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Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood is already getting Oscar buzz ahead of its Friday release in select theaters, but the film almost had the same title as last year’s big Oscar winner.
The director previously planned to title his film 12 Years, in reference to the dozen years he spent documenting his young star, Ellar Coltrane, growing up, before he learned of the then-upcoming 12 Years a Slave.
“Late last summer we were like, ‘12 Years is a good title. Has there ever been a film called 12 Years? Oh, there’s a film coming out called 12 Years a Slave. Really?’ ” Linklater said on Monday’s Today.
The director was joined by Coltrane and frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke, who plays Coltrane’s character’s father in Boyhood.
When asked how he got Hawke to sign on to the project, Linklater joked that he asked the actor, “What are you going to be doing in 12 years? Still acting? Still alive?”
Hawke said Linklater’s interest in telling a coming-of-age story in a different way tapped into something that the two of them were discussing.
“It made sense at the time, because we’d been talking about doing the sequel to Before Sunrise,” Hawke explained. “And so we were kind of interested in the idea of following up on characters.”
As for how he cast Coltrane as the film’s main character, Linklater called it “the biggest decision I think I’ve ever made artistically in my entire life.”
“I remember just kind of staring at him like, ‘Who are you going to be? You gonna be one of those cool teenagers?’ He was just the most interesting of all the kids. The way he thought, his taste, the things he talked about. The interesting, mysterious kid,” the director explained.
Coltrane said it was surreal to see himself age onscreen in the finished product.
“It’s incredible. It’s kind of like nothing else,” he said. “It’s a very strange part of yourself that’s kind of hard to see how you change over time.”
Watch Linklater, Coltrane and Hawke’s full interview on Today below.
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