linklater: One of my favorite lines in the movie is like, your character says, "You're the kind of people who Billie Holiday –"
Hawke: Yes, yes, I say to a cop, "You're the kind of person that'd kill Billie Holiday!" And the guy's like, "Heroin killed Billie Holiday." "No. Cops!"
Linklater: Yes, Billie didn't have a heroin problem, she had a –
In a Valley of Violence
Hawke: The other film at SXSW is In a Valley of Violence.
Black: Was it fun making it?
Hawke: It. Was. A. Blast. It was a real loving experience. It was a shoestring budget. But to be out in the desert ...
Linklater: So were most spaghetti Westerns. Is Travolta ...?
Hawke: Travolta's the marshal ...
Linklater: Oh, okay.
Hawke: He's actually the bad guy – it's a great dynamic in the script – he's actually a pretty decent guy, it's just his son is a raving prick, and so he's gotta be on his son's side, but he knows his son talks too much. His son's a bully. ... Travolta is so good in it, and it's so wonderful to see him to pop in another genre.
Black: Is he fun to work with?
Hawke: You know, sometimes you meet these people and you're like, "Oh, I see why you're a giant international movie star."
Linklater: Yes. Why you are a star.
Hawke: It's like, wow, you are talented. Like his first scene was a three-page monologue he has to make and I just have to listen. People don't realize that one thing that's hard about being an international icon is this pressure that you're supposed to be great all the time, that can be really stifling and not lend itself to – if you can't fail, you can't really be creative. He came on and he just was brilliant. Travolta was having so much fun and he's so playful and he's a really kind dude.
Richard Linklater: dream is destiny
Black: At some point I had realized that I was not a director. I love directors, I love directing, but I'm not a director. And we're working on this documentary on Richard Linklater and I'm saying, "Well, I'm not really directing it." We showed a cut to Jonathan Demme, we were in Lisbon. And Jonathan was not kind to the cut. I mean, he was being very blunt, but entirely constructive – until at one point I said, "Well, you know I'm not a director," and Jonathan got mad at me – one of the very few times. And he looked at me and said, "You're making a film ..."
All three: "You are a director!"
Linklater: However you're getting it made.
Black: On the plane back from Lisbon was the first time I thought and got the movie in my head. I'd been flirting around it. There were scenes I liked. There was – I could go into a polemic about Rick ... easily. You know. But the film didn't make sense to me. And then it did, and Sandy was sleeping, and I sat there for two hours and really got it.
Hawke: That's when you made the film. In your mind.
Linklater: That's when it clicked. With a documentary, you have to consider all that footage and all that stuff you had.
Black: It was when I said, "We have to start with Rick from Slacker. Where you can see him and where Rick is talking." And that's the first scene. ...
Hawke: I've never gotten to tell you – and you know, as someone who has worked with him nine times and somebody who considers Rick a close friend – you know, for me to like something like [your film] would be very difficult ... and I just loved it. I thought you did such a good job. And I know what you mean, if you didn't make it happy for you – if you did it to please Rick, which I've seen where people do that for friends, it's like, then it would have no chance.
Black: Because for it to please Rick, it would have to not be about Rick.
Headliners, World PremiereEverybody Wants Some
Friday, March 11, 6:30pm, Paramount
Saturday, March 12, 8:30pm, Marchesa
Friday, March 18, 7pm, Topfer Theatre
24 Beats Per Second, U.S. PremiereBorn to Be Blue
Sunday, March 13, 9:30pm, Topfer Theatre
Tuesday, March 15, 4pm, Stateside
Friday, March 18, 2pm, Alamo Lamar
Headliners, World PremiereIn a Valley of Violence
Saturday, March 12, 6:30pm, Stateside
Sunday, March 13, 1:30pm, Topfer Theatre
Wednesday, March 16, 5pm, Marchesa
Festival FavoritesRichard Linklater: dream is destiny
Friday, March 11, 9:15pm, Marchesa
Saturday, March 12, 3pm, Paramount
Tuesday, March 15, 4pm, Marchesa
Friday, March 18, 4:30pm, Topfer Theatre