23 year ago, director Richard Linklater released “Dazed and Confused” to unsuspecting audiences, solidifying himself as one of the more formidable filmmaking talents of his time. The film started the careers of many mainstream actors like Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich. Since then, Linklater has directed such films like the “Before” trilogy, “A Scanner Darkly,” “School of Rock” and his critical smash “Boyhood.” Yet, in 2016, Linklater returns to his roots after his Oscar campaign for “Boyhood” with a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” focusing on a college baseball team in the 1980s, rather than stoners in the ’70s. Even then, despite no connection to the original, many are calling the film the sequel to “Dazed and Confused” that the world has been waiting for. Recently, stars of the film, Blake Jenner (“Glee”), Tyler Hoechlin (“Teen Wolf”) and Will Brittain (upcoming “Kong: Skull Island”) sat down with me to talk about the film and the experience of working with Linklater.
Starting all the way in pre-production, could you all describe the audition process of the film? Was it any longer or shorter than any other auditions you have done int the past?
Blake Jenner: I think in its own way it was pretty extensive and unique in its own way. I’ve never gone in for the first session without any dialogue, just me talking about myself, which sounds really narcissistic, but we talked about ourselves as people, what our sports background was. I think Rick [Linkalter] reviewed all of those that he felt that he meshed with as human beings and invited us back to play with some dialogue and a couple of sessions down the road we had to put some baseball stuff on tape and show us hitting balls and catching balls and all of that stuff. I think there were a few chemistry reads for a few people and then we all got the final word. But Tyler has his own sort of experience in his auditions…
Tyler Hoechlin: I initially wasn’t actually going in for it, but I watched Rick’s documentary on Augie Garrido and ended up sending an e-mail in to Rick through my manager and got the materials through my agent, which ended up being what the guys were being interviewed for, but I just sent it in as a self-taped audition. After that I got roped into the casting and really jumped into where these guys had left off. It was definitely an interesting process and definitely a very collaborative one as well, having the choice to go in and sorta of take some of the characters that you want to read for, which was great.
During this process, how intimidating was it knowing that you were not only going to work with Linklater, not only on his spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused,” but also on his first film after his Oscar-nominated “Boyhood?”
Will Brittain: It was so exciting going into it, just because we were all sort of aware that the rest of the world had caught up with [Richard] Linklater and all of the sudden realize like “Hey, this is just an incredible filmmaker who’s been really under the radar until now,” but “Boyhood” really brought Rick and his work into the spotlight. It really was such an exciting time to be working with such a great director.
What would you say you took from Linklater as a director that you might not have taken from other filmmakers you’ve worked with before?
Jenner: I think for those of us who love writing and really have aspirations of directing in the future, I think we definitely have plans of copying Rick’s entire rehearsal process. Going in there and seeing how he takes his own words and tears it apart with his cast and really lets everyone get some blood in there and get comfortable to take ownership of their characters and certain parts of the script collectively as a team, it was incredible. I never would’ve pegged Rick, being a director of his caliber, for being so open and collaborative.
Speaking of rehearsals, could you touch on the seemingly extensive dance rehearsals you had to do for the film?
Hoechlin: I think Will and I were the only two actors in the film that didn’t dance, but unlike everything else in this movie, there was never anybody who wanted to stay home or stay away from what was going on. Despite the fact that we didn’t dance, we still showed up to every single dance rehearsal. It was great and we had a really wonderful choreographer, she was really crucial into getting us int the vibe of everything. Blake can speak more on the actual dancing of the film.
Jenner: I had an amazing time doing the disco stuff, but the Cotton Eye Joe stuff I always tell people that it was more like algebra, because it was really hard and I’m not good at math. The punk rock is far more about getting pissed off and having at the moment in a mosh pit, but the disco dancing was really fun because our teacher was incredible who was super energetic, giving and nurturing. She was there on set and at her studio, she would be looking out for us to be making sure that while being friendly to the time period, bringing a lot of ourselves into the dance and not stressing about what looked good, but to have fun in the moment. I think that’s really what that scene is about, having at the moment.
The film is taking its sweet time coming to Charlotte, but I’ve already heard quite a bit about a really impressive one-take locker room scene. Could you describe the process of planning and blocking the scene? Especially with someone like Linklater behind the camera?
Brittain: I think that’s the beauty of Rick as a director, that he can take something really complicated and simplify it by simply having everyone do what they would be doing in that scene, really living in those circumstances that we were all at the first practice of the year, really enjoying being back together in the locker rooms and really just letting the camera find its route in-between that. Rick might say “hey, the camera is about to swing by you at this little bit,” but it really just allows you to live in the scene a bit and to play the circumstances of that. It never felt like a one-take scene. And then you watch the film and you’re like “oh my gosh, that’s incredible that that was all one shot, I can’t believe that.”
Hoechlin: I remember showing up that day and we had gone to the locker room once before and scouted it out, seeing where we thought our characters would be and we all had our reasons why we thought our characters would be sitting at a certain locker and we rehearsed it. But none of us knew showing up that day that it was going to be shot in one-take. They just took us to our spots and they just said “I think we’re just going to do this as a single take” and we all just nodded and went ahead with it. It’s such a great environment that Rick creates on set that everybody just feels so comfortable and locked in to do that. On a lot of film sets, people would be really apprehensive like “What? We’re doing this in one take?,” but everyone on our set was all super cool with it.
The main sell of this movie is that it being a spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused” and it taking place in the 1980s, really evoking everything about the time period, what do you think about the film transcends those boundaries to reach audiences of all appropriate ages and generations?
Hoechlin: I think the one thing that we all felt on the set was that the more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s what allows different generations to do this and it doesn’t matter what time period he’s working in, it’s one of those timeless themes that Rick focuses on. The film isn’t about the ’80s, it’s about these guys and the crazy world that were living in, it just happens to be the ’80s. The style is different, the music is different, but the experience they go through is something that anyone who has done anything remotely similar can identify with and grab on to. It’s about the characters, relationships and dynamics of those people that really are the focus of the story.
What do you think the most iconic scene from the film, the one that will stand the test of time of film history, will be?
Hoechlin: I couldn’t pick one. The one time we were sitting down for a screening, I think they were trying to get us out of there to get some food before we had some more press to do, but we were all just sitting there just like “One more minute! I just want to watch this next scene” and we’d get to the end of that scene and we’d say the same thing again for another upcoming scene. To single out one would really be tough and I couldn’t take anything away from any of the other scenes in the film.