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Six key moments in the making of Oscar-nominated Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater cast six-year-old Ellar Coltrane to star in a coming-of-age film that took 12 years to shoot. The pair looks back at pictures from the set

Written by
Tom Huddleston

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Age 6

1. Age 6

Richard Linklater: “I chose Ellar because I liked how his mind worked. He seemed like an interesting kid. He wasn’t cookie-cutter. My biggest collaborator on this movie, though, was the future. The architecture of the film was mapped out, but I knew events would intervene. Filmmakers are control freaks who try to bend things to their will, but I had to give that up.”
Age 11

2. Age 11

Ellar Coltrane: “I was so relieved to get a haircut! Richard had asked me not to cut my hair so it was great to see it go. Filming didn’t intrude on my life, mostly. It took about two weeks a year, tops. My close friends knew, but I tried to not to talk about it or gloat. I didn’t tell my first girlfriend for a long time. Then one day, I told her I was in a film. She was like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ ”
Age 13

3. Age 13

Richard Linklater: “This is Patricia Arquette with Ellar. When I first discussed the project with her, she was like, ‘12 years? Really?’ But I said, ‘Where are you going to be 12 years from now? You’ll be looking for a part, and I’ll be trying to get a film made.’ Every year I’d talk to her and Ethan Hawke about this evolving family—about where their characters might go over time.”
Age 14

4. Age 14

Richard Linklater: “Directing my daughter Lorelei was easy. She grew up on movie sets. She knows what I do. It was a fun life project to have with her. But I focused more on Ellar when developing the story. I gave him assignments and asked him to note his feelings in certain situations, like with girls or at parties, so he could think about how his character would respond.”
Age 16

5. Age 16

Ellar Coltrane: “By now, my character was beginning to merge with my own life. Those are my own clothes. I felt confident. A lot more of me was in the movie because I had more to put out there. I didn’t see any of the film as we went along—I never asked to. That allowed me to be much more in the moment. I never worried about the final film.”
Age 18

6. Age 18

Richard Linklater: “The last scene of the movie was the last thing we shot. I don’t know if I’ve fully accepted that it’s over. Film is a manufactured thing. You work to maximize time, efficiency and money. But making Boyhood couldn’t have been further from that. There was never talk of a release or distribution, any of that. It was like working on a time sculpture.”

Read our review of Boyhood

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Drama

Is Boyhood the most nuanced home movie of all time? Not quite, and that would diminish Linklater’s achievement. Better to say that it retrains us to let go of melodramatic expectations and simply let life unfold, a remarkably sophisticated ambition. Unshakable, witty and deeply felt, the film will be paying emotional dividends for a long, long time.

Watch the trailer for Boyhood

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