Q: This film takes place in the 1980’s and it’s dripping with nostalgia, for those of us who remember it or were there… I’m not even sure that any of you were alive then. What was it like working on a film with so much nostalgia… does any of it resonate like, ‘Oh! I remember that song!’
Johnson: I was actually born in 1965. Rick (Linklater) is like a time machine. He took us back there and was like, ‘This song was coming out around this time in April… this was playing on the radio three times a week.’ We only wore these materials; those materials didn’t come until ’81. He was just so smart about everything that was the time period. And the fun was the same. It never felt like 1980… ‘We’re all millennials… we’ve never lived this time period.’ So, testament to Rick on that.
Powell: It’s all very much part of the culture. You know, that time period; as far as music and the clothes, you know, and art goes, it was a time of shifting… a changing of the guard in a lot of ways and that was what Rick was trying to encapsulate. You have a kid that’s going from high school to college and his world is kind of shifting and the world of politics and the world of music and art and clothing; sexuality. Everything was kind of shifting and he was trying to encapsulate that and but I think that a lot of those things we’re talking about, the music, I mean, when M.J. (Michael Jackson) comes on in the frickin’ club, people go way more nuts than they do with Drake, you know what I’m sayin’? I’d say it’s a lasting period and I think it was a really, really fun exciting period and I think that’s why Rick wants to revisit it. I think that’s why there’s so much nostalgia for the era because it was truly great and it was fun
Q: One thing that Rick does really well in all his stuff is that he captures this authenticity about the way that people relate to each other and the way they interact with each other. If you’re born after the era, you can still look at this film and see the way these guys hang out and talk and see yourself and your friends in that. How much of that is present on the page and how much of it is you guys getting on set and getting that comradery built up?
Russell: That was all fostered three weeks before on Rick’s farm. We went out there and there was just us and Rick and that playground of creativity where he’s got that amazing library, sort of like a cool mud hut and he’s got a library and he’s got this spaceship Flintstone looking house where one wing of it is an entire game room. So, that location fostered our relationship where he’d go, ‘Now ya gotta go swimming; you gotta go play ping-pong, ya gotta go do this.’ He was like a camp counselor in a way; for the first three or four days and then once it was structured and we figured out how to navigate the farm, umm, those relationships he allowed to foster within ourselves. Like, he didn’t go, ‘Okay, you’re friends with this guy (points to Powell) so you’ve got to buddy up.’ He just sort of let it organically happen. And because of that and because of who he cast as people, like, Rick doesn’t just cast actors, he casts human beings… he casts people; and for this, that was really important. And through the casting process and through us getting to know each other on the farm. The energy that you feel in between the moments are truly because of those three weeks.
Powell: Yeah. I honestly think that this movie would not be… I think the movie is fantastic because you can feel the connection between all these guys. I think that there’s a genuine love between these guys and that time that we spent in Rick’s library… he’s probably one of the few guys who has a huge library and hes read every single book in there. You can ask him about any book in there. Nothing with Rick is presentational. It is authentic. We call him Rickipedia because he does know every single aspect of… we were talking about music and we were like, ‘What about this Blondie song?’ and he was like, ‘No… that came out in ’81 in September… yeah… that’s not gonna work.’
Johnson: On a Wednesday. (They all laugh.)
Powell: And it’s just, umm… he’s just a truly… his process is the magic of Richard Linklater. He lets the process take place rather than try to over-control the process; which I think a lot of auteurs do. I’ve never worked with Wes Anderson or Quinton Tarantino, I’m sure their process is different, but they have a flavor. Rick has a flavor and I think his flavor is finding order in the anarchy. In the chaos… finding order in the chaos. And this is truly chaos that he seemed to wrangle.
Q: Johnson, this was your first time in a feature film… what was it like to learn from someone like Richard Linklater?
Johnson: It was the best master class I could have taken. I was studying musical theatre at UT (University of Texas) two years prior to doing the film and I was getting ready to take a film course that fall semester and I’m glad I did this film instead. (Laughs) I wish I could have gotten some college credit for that cause I went back to school that next semester and subsequently left because my program was taken away but I wish I could have taken that but it was an absolute treat.
Q: There’s baseball and dancing in this movie. Was one more challenging than the other to learn for any of you?
Russell: (He laughs) Notice you don’t see me dancing in it.
Johnson: You’ve got that little move coming out of the club. (He snaps his fingers) You’ve got that little snap thing going. (Laughs)
Russell: One move. By myself.
Powell: It was good though. You nailed it.
Vickery: We’d go in every morning and we’d do two hours of baseball and two hours of dance rehearsals; at least two hours of each. And then we’d have to do the Cotton Eyed-Joe, which I never picked up, and two stepping which I’d say that I was okay at… and then the Saturday Night Fever dance was something that we kinda had to learn and, of course, I had never seen anything like it; Quinton was awesome and Ryan (Guzman) and them were awesome, but that was the tough part that took us up to the very day to figure out.
Johnson: I’d watch Tyler (Hoechlin) work the bases because he’d played in college and I was like, ‘Dude… that’s a dance!’ Like you’re dancing out there. He was like, ‘Yeah, that’s part of the movements.’ I feel like when you’re an athlete, you have to have coordination. That’s what my teacher would tell me in college when I took musical theatre and dance it was so much easier for me to start learning how to dance because I had come from athletics in high school… cuz that coordination is… it’s all the same.
Russell: Rick said back then, when athletes came out… you took over… you danced. And, you know, you ran the dance floor. Athletes used to be a little more outspoken… a little more political, but now everybody’s gotta protect the brand; everybody’s gotta have social media presence. It’s a different world but we we’re getting paid $40,000 dollars a year. I mean, ‘fuck… what are you gonna do? Cut me? Who cares.’
Q: One of my favorite scenes of the entire film was watching you guys in the car with “Rapper’s Delight” going… and everyone singing along. That was fun and I’m sure you guys had a great time with it. How fun was it and had you ever heard it before?
Powell: Rick talked about how that song has now become a joke. (Shakes his head) He’s like, ‘That’s an awesome song… that’s the first Rap song and not its become kind of a parody of itself.’ He was like, ‘That’s the coolest song of the time.’ You know, it was the first Rap song… it’s tight.
Johnson: Thirteen and a half minutes long.
Powell: Thirteen and a half minutes. (To other guys) What as the song originally? Some kind of Donna Summer song; we were originally supposed to sing that in the car and in this group of CD’s on this Ipod that Rick gave us, we all loved Rappers Delight so much and we started singing it and Rick was like, ‘Oh! I love that. That would be great for the car scene. Learn thirteen and a half minutes and we’ll figure out what we’ll use.’
Vickery: I remember the look in everyone’s eyes when Rich was like, ‘Memorize this whole thing.’ (Everyone laughs)
Q: (To Russell) The film contains a lot of young, male, philosophy. Your character, Willoughby, gives some very good advice. But, without giving away too much of your characters story arc, was it tragic or is his story inspiring?
Russell: When I was playing hockey… when you’re a young kid and you’re trying to play a sport, you’re so engulfed in that sport and you have horse blinders on. If you’re any good at it and you’ve got a shot at becoming something, you have to put these horse blinder on at like fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, because that’s when things get real. And if you aren’t able at some point to get those horse blinders off, thn you’re missing the point… in my opinion, and so when I was nineteen… twenty… I got injured very badly and that was the first time I realized that, ‘Holy shit… there’s another world out there because I might not play in the NHL.’ And it looked like I was going to. And I was out for a season and I took that year to kind of reflect on who I was for the first time because you just don’t do it in sports… it’s just not something you talk about. It’s not beneficial to the game; unless you have mentors and people that have a higher conscious ability than you do. When I was twenty-four, I was like, ‘Fuck it. I’m not going to deal with these people trying to tell me what to do all the time.’ Constantly living for somebody else; trying to play the game… if you don’t have your own freedom inside of what you do, no matter what it is, you’re going to be stifled by other people’s ideas of what you should be. When we were talking about that scene, that came up for me. I thought it might be a fun thing to impart some of the things that I learned from hockey, on Jake. Because of what he is, he looks back on it and goes, ‘Let me just let you in on something because this is what life’s about because you’re probably NOT going to go play in the NHL or in Major League Baseball. There’s one percent of you that’s gonna go do that so if you don’t realize that now, inside of the game… it’s going to take you twenty-five years to realize that in real life.’ And that’s a lesson that only sports can give you in certain ways.
Powell: Rick truly is an intellectual but he’s a jock. And you forget that because he’s made a lot of these thinking movies overtime. And then you talk to him about sports and… he’s Rickipedia with sports, as well. He truly understands the game and he understands competition… and the idea of like, at certain time in sports, you’re going to have to leave that dream behind; or at least transform it into a different definition of it. I think getting to spitball with Rick on ideas of the world and philosophy was probably the best experience. I have all these brilliant things on my phone that Rick says, on my phone and I’m like, ‘This man’s a genius!’ I just love that guy.
Q: This is being dubbed the “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused”. Has there been a comparison?
Russell: I never once heard a person say, “Dazed and Confused” the whole movie.
Powell: We’re making our own movie, just tonally similar. If you liked “Dazed and Confused”, you’re gonna like this movie. Early in the process, Rick was like, ‘Don’t ever try to do a Ben Affleck or a Matthew McConaughey. Just be you.’ Actually (the character) Beuter says, ‘Alright. Alright. Alright.’
Johnson: He got away with it?
Powell: He got away with it. He snuck it in there. I saw the last screener and I was like, ‘That son of a bitch!’ (Laughs)
Q: Did any of you do improve and if so, was it kept in the film?
Russell: It was all done in the rehearsal process and the best parts were put in… and there were bits and pieces here and there…
Johnson: ‘Cause when we do our longer monologues like, Finnegan has a lot of monologues, Willoughby has monologues and I have a couple of spots in there, you’d have your chunk but Rick would say, even on the day, ‘Make it as natural… put it in voice.’ Even after he would re-write and re-write and re-write. I know a lot of the coverage that I have on the monologue, when we have lunch after practice, a lot of that stuff was… were things that I was trying to naturalize in the moment.
Vickery: The improv mostly came in the three weeks at Rick’s ranch because he gave us the script and was like, ‘Guys, just play with this.’ And so we got to just improve and play and I actually have a weird story about that. Everybody got an email saying, ‘Play with the script… just do what you want to do with the script, it’s just kind of a guideline and so, we’re all sitting in the van driving out there and everyone was like, ‘Everyone got that email, right?’ ‘And I’m like…’ (He looks around uncomfortably.) And everybody’s talking about how cool the email is we go in and we start rehearsing and I’m just like, not improving because I was the only one who didn’t get the email. (Everyone laughs) I think I told Glen, ‘Do you think he didn’t give it to me for a reason?’ So, I went up to Rick and I was like, ‘Bro! Can I improve? All these dudes are having fun. I wanna have fun.’ And he was like, ‘Oh… your name has two R’s in it.’ That was two weeks later.
Powell: Forrest all read into like, ‘Everyone can improv except you. (Laughs) Forrest. You’re the only one. You’re in time out.