How Filmmaker Richard Linklater Got the Best of the ‘80s Onto the ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ Soundtrack
If, like myself, you’ve seen Richard Linklater’s 1970s cinematic love letter Dazed and Confused probably 9,000 times, then you automatically associate Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” with the film’s opening credits or War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” with Parker Posey and her crew of soon-to-be senior girls covering some unfortunate freshmen in ketchup.
It’s the same deal with Everybody Wants Some!!, the director’s newest film that he’s calling a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed: After watching it, you’ll connect classic tracks – this time from the ‘80s – with moments from this movie.
EWS!! follows a team of (extremely handsome) East Texas college baseball players over the course of three days as they party, practice and prepare to start classes. Their journey takes them to a variety of locales: a disco club, a country western bar, a house party, a punk show, etc. Every scene is complemented by a pitch-perfect (pun intended) ‘80s song that beautifully represents not just the immediate mood of the moment, but overall, the broad swath and diversity of the era’s musical landscape.
“There was something for everybody and it was kind of cool to like it all,” Linklater says. “It was a rich decade with a lot of great artists at the top of their game.”
I got a few minutes with the super-chill, Oscar-nominated director (for 2014’s Boyhood – another Texas-set meditation on youth with a killer soundtrack) as he was driving through the Lone State, relaxing for a few days before he heads to New York to “beat the drum” and do press for the film, which is expanding its release over the next few weeks.
Director Richard Linklater at the Everybody Wants Some!! SXSW premiere. (Getty Images)
“That’s just how it felt to me to be a young person at that time. It was cool to be into everything,” he says when I mention the range of artists and songs that landed in the movie (the Sugarhill Gang, Van Halen, Blondie, Patti Smith, Hot Chocolate, Dire Straits, Jermaine Jackson, just to name a few).“There was a lot of newness in the era. You didn’t really appreciate it at the time – it’s like, there are all these new bands! There’s this new wave, punk, party, R&B – there’s a thing called rap music from New York!”
The common denominator for each track? “Every song had to resonate with me personally,” he says. “Because I had lived it. This was a little different, especially from my last film [Boyhood] because I wasn’t really relying on additional curation or a lot of input. I have a personal relationship with every song in this movie.”
Does he often write scenes with a particular song in mind? “Yeah, there’s a quite a few that are in the script that I imagined playing, that were in the bedrock of it all. Whenever they’re singing or lip-synching to a song in the scene – like “Rapper’s Delight,” he says, referencing a moment when five of the guys are cruising around in a car, blasting the [terrestrial] radio as they look for girls and simultaneously, break into a spot-on singalong of the rap classic.
Linklater on-set with actor Blake Jenner. (Everett Collection)
The actors nail the lyrics so well that I had to ask if they had any trouble memorizing them. “They didn’t realize I wanted them to memorize the entire song at first,” he says and laughs. “They thought it would just be the chorus and a verse. I wanted to keep them on their toes.”
Linklater says while mapping out the story during pre-production, he began with 200 songs that were contenders for inclusion. He whittled the final count down to about 40, some by his own creative volition and some due to other circumstances.
“We wanted a song from Off The Wall for the disco scene, but it was too much money,” he says. “It would have been the entire budget of our film. It’s like, if you want to be in our low-budget movie, you have to work with us a bit. But I always said – to use a baseball analogy - we have a deep bench, we’re fine if you don’t want to be it. We weren’t ever really desperate.”
Indeed. They managed to snag a 1980 Van Halen song not only for the soundtrack, but for the title of the movie - exclamation points and all.
Everybody Wants Some!! cast members from L-R: Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Blake Jenner, J. Quinton Johnson, Temple Baker. (Everett Collection)
“That title always kind of resonated with me, it’s so multi-level,” he says. “There’s the raunchy sexual connotation, but to me on a deeper level it represented what I remembered of youth. Being this age, you don’t want some – you want everything. When you’re young, it’s all about desire and assuming that everything you want should be yours and that the world should just conform to your desire. As you get older and begin the maturation process, you learn that the world doesn’t really bend to you that way.”
He then adds: “I also like the two exclamations points. Rodgers and Hammerstein started that – with Oklahoma! in 1943. That’s been going on forever. I like exclamation points.”
The Everybody Wants Some!! soundtrack is out today (April 8th) on Warner Brothers.