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Watch: Richard Linklater on How Megan Ellison Saved ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’

Watch: Richard Linklater on How Megan Ellison Saved 'Everybody Wants Some!!'

Richard Linklater has enjoyed an enviably idiosyncratic career since his 1991 Sundance breakout “Slacker.” He’s moved through a wide range of budgets and subjects, from animated “Waking Life” and the walking and talking, Oscar-nominated “Before Sunrise” series to “Dazed and Confused.”

Back in 1993 Universal couldn’t figure out how to sell a Texas coming-of-age film with a young indie filmmaker and no-name cast (including Ben Affleck and Matthew “all right, all right” McConaughey) at the box office. “Dazed and Confused” eventually emerged as a cult midnight movie that stayed in theaters for over a year as well as a double Platinum album and homevideo classic that keeps selling new DVD and Blu-ray editions. Linklater estimates that finally Universal made more than $50 million on the film.

After Linklater made commercial hit “School of Rock” in 2003 at Paramount, the studio developed the 1980 Austin college comedy that became “Everybody Wants Some!!” And it was still tough to get made, as Linklater wanted to stick to a cast of unknowns. The film took a decade to go into production, just as “Boyhood,” also conceived at the same time and then filmed every year until it was finished, hit big and headed for awards contention.

Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures (“The Master,” “Joy,” “Her,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) came to the rescue when Ellison met with Linklater and asked him what he had in his trunk; she read “Everybody Wants Some!!” and loved it. “We got to talking,” he told me. “It had been years since somebody asked me, ‘what do you want to do next?’ After the scale and intimacy of ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Before Midnight,’ I got this sprawling big ensemble youth comedy. That’s what my spirit wants to do next.”

Ellison didn’t understand why it had been hard to raise funds for such a funny script. “The cast of unknowns was largely a deal killer with any entity,” Linklater said. “As a sequel to ‘Dazed and Confused’ they’d want McConaughey to play the coach. No. Wooderson wouldn’t be the coach, it’s corny, cynical. It’d pull you out of the movie.”

Ellison agreed: “You know the film’s so strong conceptually, that one star in the middle of the movie playing one of those parts would  throw it off.”

“You think the way I think,” he told her. “All the people afraid of losing their jobs with a movie with no stars, covering their ass, can’t think what you think.” So Ellison made it possible for Linklater to finally make his long-gestating ode to a college baseball team—on a $10-million budget—a loose “Dazed and Confused” sequel, as if pony league ball player Mitch (Wiley Wiggins) goes to college as a star pitcher, this time named Jake (Blake Jenner).

“Everybody Wants Some!!” is hugely entertaining, shot with the same “Dazed and Confused” aesthetic and cast of young discoveries, including Wyatt Russell (son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell), and Zoey Deutch, (daughter of actress Lea Thompson and director Howie Deutch), as well as many of the same crew (including long-time Linklater editor Sandra Adair). So far it’s holding well as the young cast travels around the country and it builds strong word of mouth in theaters before it eventually goes to VOD.

“It’s a total young man testosterone movie,” Linklater admitted. It feels steeped in baseball, although the young ball players sharing a college rooming house only hit the field mid-way through the movie. “It’s the inner workings of being on a team in college, different from high school,” he said. “Suddenly they’re your roommates. In high school you’re living at your parents’ house. In addition to having all that freedom college gives you, you’re used to being the most competitive guy on your team, now you’re surrounded by 20 other guys like that, you’re thrown into a herd, with a different energy.”

While high school is a gang of girls and guys dealing with confinement, college feels more free and gender segregated, Linklater said. Boy’s dorms and girl’s dorms, sororities and fraternities, mixers. He was an entitled college athlete who gravitated toward the theater department and its creative energy. And women are part of college expanding a young man’s horizons, as young Jake meets a young dancer (Deutch) who starts to open him up in unforeseen ways.

And as Linklater discovered a rich mix of musical genres in 1980, at the end of the 70s, before the corporate world took over, his gaggle of guys cruises through a range of music on campus. “A lot of genres were on the table that were commercially viable,” he said. “‘Urban Cowboy’ made country cool, Metal, discos were still around, you’d go dance to it, it was fun, early hip hop, new wave and punk. It was an interesting cultural moment before the 80s kicked in, the last time I felt at all aligned with what was popular in the culture.”

Linklater cast his young ensemble with athletes who could play ball believably as well as act. “It’s a physical swagger,” he told his actors. “Their athletic careers are over but they remember that bubble of entitlement, as society elevates athletes to such a ridiculous level, where you feel like the world is laid out for you perfectly—until the real world slaps you into reality. They got it, strolling through the campus. It’s both an embracing of that moment, and a critique of it too.”

Linklater is excited by renovations at the Austin Film Society theatre and a range of projects at different budget levels in various stages of development. And he’s deep in the weeds with Jack Black trying to help Bernie Tiede, the real-life person his 2012 movie “Bernie” was based on, played by Black. After serving 17 years in prison for killing his abusive woman employer, he’s out on parole, openly gay and gainfully employed in Austin, and because his confession of guilt may have been coerced, he’s facing an expensive new trial and re-sentencing—and the real possibility that he could be clapped back in jail with a life sentence. “So he had to lawyer up,” said Linklater. “The state of Texas is determined to put him in prison for the rest of his life. He’s working two jobs, singing in the choir, he’s the sweetest guy who no one would feel like a threat to society. He’s a tax-paying citizen.”

Here’s their fund-raising letter:

Greetings!  If you get the chance, please check out the site below.  

Since we made a movie about Bernie (2012’s “Bernie”) we’ve been a small part of his gaining his freedom in 2014, after serving almost 17 years in maximum security prisons.  The state of Texas is now trying to put him back in prison for the rest of his life and we’re doing everything we can to prevent this injustice. It’s a very complex case, but Bernie now has a dedicated legal team going up against the Attorney General’s office. 
For more information about the particulars of the case, please read the article posted on the site, but keep in mind some disturbing issues surrounding this case and the upcoming trial:
The Texas Attorney General office has an unfortunate track record of disregarding gay civil rights.   For instance, after the Supreme Court ruled on marriage equality, we understand that the Attorney General sent out a notice to all state employees letting them know, that in his opinion, they were not required to follow federal law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  This may explain why the Attorney General has appointed his top prosecutor, with apparent orders to put Bernie back in prison. The Texas Attorney General’s Office may also be influenced by the fact that certain Nugent family members are major Republican operatives in Texas.  There is no other explanation for the Attorney General’s complete disregard of Elected Panola County Criminal District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson’s sound agreement to recommend a sentence of time served. 
Endless resources, power, deep conscious or unconscious homophobic cultural biases … it’s a lot to overcome, so we’re trying to raise additional funds to help keep Bernie out of prison (immediate goal: 100K). Please consider a donation to assist him in getting the best defense and expert testimony he can get. Please pass this along to others you think might be sympathetic to Bernie and the issues surrounding his case.  We have faith and courage. With your help we are going to make a firm stand for true justice for Bernie. You can count on Bernie paying your help forward to others. 
Thanks for taking the time,
Jack and Rick

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