Honoring Richard Linklater
This weekend the New Orleans Film Festival is presenting a special 20th anniversary screening of Richard Linklater’s seminal independent film, Slacker. Immediately preceding the film will be the world premiere of A Slacker Turns Twenty, a 10-minute Linklater tribute film directed by Paste film section editor Michael Dunaway and starring (from this week’s cover) Parker Posey, Jason Reitman, Greg Kinnear, Miranda Cosgrove, Keanu Reeves and Ethan Hawke. As a special exclusive preview for Paste readers, here’ what they had to say about Slacker and the rest of Linklater’s oeuvre.
by Michael Dunaway
(snipped for Keanu content)
ON SLACKER HAVING LITTLE SLACKERY:
Slacker is a funny film because the film Slacker is not a slacker; it’s not very slackerish at all. When you think about it from a production standpoint or a performance standpoint, they’re on their game. It’s a well-made film, a well-crafted film. Not a lot of slackery going on in that film.
ON LINKLATER’S PERSONALITY:
He’s a fucking asshole. No, that was a cheap shot. He’s awesome. You know, he’s fiercely intelligent. And he’s collaborative but willful, which I think is a good combination. He’s got an opinion, but he wants to hear yours. Or at least he pretends to; he’s a great actor. He’s very creative, and he’s got a compassion to him, an interest. He loves you and he hates you, and as an actor he’ll tell you what he wants, but he’s also very, “Let’s see what’s going to happen here.” He has a real enthusiasm, a real interest. He’s great.
ON IMPROVISATION AND FORMALISM:
Robert [Downey Jr.] and Woody [Harrelson] and I came out, and all in all I think we had about two weeks of rehearsals. Richard would incorporate riffs that people were doing into the script, so there wasn’t a lot of dialogue improvisation on set, which is cool. That gave it a formality that I think Philip K. Dick would have appreciated. Because it felt organic to the material itself. There’s a feeling both of improvisation and of formalism to his writing, and to his camera, which is entertaining, but there’s also beauty there. There’s a beauty to the words in his scripts and in the performances he gets from his performers.
ON LINKLATER’S THEMES:
He has these themes—alienated people forming these happenstance families, you know? And there’s just a constant investigation of people’s thoughts and people’s feelings and how we bump up against each other. Which I relate to. Everyone’s broken, and everyone’s coming together. And also his social awareness, his big-picture awareness, dealing with social constructs about America, conspiracy, paranoia, and what the heck is going on?
ON LINKLATER AND PLACE:
He deals with place and cities and rooms in a cool way. There just seems to be this kind of metier with him, where he puts people in spaces and there’s some dialogue between the characters and where they are in space, whether in cities or in a room. There’s just a relationship there that is different from, say, Ron Howard’s. He has a sense of space as well, but with Richard maybe it’s darker or murkier. The word “boundary” comes up. People bounded and breaking out or people captured and trying to be free or people comfortable in a cell.
ON LEARNING TO APPRECIATE LINKLATER FILMS:
I think I’ve grown to appreciate Richard’s work more and more as the years have gone by. I think when I first saw Slacker, I didn’t know how to appreciate it as much as I do now. When I saw it, I wasn’t objective about it. There was something about it that was very close to my experience.