Five Questions With the Cast of Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!

What it was like to hang out at "Camp Linklater" and the three films that inspired the director for this production.

Wyatt Russell (second from left) and Juston Street (fourth from left). Photo | Paramount Pictures

Wyatt Russell (second from left) and Juston Street (fourth from left). Photo | Paramount Pictures

Richard Linklater, the director perhaps best known for 2014’s stunning Boyhood, has a long and varied filmography since he came out swinging with Slacker back in 1991. One of his most popular early films, Dazed & Confused, featured a largely unknown cast (including one Matthew McConaughey in his first screen appearance and a callow Ben Affleck) who played a group of mixed stoners, jocks, and misfits on the last day of a Texas high school in 1976.

His new film, Everybody Wants Some!!, plays on a similar sort of riff: It has a largely unknown cast playing the crew of a college baseball team on the weekend before classes start at a small Texas university in 1980. Linklater has said the film is one of his most personal, and the 56-year-old visionary seems very much in his element working with his young, vibrant cast, whom he invited to his Texas ranch compound before shooting in order for everyone to bond together. We spoke with three of his young cast members, Quinton Johnson, who plays the laid back Dale; Wyatt Russell, who plays the gentle hippie Willoughby; and Juston Street, who plays arguably the film’s most wildly comic character — the smack-talking, self-professed “raw dog” pitcher, Jay Niles.

So, tell us what happened at Camp Linklater?

Wyatt Russell: It was camp: Rick [Linklater] had a game room. My idea was we could go to rehearsal and do this. [But] then we get to the ranch and, we can just, hang out? Go swimming? Go to the library and talk a little bit, then go and play ping-pong if we want. Free range.

Juston Street: The first three nights were really scheduled. Food in the morning, we’d go to baseball, we’d come back. But then I remember one time, [Rick] said “You guys need to go swim for an hour, and then we’re gonna come and get some yard.” I’m like, “We need to exercise?” He said, “No, just go play. Go up and swim.” He showed us these three films that were inspirational to him. But then after that, once you get it — “go and play” — the spirit of the ranch just spilled over into the whole film.

Quentin Johnson: For me, you just hope that you get that kind of experience. This is my first film; a lot of the guys are telling me that the experience we’ve had with Rick is very special. I feel so lucky!

Juston Street (in glasses). Photo | Paramount Pictures

Juston Street (in glasses). Photo | Paramount Pictures

What were the three films that inspired him?

WR: La Dolce Vita; Breaking Away; Animal House. What was so cool is that Rick would turn off the film, turn the lights on, and he’d sit in a chair and we’d all still be there and he’d ask, “So what do you guys think?” Halfway through I realized it was like a film course, but with Richard Linklater in a room with twelve of us. It was incredible.

So as for rehearsal would you improv scenes with your characters? Any method folks in character the whole time?

JS: It was a free-form rehearsal process. When you’re living with each other, you have a lot of time to be grabbing information and building relationships and understanding how each person works and talks and thinks. It was different my being Jay Niles, because I wanted the guys to still feel a little bit of that separation. But then everyone was such a good person that I was kind of tormented the first few days because I was like, “Aw man, I gotta be Jay Niles, the outcast.” As an actor you have to stay in that world though and keep navigating it, and figure out how you fit in. We couldn’t have created the characters that everybody created and the relationships without being out there together.

WR: Sometimes. It was tough because you couldn’t sit back and wait for Rick to get to you because there’s too much stuff he has to think about. I mean, he’s got twelve dudes and a whole story to think about. It’s my job to take my character and present my ideas to him, and then see if he likes them or not. Any ideas that I come up with that I think would add to the character or inform the story, he’d have the opportunity to say “yea” or “nay” to.

So, Rick was sort of like the team manager?

WR: He’s a big supporter. He’s a leader. He cheers you on in a way where he makes everyone feel like what they’re offering is valuable. Even if it’s not used, it was still a valuable piece of information to have come across and come out.

QJ: He’s more interested in you than you can ever imagine, and uplifting too.

You three are all pretty young. Was it weird playing guys your age from 35 years ago?

JS: I think the viewpoint is similar in that human relationships and the human condition, save for a few certain events — no human condition is going to be the same after 9/11, for example — but relating to one another and having a good time and being a good competitor and athlete — all those things exist in us. You go in and you listen to some music from that time, you put on some clothes from that time, and allow yourself to adhere to those conventions — like there was a lot of high-fiving going on — and you look to keep those in mind. But the mindset and the viewpoint of it wasn’t [different]. You go through the script and you find that the more things change, the more you stay the same.

Everybody Wants Some!! opens today at the Ritz Five and the Carmike Ritz Center.

Piers Marchant is a film critic and writer based in Philly. Find more confounding amusements and diversions at his blog, Sweet Smell of Success, or read his further 142-character rants and ravings at @kafkaesque83.