“I never saw I mean it is just not my demographic. I didn’t care what he’d been in” – Linklater on Ephron
occurred to me I needed somebody with real presence or he might disappear when set beside Christian’s Orson.”
Christian McKay later tells me that, while shooting in the Isle of Man, he and Efron were chased into a tea shop by screeching Efronites. In what sounds like a scene from Shaun of the Dead, Christian and Zac huddled behind the cream horns while a hundred teenage girls bellowed outside. Such conspicuous adulation must have caused problems on set.
“I don’t think it was ever a problem on the actual set,” Linklater says. “I felt sorry for him. He would leave the set and walk out into this hysterical squealing. It really was like The Beatles. It is to Zac’s credit that he has reacted well. He doesn’t like it too much and he doesn’t dislike it too much. Some actors overdo the negative reaction. Others soak it up more than they should. I think, like DiCaprio, he’ll move on to do good work.”
Whereas Me and Orson Welles seems like a slightly off-beam choice for Efron, the picture – though financed independently and with some difficulty – seems like one of Linklater’s more conventional projects. When the director emerged in 1991 with the staggeringly inexpensive, hugely influential Slacker, pundits wondered which way he would lunge next. Would he remain an independent voice or would he allow himself to be inveigled into mainstream projects? As it happens, despite a few mishaps, Linklater has found a way to intersperse eccentric, loose-limbed productions such as the Before Sunset and Before Sunrise with more commercial films such as the raucous, much loved School of Rock.
“I like everyone in the movie industry,” he smiles. “Because they like movies. They really do. When I have a film that fits then we all feel very lucky. School of Rock was fun and felt every bit as much my movie as the others. But you are aware of the crass pressures those guys are under. Look, they can’t say no to Transformers 3.”
Nonetheless, the independent spirit of Austin – Texas’s alternative heartland – continues to surge through Linklater’s synapses. He still lives in the city and celebrates a town where “you can meet really cool people stacking groceries”. I guess that guy could have been Richard. After working on oil rigs, forming the Austin film society and knocking together a largely unseen Super-8 project called (deep breath) It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, he made it to 28 before breaking through – and naming a generation – with the influential Slacker. Another year or two in the wilderness and he might have given up.
“I guess I always felt that the early stuff might fail. You don’t know,” he says. “I’m still a bit that way with every film. I still feel I might fail. There’s a parallel universe somewhere where the film didn’t work and I am doing something else entirely.”
Hmm? Self-doubt? Awareness that we all have feet of clay? Now, there’s something Rick doesn’t have in common with Orson Welles.