Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is one of the most daring movies ever made. The acclaimed director had the idea to film this deeply moving family drama over 12 years so that we see all the characters age before our eyes. The risks inherent in such a project were mind-boggling, but Linklater found his dream cast and, no matter what other films he was working on, returned to this story for a few weeks each year over the course of a dozen years. The film centers on a child named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) who grows up on screen in a way that has never before been seen in a fictional film. Mason’s parents are played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and for the key role of Mason’s sister, Samantha, Linklater cast his own nine-year-old daughter, Lorelei, who matures to 21 over the course of the nearly three-hour film. For me, Boyhood is one of the most extraordinary films I’ve ever seen, but when I recently met with Lorelei Linklater, she was still recovering from the shock of  seeing the finished product (Linklater never let the actors see any of the footage they shot over the years). The unjaded actress was honest enough to share how painful it remains for her to watch this remarkable film.

Danny Miller: You were so young when you started making this film. Did you have a clear idea of what your father was trying to do?

loreleilinklater-1Lorelei Linklater: I don’t think I understood the scale of the project. But thinking back, when my dad talked about it, I guess it didn’t seem that weird to me. I was like, “Okay, let’s do it!”

Was it something you looked forward to each year or were there some years where you were thinking, “Ugh, do I have to?”

Oh, definitely! There were those painful “awkward years” when I was turning from a kid into a teenager, probably around 12 or 13, when I was none too pleased about being in it. But not filming wasn’t an option! I was really excited the first few years but then I remember waking up one morning a few years later and finding my very first pimple on my face. Of course that happened to be the very first day of shooting for that year. Ugh.

Your father was probably thinking, “Yay, this is perfect!”

(Laughs.) Yeah, probably! I was miserable that day and had a hard time for a few years after that, but later on I started looking forward to the filming again!

Did you start to see Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as your pseudo-parents after all that time?

Yes, completely! They’re kind of like my dream parents — in an ideal world, they would actually be my parents. (Laughs.) They’re a lot more glamorous than my actual parents.

lorelei-ellar-redhairWere there any things you weren’t able to do in your life because of the movie? Like physical changes you wanted to make — or were those just worked into the script?

I used to dye my hair a lot when I was a teenager. There was one year when I had these highlight extensions and my dad made me take them out. I wish I had fought to keep them!

Samantha could have been going through anything, what difference did it make?

Yeah, I don’t know why they made me do that — it makes me mad to think about it. My hair was definitely more extreme colors than what you see in the film — pink, blue, purple. They did capture the red one year.

Did you talk about the movie a lot during the year or just around the time of the shoot?

It really wasn’t a huge part of my life. I know some people think it consumed a lot of my childhood but it really didn’t, it was just a little bit of time each year that we would set aside. But then when the shoot ended each year, I do remember sometimes feeling really sad. The set was usually pretty fun.

ethan-kidsDid you ultimately feel a real ownership of Samantha? Were there times when you’d say, “Oh, I don’t think she’d say that.”

Not really, to be honest. If I had ownership over her, a lot of her lines would have been considerably different.

In what way?

I just don’t think her personality was that well defined. I know other people see her differently than I do!

Oh God, I thought she was such an interesting character. I loved the arc of her relationship with Mason, that seemed so realistic. Although I do admit there were times when I was thinking, “I wonder what’s going on with Sam this year. What’s she into? Does she have a boyfriend?”

Yeah, they definitely focused more on Mason but that was always the plan — it’s his story and I’m a supporting character. But I wish I had given her more definition.

breakout_linklaterWas this story inspired by your own family dynamic?

Oh yeah, definitely, mostly my dad’s. My dad has two older sisters and I was kind of playing a combination of my aunts. Ellar was kind of playing my dad as a kid but in a weird way Ethan was also playing my dad and my dad’s dad! It was pretty surreal!

Was there anything you shot that you wish had made the final cut?

Yes, a lot of stuff! I have two younger sisters, twins who are 11 years younger than me. They showed up in the film for a second at Mason’s graduation party, playing visiting cousins who are the daughters of Ethan’s brother. At one point, Bill Wise, who plays Uncle Steve in the movie, says “What do we do when we don’t know, girls?” and they respond in unison, “Wing it!” It was so funny and I’m really mad that my dad cut it out! I hope they put it on the DVD.

Was it difficult to finally watch the film and see yourself at all those different stages?

Oh my God, yes. It was very, very, very hard. You really have to dissolve your ego and your vanity. I found it extremely difficult to watch — to have my most awkward stages broadcasted like that. It was very painful.

Your dad never let you see any of the footage over the years?

No, none of it. He didn’t want me freaking out which is exactly what happened when I finally saw it put together!

Really? Wow — I sure hope you also recognize that it’s one of the most amazing films ever made!

It makes me very happy to hear you say that. It means I was not humiliated in vain.