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The Story Behind That Prophetic 'Star Wars' Scene in 'Boyhood'

July 11, 2014

Director Richard Linklater answers three burning questions about Boyhood.

Ethan Hawke Boyhood Astros
Ethan Hawke Boyhood Astros

This weekend, the film that took 12 years to make is finally in theaters. From the director of Dazed and Confused, and the Before trilogy, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is opening to overwhelming critical acclaim (a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100 percent from 86 critics) and bona fide Oscar buzz. It stars Ethan Hawke as the dad, Patricia Arquette as the mom, the director’s own daughter Lorelei Linklater as Samantha, and Ellar Coltrane as Mason. Filmed over the span of more than a decade, we see Mason and his sister quite literally grow up onscreen. Linklater spoke with Yahoo Movies on Wednesday to help decode some of the cultural touchstones the film draws upon. Spoilers ensue: 

1. How did the Star Wars bit come about?
Scene: In the film, Dad takes Mason camping in the summer of ‘08 — we know this because of Mason’s mention of Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, and The Dark Knight being in theaters. Over a campfire, father and son both agree there probably won’t ever be another Star Wars movie. “Return of the Jedi — it’s over,” Hawke’s character says.
Backstory: “It gets a knowing chuckle,” Linklater says. “But we had no idea. We were filming a period piece in the present sense. There was no knowingness on our part. It isn’t like in Titanic where he goes, ‘That Picasso – that will never sell,’ where you’re in on the joke. We earned this one.” Linklater said the idea came from Coltrane, who had been playing the Star Wars videogame The Force Unleashed. “He thought that would make a good Star Wars movie — where the game took place. I thought that’s something they would bond on. Ethan — very much a Star Wars guy — is a guy of that generation.” The moment was a rare unscripted one in the film. Linklater let the cameras roll as Hawke and Coltrane riffed on their shared interest.
Afterthought: “Jump ahead 15, 20 years from now – you might not even know what he’s talking about,” Linklater observes. “You’d have to do some strange math to figure out that conversation took place in the gap between Star Wars movies.” 

Ethan Hawke Boyhood Ellar Coltrane
Ethan Hawke Boyhood Ellar Coltrane

2. Was that lively Astros game real?
Scene: Dad takes Mason and Sam to a baseball game and the Astros score a homerun.
Backstory: Yes, it was a real game between the Houston Astros and the Milwaukie Brewers. “This is proof the film gods were completely with us on this movie because the Astros were probably one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball that year. …And dammit if Jason Lane didn’t hit a home run right where the camera was pointed — not to the right field, not to center, but right down the middle of our frame that you can actually see the ball he jacks a homerun to left field. It was unbelievable,” Linklater recalls.
Afterthought: “Little things like that happened all throughout the production.”

3. How did the idea of the Beatles’ Black Album come about?
Scene: During a long road trip, Dad explains his birthday present to Mason: The Black Album, a homemade CD of carefully selected solo tracks by former Beatles members — you know, after the band broke up. The mixtape includes Band on the Run by Paul and Linda McCartney and My Sweet Lord by George Harrison.
Backstory: “That is an actual artifact from Mr. Ethan Hawke that he had compiled for his kids and he gave me a copy,” Linklater tells us. “We had a long car ride in the movie scene—they’re driving, like, four or five hours to get to where they’re going. What would they do? Oh! Put on that album. Oh, let’s talk about that.”
Afterthought: Linklater plans to drop the full Black Album track listing at a future date. 

Photo credits: IFC Films, GIF by Paul Rosales