Posted July 22, 2014 by Jeff in Flicks

Patricia Arquette on the Birth of ‘Boyhood’

Writer-director Richard Linklater spent 12 years making Boyhood, a new film that centers on a Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a 12-year-old boy whose parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) have recently divorced. Linklater filmed a few days each year for 12 years so that Coltrane and the other actors would age along with the film as it was shot. It’s unique concept that created its share of complications when it came to securing locations and putting a film crew together. Arquette recently spoke via phone from her Los Angeles home about the making of the movie.

So how did you come to the project? Did you start filming in 2002?
Yeah, I started in the early days. I’m not sure what year exactly. It’s kind of a lifetime blur. I remember when Rick called me about this. He didn’t go through my agents. We spoke directly about it. I just thought it was a brilliant idea. The more we talked about how he saw the movie – this boy aging from first grade through twelfth and the changes the family went through — the more I liked it. We didn’t originally have a script but he did have some architecture. I loved the way it felt.

How long did you film for at any given time?
Three or four days was the longest I ever did. It was about three days of shooting a year. Everything was weird about this movie. He had to have a whole staff every year. They would have to get a production office and get scouts and bring back all the props. They spent a year in pre-production altogether if you add up all the years. And they spent two years in post.

What kind of challenges did the movie present?
Nothing was all that challenging. The producers helped me move my schedule around so that I could do it. I loved doing it. It wasn’t difficult in that way. It was like acting camp. You met with these people every year that you loved, and you cared about the characters and got to explore them more.

Was it hard to get back into character?
It wasn’t that hard. I really feel like I could get back into any character, given a few days to think about it. They’re something you make and there’s something personal about it. The way I felt about this woman in certain ways reminded me of my mom and I had a deep place where she resided. There was a lot of weird crossovers. Ethan [Hawke]’s dad and Rick’s dad both became insurance salesmen. My mom and my character both went back to school. I remember her worrying to pay the bills. Sometimes we would go to do a scene and we would talk about it. I would say, “She should be surrounded by papers. She’s paying bills again. It’s this drowning thing.” It’s a subtle thing in the background, but it’s a constant thing in your life.

The film is about a boy who becomes a man, but your character is central to the storyline and she goes through a transformation too. Talk about that.
I think they all do in some kind of a way. She does lose some of her joy along the way. That’s part of what she’s looking for in a relationship. She’s drawn to these men who seem like they’re providers or protectors and seem like they’ll be partners for this work of life and this responsibility in life that can weigh on you heavily. They create so much damage and are worse than anything. She’s also a self-actualized person. There was always something in the beginning that she was interested in. She wanted to grow and not just to provide for her children. It’s interesting in the ways she doesn’t grow. Part of what’s interesting in playing her is playing the blind spots and all the areas we don’t see and how we affect our kids and don’t notice it. By the end, she doesn’t want to be in a relationship and isn’t looking for that to fulfill her.

She’s trying to simplify her life and she doesn’t feel the drive for some monetary thing. I think she wants everything in her life become less dramatic.

What was it like to watch Ellar Coltrane grow up as you were filming?
To see both of them was great. For me, even though it’s through Ellar’s point of view, Lorelei [Linklater] is important too. It was incredible. They were both eccentric kids growing up. She would listen to harpsichord music and was kind of Goth-y. He was listening to NIN and had that saggy wallet chain. Sometimes, Rick would have to tell them that their characters aren’t that cool and that they needed to pull it back. They only thing they hated was their wardrobe. They were cool little kids who had a funny sense of humor. They continue down the path of who they are. I tell Ellar, “You are in the boy you were.” I see that in my son and in my daughter. I see that in Lorelei. As a parent, just get out of the way and create as little damage as you can. They were brought up in a world where people were communicating and cared about the earth and cared about each other and cared about being good people.

Any chance Richard is still filming and we’ll see another film in 12 years?
As far as I know, it’s done. You can’t ask Rick right now. It’s like asking a woman who’s in the middle of labor if she wants another baby. Just let him push this baby out. A lot of people want us to do more but I don’t know. That’s why it was so hard to even finish this movie. It felt like such a human movie. We all cared about the people and they were based on someone in the room’s truth.



Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].