Over two hundred images taken on set over twelve years, as well as commentary by Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and others, create a behind-the-scenes portrait of a critically acclaimed feature film—Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
In 2002, director Richard Linklater and a crew began filming the “Untitled 12-Year Project.” He cast four actors (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Lorelei Linklater) in the role of a family and filmed them each year over the next dozen years. Supported by IFC Productions, Linklater, cast, and crew began the commitment of a lifetime that became the film, Boyhood. Seen through the eyes of a young boy in Texas, Boyhood unfolds as the characters—and actors—age and evolve, the boy growing from a soft-faced child into a young man on the brink of his adult life, finding himself as an artist.
Photographer Matt Lankes captured the progression of the film and the actors through the lens of a 4x5 camera, creating a series of arresting portraits and behind-the-scenes photographs. His work documents Linklater’s unprecedented narrative that used the real-life passage of years as a key element to the storytelling.
Just as Boyhood the film calls forth memories of childhood and lures one into a place of self-reflection, Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film presents an honest collection of faces, placed side-by-side, that chronicles the passage of time as the camera connects with the cast and crew on an intimate level. Revealing, personal recollections by the actors and filmmakers accompany the photographs.
From 'Memories of the Present'
By Richard Linklater, writer, producer, director
I have a memory as a child of staring at a dead bird that I’d buried long before but dug back up. My mom had no idea what I was talking about when I asked her if all of great-grandpa was in heaven yet. I had observed the decaying process, this slow disappearance, and assumed it implied an equally gradual re-emergence in the hereafter. Years later, my mom told the story herself, and I began to think it wasn’t even my memory, but something I originated in my mind based on her telling many years before. As a kid I also noticed how over the years many of our home movies had slowly become memories of mine. “Oh yeah, I remember playing in that little inflatable pool.” Not really—I wasn’t even two years old. It was a home movie of my sisters and me, shot by my dad. Maybe this conflation of film, time, and memory was the early protoplasm of the idea for the movie Boyhood.
I wanted the movie to seem like the memory of a young life, just rolling through time. The best analogy of how memory works that I have ever read is that it’s closer to a theatrical production than a movie or video. Instead of pushing the rewind and play button, or watching that exact piece of film again, you’re actually restaging the event in your mind based on your recollection of the last time you conjured that particular memory. Maybe over time you’ve recast the parts a little, or given it a slightly different setting. Inevitably, there might be a few new elements glommed on to it based on the circumstances and what else you were recalling from your last production of that particular memory. I find it a beautifully unnerving thought that this story in all of our heads, this narrative of our lives that we find ourselves cast in and playing until we can’t any longer, is more imaginative than technically real. And, like being pulled into a movie, we have no choice but to accept it as the only reality we know in the moment.
More of Richard Linklater's essay is in the book.
Richard Linklater called me out of nowhere. We had met briefly a few years before at a film
reception. I was a fan and told him so and I think we may have even talked about my young son. He was already a father and I was already a mother. I had had my son at 20. My son and I grew up together.
When Richard called me about the movie, my son was 12 and I had lost both my parents. I had watched my son’s infancy and early years blur by. I had married and divorced. I was dragging around the corpse of a failed marriage. I was mourning my mother. I was mourning my father. With their deaths I found some distance on the parenting mistakes I felt they had made. By then I had plenty of my own mistakes to reflect upon. By then I missed them and could no longer take them for granted.
My mom said once she thought her personality started at the sink. Not literally, but I think she meant a part of her was invisible. As if her life was a series of actions of servitude.
When Richard first told me about Boyhood, everything in my body said YES. When he told me about my character Olivia’s trajectory it was strangely familiar. Both of our own mothers had gone back to school. Both of our mothers had gone on to teach. My adolescence was full of memories of her buried in her bed surrounded by paperwork. In her time of dying, her house was full of people I had never met. Strangers came to tell me how she had changed their lives, to thank her. A friend of hers said to me, “you die like you live.”
Read Patricia Arquette's full essay in the book.
“Boyhood: Twelve Years on Film could be seen as an essential companion for all those who were deeply moved by the film, but it is so much more than that. The book is a true work of art within itself which captures in photography what Boyhood captures on film, which is the cast as their characters growing up in front of the camera and a story being told through Matt Lankes exquisite photography.”