Roundtable Interview With Ellar Coltrane On Boyhood

Boyhood Ethan Hawke Ellar Coltrane

For you growing up, were there elements that you incorporated – any musical elements, any pop culture references – into the script?

Ellar Coltrane: When Mason’s listing the three best films of the summer, those were my favorite movies that summer. But as far as music, no. Richard’s idea with the music was to be sort of a time stamp – what was in the air at that time. He asked me and Lorelei. I was listening to Pink Floyd and Lorelei was listening to 18th-century harpsichord music. We weren’t very helpful.

How much of the character’s look was you and how much was influenced by Richard?

Ellar Coltrane: It was more and more me, as we went on. At the beginning, they cut my hair, put me in a costume and all of that. As the character got older, most of the high-school haircuts were my haircuts.

Did you ever have to get back at him for the head shaving?

Ellar Coltrane: No. I was so happy [about the head shaving!] If anything, I got back at him for making me grow my hair out. I couldn’t shave it. It’s really hot in Texas and it was the summer and I wanted to cut my hair. But they wanted it to be long so it would be dramatic [in the film.]

The performances are very natural, like many of Linklater’s films. How did Linklater make it feel very comfortable and natural for you?

Ellar Coltrane: He has an amazing way of making people feel comfortable. I definitely remember that one of the first things I really liked about Richard was just that he talked to me like an adult. It was very comfortable. There’s kind of a joke about his sets that you don’t even know when you’re filming. It’s just this conversation and you’re going in and out of scenes, and then, eventually, he’s like, “we got it.” It’s very casual. Also, being a part of creating the character is a lot of that, too, and putting elements of myself into the character. Even though it is very much a character that’s very outside of myself, I was familiar with it.

Were there any years of filming that you can look back more fondly on?

Ellar Coltrane: My involvement and investment grew and grew as the years went on. The year when me and Ethan go camping, that was the first year that I really [got invested]. I was taking acting classes and I was just really interested. I had a big part in writing a lot of the dialogue on that year, and then all the years after. But that was the first one where I was really a part of that collaborative process, so that was really exciting.

Do you have any desire to write or direct a film?

Ellar Coltrane: Absolutely. It’s an incredible process. As much as I want to act, what I crave is to just be part of creating something. Acting is part of that, but definitely I’d like to do all of it.

Mason goes through things that a lot of people go through, and sometimes it’s very heavy stuff. When you go out to screenings, people must have visceral reactions to what they’re seeing. What’s it like knowing that this character has encapsulated much to a lot of different people?

Ellar Coltrane: It’s incredible. It’s so beautiful for anything to elicit that kind of emotion in people and have them feel comfortable and vulnerable enough to express it. That’s so rare, even in intimate relationships, to have someone express vulnerable emotions and that kind of tenderness and cry openly. Emotions are very repressed and so it’s beautiful to have people express that. I feel responsible to validate that, because we presented ourselves in a very vulnerable way and they’re returning it. It’s incredible.

What was it like to finish this project? Did you miss it in your life?

Ellar Coltrane: It hasn’t quite set in yet that it’s done. We wrapped in October, so if we were still going [to film this year], we wouldn’t have even done it yet. Come Christmas-time, it’ll probably start to feel a little more real. But it was very bittersweet. It snuck up on all of us, I think. The goal of it actually being finished was so distant for so much of the project that we really didn’t think about that. We were just lost and we were just doing it. When it did get there, we were just, “wow, it’s done.” That last moment [in the film] was the last moment that we filmed. I think what’s expressed and what Mason is experiencing was very much what all of us were experiencing. This is a chapter of all of our lives that’s coming to an end, and it had come to mean so much more to us than we ever expected.

That concludes the interview, but I would like to thank Coltrane for sharing his unique artistic journey with us. And, make sure to catch Boyhood as it expands throughout North America this summer.