”I wanted to feel like we’d just dropped down a camera in 1980 and filmed what was going on in these guy’s lives.”
A “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused set in the world of 1980 college life, writer-director and producer Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! is a comedy that follows a group of friends as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.
In September of 1980, the world was in transition. Actor turned California governor Ronald Reagan was challenging incumbent President Jimmy Carter. In Eastern Europe, workers were beginning to unionize, weakening the oppressive Soviet regime. At Southeast Texas State University, freshman Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner) was making his awkward first steps into manhood.
“It’s pretty autobiographical,” confesses Academy Award nominated director, writer and producer Richard Linklater. “Looking back, I realize it was a fun time to be in college, not only personally, but it was an interesting cultural moment. It was still the end of the 70s. What people now think of as the 80s really didn’t kick in until ’82 or ’83.
As soon as he arrives at the baseball houses, the frat like homes of STU’s baseball team, Jake receives a less than friendly welcome from senior Glenn McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and his roommate Roper (Ryan Guzman).
With the clock ticking down to the first day of class, the guys throw themselves into the very best that 1980 has to offer. The first night out, the team hits the town in their tightest jeans and polyester shirts to dance the night away at the local disco, then dons Stetsons to line dance to Cotton Eye Joe at the town’s best honky-tonk bar. Before the weekend is over, Jake and the gang have rocked out to Van Halen and Cheap Trick and survived their first mosh pit at a punk show.
“In 1980, guys would regularly go places and put up with music they didn’t love, as long as they knew there would be women there,” Guzman says. “I guess that hasn’t changed.”
The guys’ thrill-seeking journey captures the eclectic range of popular music in a time when rock, disco, funk, punk and country vied for supremacy.
“I have a personal connection to every song in the movie,” Linklater explains. “I wanted to share the feeling of what it was like to hear these songs coming out of the radio, dancing to them at discos or country bars, or on your home or car stereo. Disco was still happening (it would be “dead” within a year or so), country was suddenly cool in places where it hadn’t been (thanks to the movie Urban Cowboy), metal was huge, punk and new wave were the new and exciting alternatives, and the earliest examples of what we’d eventually know as hip-hop were popping up. It was an interesting moment musically, with so many artists at the top of their game and so many genres equally sharing the stage.”
One song in particular completely embodied the spirit Linklater wanted for the film. “Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some” is a song that perfectly captures the humor and raunch of being eighteen. When you’re young and passionate, you want to have it all. You assume it’s your birthright, because you’re too young to know better.”
Let The Good Times Roll
In 1993, Richard Linklater created the quintessential snapshot of small town high school life in the seventies in Dazed And Confused. After building a diverse filmography of successful art house and studio films, including 2014’s critically acclaimed Boyhood, a low-key family drama shot in segments over twelve years, Linklater was excited to shift gears and return to his roots.
“This feels like a film I would have done a long time ago,” Linklater say. “It feels good to be flexing these muscles and using that part of my brain again, but bringing a lot more experience.”
As he had previously on Dazed And Confused, Linklater assembled a cast of young and relatively unknown actors to populate the film.
“It’s so much fun working with a large ensemble and a new generation of talented actors,” Linklater explains. “On both films, I cast who I felt was the best actor for the part, regardless of experience or how well known they were.”
While you might see some familiar faces on the team, Everybody Wants Some!! is the first film outing for a lot of its cast.
Mirroring their cinematic counterparts heading to school in the fall, the cast gathered in the Austin area for rehearsals in September of 2014, a month before principal photography began.
For the next three weeks, the cast would recreate the college experience, bunking together at Linklater’s 50 acre ranch in Bastrop, Texas, playing baseball, rehearsing and building a sense of camaraderie that would inform the relationships of their characters.
“To get the best results, I wanted everyone comfortable with each other, developing a short hand and really getting to know each other,” Linklater explains. “I don’t see it as just a work environment; they’re creative people as well, and I wanted to give them room to play with the material, push boundaries and figure out who their characters are.”
Linklater’s style and demeanor also made an impression on J. Quinton Johnson, who plays Finn’s roommate and upperclassman voice of reason Dale Douglas. “As a writer-director, he’s so unique. It takes a lot of humility to take all this great, nuanced dialogue he’s crafted and mulled over, then turn it over to twelve guys and say, “Run with it.”
“Real life doesn’t always have cataclysmic events,” says Glenn Powell, who plays the charismatic and fast-talking Finnegan. “Rick’s movies are very grounded in real life. This isn’t a story about chasing the pennant; it’s about capturing the essence of this time and place. It’s not loaded down with plot points. It’s about these guys living in this house, and what they’re concerned with this particular weekend.”
The film proved autobiographical for the cast as well. Tanner Kalina, who plays the highly suggestible freshman, Brumley, based the character on a younger version of himself. “I’m really just playing myself from freshman year. I was kind of this aloof goof, trying to figure out where I fit in.”
“The rehearsal process made a huge difference,” Hoechlin recalls. We were able to run through the scenes over and over like you would a play, but because we were encouraged to be creative and make it our own, it never felt stale. We’d continue to find new things on the day.”
To avoid anachronisms in their improvisations, Linklater gave the young cast homework assignments researching the era. When in doubt, the cast mantra became “ask Rick.”
“His powers of recollection are pretty incredible,” marvels Hoechlin. “We might throw out an idea, and he’d say ‘I don’t think people were saying that yet’ or ‘that came out two years earlier, so it might not be as cool.’ It’s nice to have somebody there that can remember that stuff, down to the month and year.”
“That’s why we call him Rickipedia,” says Guzman.
“I didn’t want them even referring to anything in the future in a way that would come off as knowing or ironic,” says Linklater. “I wanted to feel like we’d just dropped down a camera in 1980 and filmed what was going on in these guy’s lives.”
Before heading to baseball practice and script work, each rehearsal day began with a few hours of dance. The task of teaching the young cast to dance like the pre-Reagan 80s fell to choreographer Andrea Ariel.
“1980 is super specific, so my job was primarily staying true to the period. The whole cast worked incredibly hard on learning the moves, but when they’d relax and improvise, naturally, some moves crept in that people weren’t doing yet. The key was helping them find movement that felt organic to them, but wouldn’t look out of place.”
Ariel used Soul Train as a reference point to help the cast learn some of the dances. “When you watch videos from that era, you see that people were much freer moving their pelvis and getting into the groove in a way you don’t see today. It was a sexual and cultural revolution, and the dancing feels very celebratory.”
In the weeks leading up to filming, Ariel worked intensely with the cast getting them comfortable enough to feel that the moves were their own. “Rick was great about giving them the time to learn the steps, and at the same time, they’re bonding through the experience.”
“I’m an awful dancer,” says Baker. “I’m enthusiastic, but I just don’t have much talent.” He credits Ariel for helping him develop his skills. “Andrea has to be one of the nicest, most energetic people I’ve ever met. This so much harder than I thought it would be, but think I got this disco stuff down. She made it fun.”
Linklater sums up, “The sports analogies would probably never end with this movie, so I’ll just say we had a great team and I think they hit it out of the park. Can’t wait for Opening Day.”