Richard Linklater’s new movie, Bernie, opens next Friday in Vancouver. It marks the Texan director’s third collaboration with sexy Matthew McConaughey (and his second with the film’s star, Jack Black). You can read the Straight’s interview with Linklater in next week’s issue, but here’s a little preview, on a slightly different topic—since I had him on the phone, I had to ask Linklater about David Wooderson, the magical character that a then-unknown McConaughey whipped up for his 1993 classic, Dazed and Confused.
Richard Linklater has provided filmgoers with more than a few iconic moments, indelible characters, and quotable quotes—think Slacker, Before Sunrise, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock—but nothing, nothing, has taken on the mythic status of McConaughey’s ageing, stoned, pink-jeaned, jailbait-groover in the Ted Nugent t-shirt or the timeless magnitude of the line, "I get older, they stay the same age.” Linklater says he couldn’t agree more.
Richard Linklater: I know. It was some combination of that script, and Matthew’s character, and where we went with it that really was… I felt it while we were shooting, that we had gone to some other level. But it’s something familiar. In every town, I’ve had people all over the world tell me, like, ‘Oh, in my town that guy’s name was…’
Georgia Straight: That’s the thing—that character definitely exists, but I’d never seen him put on film before. Dazed and Confused reminded me that Wooderson exists. It dredged him up for me. I’m so grateful.
Richard Linklater: You know, when I first met Matthew, he came in and he’s, like, this really good-looking, clean-cut guy, and that threw me off, cause I never saw Wooderson like that. I was, like, ‘No, you’re not right for this part.’ I’m thinking this after just meeting him, and he looked at me, and he goes, ‘Hey, I’m not this guy, but I know this guy. I know this guy.’ He’s from Longview, I’m from Huntsville, these are East Texas towns. ’I know this guy.’ And then he did his audition and he kind of, like, fell into this character, his eyes turned into little quarter slots, he’s like, ‘Hey, man, you got a joint?’ And I was, like, ‘Holy shit!’ He became that guy. Holy moley. And I always say Matthew’s a character actor. I met him as a character actor. He was too good looking for the part, but we were long enough away from shooting that I said, ‘Okay, don’t cut your hair, don’t shave, can you grow a mustache?’ ‘Well, kind of…’ ‘That’ll be good, a sleazy kind of mustache, we’re gonna add tattoos.’ You know, we had to, kinda, grodey him up for that character. But nobody can ever say Matthew got cast because he was a pretty boy, cause that’s not what I was looking for, for that particular part.
Georgia Straight: Is there a hard-act-to-follow aspect to Wooderson for the two of you?
Linklater: No, not at all. We never think of it that way. We just smile… I fuckin’ love that character.
Bernie opens Friday, June 1. Check next week’s Straight for our full interview with Richard Linklater