Richard Linklater Calls for Industry-Wide "House Cleaning" of Predators

Richard Linklater - Last Flag Flying Premiere - Getty - H 2017
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“Obviously, it’s way overdue,” the Oscar-nominated director told THR at the premiere of his latest film. “And it’s unfortunate [about] our industry — young people need to be encouraged and supported, not preyed upon.”

Richard Linklater was nominated for an Oscar for exploring Boyhood in 2014, examined young adulthood last year in Everybody Wants Some!! and now, with Last Flag Flying, has focused on the subject of brotherhood.

“The message of the movie? You’re always there for your brothers,” J. Quinton Johnson, who also appeared in Everybody Wants Some!!, told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s premiere Wednesday night at the Directors Guild of America Theater in Los Angeles. “There’s something to the brotherhood specifically formed with military veterans that is a bit more powerful than the cynicism of politics and war. Families are losing children, and families are losing fathers and mothers.”

Husbands, too. Last Flag Flying is set in 2003 — nearly 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War — stars Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell as veterans who served together in the war and reunite three decades later to bury the latter’s son, a Marine who was killed in the Iraq War.

“It couldn’t be more relevant. It’s almost uncanny,” said Darryl Poniscan, who wrote the novel on which the film is based and collaborated on the screenplay with Linklater. “Just recently we’re seeing images on television that came right from our movie. So in that regard, it’s very timely and it involves the same stuff we’re dealing with — how our government has not been truthful with us.”

Poniscan commented further on politics and President Donald Trump: “Our military service are institutions based on duty, courage, discipline. The commander in chief has none of the things that you require from the ordinary soldier or sailor,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Linklater chimed in about the president as well: “He has none of that kind of touch of class, which you really need in a leader. It’s sad to live through this. It’s so disrespectful to everyone. I mean, these people put their lives on the line for their country. And as the representative of the country, you have to step up and represent the country that they sacrificed for — and if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t have that job.”          

Carell, however, had no interest in talking politics, or the evening's other hot topic, sexual harassment allegations.

For one thing, the actor wasn’t willing to talk about the resignation of Roy Price from Amazon Studios, which financed Last Flag Flying, following claims of harassment. “I don’t have a comment on that,” Carell told THR. “I just want to talk about this movie,” he said. “Working with Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne, that was sort of a dream come true. And Rick Linklater: You get a call from him? You do the movie. Kind of simple. I wanted to do it primarily because of the people involved and the script. It felt economical to me — it said exactly what it needed to say. No more and no less.”

The same could be said of Carell, who hopes his work speaks for itself. “A lot of things are relevant right now because of our political climate,” he said. “I did a movie that came out a month or so ago, Battle of the Sexes. When we were doing that, we had no idea that it would be as relevant as it turned out to be."

Added Carell: "History repeats itself, and we’re learning from our past as we go into the future.”

Linklater, however, did speak up about his thoughts on the topic of harassment in Hollywood. “Clearly the industry is having a house cleaning of some kind. Obviously, it’s way overdue. And it’s unfortunate [about] the workplace in our industry — young people need to be encouraged and supported, not preyed upon,” said the director, who “absolutely” supports the ongoing conversations about making the business safer for all. “It’s just the exact methodology to make sure it doesn’t happen again needs to fall into place and everyone needs to come aboard. But I think that’s going to happen,” he added. “So that’s the upside."

When asked about the allegations of sexual abuse against his former 21 co-star Kevin Spacey, Fishburne proved that the fierce loyalty he exhibits onscreen is no act: “I love Kevin Spacey. He’s my friend,” said Fishburne.

Cicely Tyson, the 92-year-old actress who has a cameo in Last Flag Flying, said that she is surprised by how little has changed with regards to sexual harassment in the industry.

“I don’t think there are too many women in this business who have not had that experience,” she said. “I’m lucky because I have always been made aware of the possibilities of it existing in the business, and so I carried myself in such a way that allowed me to protect myself and keep that away from me.”