Boyhood: Growing up on screen

Richard Linklater’s new film is an epic coming-of-age tale shot over 12 years with the same cast. What was it like to make a cinematic first? Tom Brook reports.

Ellar Coltrane was only six years old when he was cast in the lead role in Boyhood, a film that distils 12 years of adolescence into two-and-a-half hours of cinema. He concedes he didn’t quite know what he was getting in for. “I was excited, but there’s no way to understand how long 12 years is or how the experience is going to affect you.”

The film tells the story of a boy growing up in Texas, and co-stars Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his parents. To make such an epic coming-of-age tale over such a long period was a risk for director Richard Linklater, who is known for his inventive storytelling but admits this was unlike anything he’d done before.

“The single biggest decision of my artistic life turned out to be the best,” says Linklater. “I remember looking at Ellar as a six-year-old, going: ‘Who are you going to be?’” Hawke discusses Linklater’s approach to narrative, and Arquette tells Tom Brook that the director “had this real restraint to say: ‘We’re not going to follow any of the normal structures of storytelling or film, we’re not going to cater to any demographic; this is going to be about life.’”

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