Many thought that Richard Linklater’s next project after his lauded, award-winning Boyhood might be some high-brow, Oscar-bait drama. Instead, he has returned to his roots, sort of, with Everybody Wants Some!!, which is being called a spiritual sequel to one of the director’s earliest movies, the cult classic Dazed and Confused.
Three of the film’s stars, Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, and Will Brittain, were in town last weekend to promote the film and present it at the Atlanta Film Festival before it opens locally Friday.
If Dazed and Confused was a journey through the ’70s, Everybody Wants Some!! shifts to the early ’80s. Members of a college baseball team at Southeast Texas State University have gathered for the new semester. Classes begins Monday — and the gang has all weekend to party, meet women and have as good a time as they want. Among them are freshman pitcher Jake (Jenner), country boy Beuter (Brittain) — who is always sneaking home to be with his girlfriend — and senior McReynolds (Hoechlin), the star of the team.
Gathered around a round table the three actors joked that they are glad that this wasn’t filmed over a 12-year period like Boyhood was. It likely would have killed them.
Linklater, who has admitted that this is an autobiographical film about his days in college, specifically wanted a non-star ensemble to fill out the baseball team. Each of the cast members had to audition. “It started off with interviews, asking about college experiences,” Brittain recalls. “From there they wanted me to submit a baseball skills tape, then from there it was reading the script, then picking out some characters you wanted to audition for.”
The filmmakers were not initially going to see Hoechlin, but the actor emailed the team and wrote a letter that his manager sent along with a tape. It did the trick — and the actor was able to be seen.
With the exception of Ryan Guzman, who appears in the film as Roper, Jenner and Hoechlin are probably the most well-known of the cast. Jenner appeared in Glee for several years, while Hoechlin has been in Teen Wolf since its inception, and will appear in the next two Fifty Shades of Grey films, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.
Once the cast was assembled, it became a collaborative process, with the actors gathering for a few weeks to get to know each other. “We found out so much in those weeks,” says Jenner. “That was the most crucial part of making it. Different dynamics would come out between the characters.”
Despite all the partying the guys do in the film, Brittain admits this group is much more mellow. “We are a low-key group,” he says. “If you had a group of 14 year olds partying with their dad’s beer, that is what it would be like for us.”
Besides bonding, the actors had to practice baseball for an hour a day to help them get into character. Innocent Beuter, for instance, is getting a taste of a life outside of his high school for the first time. He is also realizing that college players are a different breed than high school. “All these guys here are athletes — and they are all good,’ he says.
The actors are aware that comparisons to Dazed and Confused might be inevitable but are downplaying it a bit. “We really don’t try to draw any comparisons,” says Brittain. “I think both films are executed in a similar fashion, but those are Richard’s movies. I can see the similarities and the differences.”
The film is largely plotless, yet music from the era plays a pivotal part. Linklater had his actors listen to a wide range of ’80s tunes, giving them CDs and iPods with music from the era. “Richard told us to find out what our characters would be into,” says Hoechlin. “There were so many specific genres of music. We were getting a taste of it all. It did give you a nice creative space.”
Everybody Wants Some!! is weightier than its trailers may suggest, starting off as a comedy about young men wanting to party and get laid but is really about the brief time when these young men are free until adult supervision begins via college. It’s not showy, though. “It’s a laid-back film that is way deeper than it appears on the surface,” says Brittain. “It’s like a stone beneath the water. You may not notice it a first, but it’s always there, moving the water in whatever direction it is going to go. The beauty [Linklater] has with his characters and writing is that he finds things about his characters in the most subtle way. There is something beautiful in what [these characters] are saying. That is throughout in the film.”