An interview with film director Richard Linklater by Nell Alk. Photos via Millenium Entertainment, Guest of a Guest, and I4U.
Monday evening marked the red carpet special screening of Bernie, a dark comedy written/directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, Shirley Maclaine, and Matthew McConaughey. Based on true events, the film, which hits theaters tomorrow, delivers an intimate reenactment of a series of unsettling (if also entertaining) events that transpired in mid-1990s small-town Texas. (Coincidentally, Bernie’s central plot feature is the macabre charade of having to make a dead person appear alive to the prying outside world, carrying forward the tradition of similarly named cult comedy Weekend at Bernie’s).
Working the step-and-repeat that night was of course the core cast, as well as additional notables like Ethan Hawke, Jonathan Ames, and Coco Rocha. But we lasered in on writer/director Richard Linklater, helmer of a dizzying array of divergent genre touchstones including Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, School of Rock, Fast Food Nation, and A Scanner Darkly. Still, his most impressive achievement, at least to us, is that he’s a committed vegetarian (“a PETA guy,” even). The self-taught director was generous enough to give us his insights about the industries of film (bravo!) and food (boo).
Has filmmaking gotten harder?
No, it’s gotten easier. For me personally. More experience, more confidence. Getting the money for the film has gotten harder, but the filmmaking hasn’t gotten harder. Which may sound like a contradiction, but whatever. No one said it would ever be easy.
You’ve taken an unconventional path in filmmaking, seemingly more characteristic of the 1970s era of the independent auteur. Does the legend of that era capture the actual autonomy directors had?
Probably to some degree. I would say American independents in the ’90s had more autonomy, but what’s interesting about the ’70s guys is, they were doing it at a studio level, which is pretty hard to do, pretty fascinating. So, that was kind of the heyday of studio filmmaking. But, even today, some filmmakers are just going to make it work. There’s still a lot of people out there making their films on all levels. I still admire the people who, for whatever reason, can get it made on a big studio level. That’s hard to do, too.
You directed Fast Food Nation. Did that experience change the way you viewed eating food?
It sort of confirmed what I already felt I knew and had researched about the industrialization of food. But it didn’t really change me that much. I was already on that track.
You’re a vegetarian.
I’m in my 30th year of being a vegetarian.
Have you ever dabbled in veganism?
I kind of have an urban farm. I have chickens that I’m taking care of, so I don’t mind [eating eggs from these] chickens, who are offering eggs to me. What are you supposed to do with them? Throw ’em away? But the industrialization? I would stay away from factory farmed eggs for sure, and cheese and all that. But, I think if you can come up with it yourself, it’s okay. I’m not a hardcore vegan, but I’m still kind of a PETA guy.