Looking for relief from the summer’s never-ending onslaught of superheroes, strongmen and animated birds? Well, director Richard Linklater has you covered. The filmmaker behind “Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood” and “Before Midnight,” has something frothy and wonderful up his sleeve in “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a slick adaptation of the best-seller by Maria Semple about a woman (Cate Blanchett), who becomes stifled with her suburban life and strikes out on her own, in the biggest way possible.
It’s another charming left turn from the American auteur and the kind of thoughtful, performance-driven piece that you expect around Oscar season, not in the dog days of summer.
So you can imagine how thrilled we were to talk about the process of adapting the book (which took a very long time), what it was like working with such a legendary actress, whether or not he’d want to do a horror movie, and what he thought of his bud Quentin Tarantino’s very Linklater-esque “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.”
Moviefone: What drew you to this project initially?
Richard Linklater: It was just Maria Semple's book, you know? It was an exhilarating read. Bernadette's such a fascinating character -- so complex. I just felt the book was about a lot of things, it gets its hooks in you.
You were announced for the project so long ago.
It's been quite a journey, that's for sure. It's been a number of years. Cate Blanchett and I were just talking yesterday. It was like, “When we first had breakfast about this, it was coming up on five years.” That tells you something about, from the time we had both read the book and what the journey would entail. And the film itself, the postproduction journey took longer to edit than usual. There was a lot of story there. I think that adaptation process continued, but I was super happy with it. It's just complex. It took longer than, than you expect. Everything about it was a little trickier than usual for me.
What was so tricky about it and how did you get it into shape in post-production?
It was just an extra layer of production. We had to literally go to the end of the earth and shoot this. We couldn't actually shoot in Antarctica at times, because if it's winter down there, they don't even let you. So we shot early, we shot when it was summer down there, and then we had those plates we used and when we shot it in the North Pole with them around the icebergs. It was a bit of a visual trick, like most movies putting it all together, but that's just technical. The psychological trick was probably the tougher one. Just like, what was this movie really about? Is Bernadette crazy? Is she normal and the world's crazy? That was the fun part.
How essential was Cate Blanchett to this whole process?
I don't think you have a movie without Cate. I can't imagine anyone else really.
If you were talking about this five years ago, what was her insight and input as you went along?
Well Cate to me is the dream, just the ideal collaborator. She works so hard, there’s a reason she’s Cate Blanchett. Genius is k hard to quantify and hard to talk about, but it’s easy to know when you see it. So she's got that. What I liked about her that I can talk about is her work ethic. She really wanted to rehearse, really always digging in. There was always say and think about. We had a great time. I really loved working with her. I can't put it any other way.
Is a move with this much plot challenging in a way?
Well, movies or stories are different to varying degrees. Even in my most hangout movies, there's usually a clock ticking of some kind or there's something driving that. And in this case we’re just revealing more and more about Bernadette and heating up these forces against her. At the one hand, she's being characterized in a way and that's reaching a boil that's going affect her life. On the other hand, she's sort of rediscovering her calling and that’s coming too, so there's this big train wreck in the intervention scene, which to me is like a mini horror film. And she's very right to jump out that window. Then she proceeds on her mystical journey to the Antarctica. She's been drawn there, so that's definitely the right track for her.
Is there a parallel between architecture and filmmaking?
Absolutely. I can't think of another art form that's closer to filmmaking than architecture. The director and the architecs are similar. You're designing and all that but there's still a lot of people to collaborate with before you have a finished building or a finished movie. There's a lot can go wrong between that thing on paper and the final thing. It’s pretty heady. And also I think on another level, more of an anxiety, vulnerability level, I know a lot of architects who have designed some really cool buildings that never got built. They even made a little cool model of them but never got built. Sort of, I’ve written a lot scripts that haven't been made. I mean, no songwriter wrote a song that didn't get written. They wrote it, they played it, it might not become a hit or get big distribution, but they got to do it. The writers got to write, the painter got to paint. I'm not talking where it went from there, but the architect doesn't get to build the building, sometimes. It stays on a drawing board or in a little model. For a filmmaker, it stays there. And that in itself is incomplete, that's not the end. The plans are the beginning, not the anything unto themselves. I always felt that way about scripts. It's just merely the jumping off point.
“Where’d You Go Bernadette” feels like new territory for you, tonally and genre-wise. Is there a genre that you haven't done that you would like to do? You talked about the, the intervention sequence being sort of a horror movie. Would you like to do a full-on horror movie?
Yeah. But whatever that means. I'd like to do my horror movie, but I just don't usually think in that those terms. So I don't know if I'll ever have a horror movie that interests me enough, that I can wrap my head around. Jarmusch just did his zombie movie, which is pretty interesting. He attacks each genre in some wonderful way. So I admire that. I don't know. I think I'm less of a genre guy. What genre is “Bernadette” even?
It’s a big-time literary adaptation, which they don’t do that often.
“Out of Africa” it’s not.
Before e leave I was wondering if you had seen the new Quentin Tarantino movie, because it struck me as the most Linklater-y non-Linklater movie I think I've seen.
Oh yeah. can't tell you how much I love that movie and it's true. Quentin has pulled off the miraculous. He has made the biggest budget hangout movie of all time. It's a total triumph.
That’s great that you loved it.
That’s a good observation about Quentin’s movie. I felt the same way but you're the first person that mentioned that. I’ve known him for years and said, “I’m thinking of doing a hangout movie.” So I think he did his hangout movie.
Did he give you the script or anything?
No, I knew what he was working on. I even visited while he was shooting, but I didn't know. I kind of knew what he was up to in the abstract. I want to be surprised in the theater, which I certainly was.
“Where’d You Go Bernadette” is in theaters on Friday.