As the three guys enter the hotel room where I’m sitting waiting to conduct the interview, each of them opens up a bottle of beer. Sensing my surprise, Tyler Hoechlin, who plays the hyper-competitive McReynolds, looks to me and responds, “Don’t worry we’re not getting drunk on you. These are non-alcoholic beers today.” It’s an unexpected line coming from three guys who are some of the main attractions of the rowdiest party this spring.
Since its first rumblings, Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!! has faced lofty expectations. Coming on the heels of Boyhood, Linklater’s technical and emotional monument, and presented as the spiritual sequel to Dazed & Confused, one of the best films of all time about nothing, Everybody Wants Some!! is paradoxically unassuming enough to feel like both a debut and masterwork. Filled with relative unknowns, the film bursts with anarchic, unpredictable energy and a deep, lived-in spontaneity and joy that can only come from a director who knows exactly how to collaborate with his cast.
Like Dazed & Confused, the film is another universal time capsule, decked out with a period-specific soundtrack, costumes, and the attendant attitudes. This time though, Linklater’s nostalgic gaze has move from high school to the last weekend of freedom before the baseball season begins at an unspecified Texas college in the early 80s. It’s a weekend filled with cheap beer, male bonding, stupid stunts, and hilariously obsessive attempts at picking up women who hopefully know better. If there’s any movie where these guys should be pounding beers during interviews, this is the one.
“This is like our one free pass,” Blake Jenner, adds jokingly. “That was like our one instruction, If you get arrested, you just say in your statement, ‘hashtag Everybody Wants Some,’“ Jenner laughingly says. Jenner plays Jake, a ballsy freshman who’s affectionately taken under the wing of some of the seniors like McReynolds. Hoechlin and Will Brittain, who plays the reluctantly adaptive but likable Billy Autrey, join back in, riffing off each other. These three actors – Jenner, Hoechlin, Brittain – have never worked together, but they act like old friends or siblings. They’re ready to jab at each other, and giddy to jump in and reminisce about their experience on set.
There’s an infectious energy to the room, especially when they talk about the naturalism of being on set with Linklater and his ability to make his films feel ironclad in their construction while still feeling homespun enough that they could have emerged from a stoned weekend ramble. It’s an effortless sense of chemistry that’s present throughout Everybody Wants Some!!. Over a characteristically easygoing conversation, the three actors talked about Linklater’s (they all affectionately just call him Rick) inherent trust in actors to find their characters, the primal nature of baseball teams, and the ease of jumping back into the time period.
The Film Stage: There’s been quite a bit of conversation in interviews about the casting process and how all the guys were all invited to Richard Linklater’s house to just kind of chill and get to know each other. What was that experience like?
Will Brittain (Billy Autrey): It was like summer camp with guys who are really great actors and athletes, and with one of the best directors of all time. [All laugh] That’s a summary.
Tyler Hoechlin (McReynolds): Yeah, it was like a summer camp for big kids. We went there after South By [Southwest Festival] to kind of have a day and a half to just relax and just bring the whole group together again. I feel like every time we go out to Rick’s property, I feel like I’m 15 years old again. It’s like the weirdest thing, but it’s so much fun.
Blake Jenner (Jake): Yeah, it was incredible, man. I think it would have been a great movie no matter what. But just given the fact that we all lived with each other for three weeks, got to know each other, got some inside jokes going, laughing, bro-time; I think that helps the movie read all those relationships so much better than if we didn’t do that.
Brittain: I think the very first thing we did was play a game of touch-football. That’s how it kicked off, it was just like, let’s start playing.
All these characters are so memorable. Even the ones who are in one or two scenes, they make an impression whether they have a good one-liner or something notable. How much were you told about your characters when you first started in the casting process?
Hoechlin: I think what’s funny is that I wouldn’t even use the word, told, just because it sounds so wrong when you think about Rick. Even when we went in for the audition, we were kind of given the option. They said, pick three of these five characters, and this is a scene that goes with that character. And so, you would go in, and you would kind of read for like the three that you felt the most connected to. And even then, he was giving you a chance to be a part of the collaboration in the casting because you’re already kind of taking out certain options and saying, I don’t really think that’s me, and so I think a lot of the characters end up being combined. [Both guys say “Yeah.”] Everything was about discovery. It was, let’s find this together, let’s play with this. there was never any, do this or like I’m telling you what to do. As an actor, that was the most amazing thing ever.
Brittain: I feel like looking at this poster right in front of us [points to theatrical poster in room] and just thinking about all the different guys. We all each have our own personality, but beyond that, we all have our own small little skill set of talent, and little athletic accomplishments, and background, but we’re all really similar as well. We could all be brothers, or cousins, or something. I think when you put that together, the characters all kind of come out of that. I think Rick knew that, and we were just all like, man, he’s a genius dude. How did he know that it would work so well?
The chemistry is one thing that I really think comes across. Even if you guys didn’t know each other, I might not be able to guess that after seeing this. But there’s also especially a really firm sense of place and time. How did you guys get into that mindset? Was it just about listening to a lot of music from that time, or what was your process?
Jenner: When we first got there, he gave us all iPod shuffles and a bunch of CDs to kind of embrace the music of that time, so we could all run through that when we weren’t in rehearsals and stuff, so we really got to embrace that. Honestly, it was that. It was all the rehearsals with disco dancing and all the types of dancing, but mostly, it was Rick. He gave us the music. He gave us the advice when we needed it. He gave us the tutorials on correct handshakes and dance moves, and everything. He would just go back and tap into his memory, and tell us everything that was valid about that time period.
Hoechlin: There were a couple movies that he would screen with us. We would do some screenings on the property before rehearsals. There’s a certain kind of the attitude to ballplayers back then. We’d have little Q&A sessions with him, and he would tell us things he wanted us to know, and attitudes he wanted us to have.
Jenner: We saw some baseball documentaries as well.
Hoechlin: Yeah, there was one called No No, which was about Dock Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter on LSD back in the 70’s. It was a great documentary, but it was also about seeing the attitude of guys who played ball back then. It’s very different today. Pro sports, in general, is becoming far more polished. You’re creating a brand for yourself. Back then, the money for endorsements wasn’t there, so it was a much different attitude among the players, so things like that definitely helped.
I’m kind of curious about the music. There’s all these moments where Linklater knows the exact right moment for a song, even when it’s not the obvious choice. You have Van Halen and Donna Summer together in the same movie, and it doesn’t sound out of place at all. In general, was there a particular album or artist that he pointed to as a vibe he wanted to aspire to?
Brittain: It was a variety. I don’t think there was any one… Rick just has a ridiculous amount of awesome stories about great music. He can tell you the day that X song was released and where he was when he heard it. He can tell you when trends started to happen, and when he started to notice shifts in music scenes. It’s just like hanging out with an encyclopedia.
Hoechlin: The cool thing about it too was he’d give us a lot of this music, but he’d say, see which songs you feel like your guy would like, and that’s just another step in collaborating and allowing you to find things about your character. It’s not, oh well, you’d like this. It’s like, well, what do you think your guy would like? And then you’d talk about it if he felt it was far off, like he’s kind of more this kind of personality. And you would kind of find the character that way, which is kind of a really fun thing to do.
There’s a lot of what you’d call “friendly hazing” and shit talking in the movie. Did you guys need a little bit of a push to go in on each other?
Jenner: I don’t think we needed a push. [All laugh] I think we were all screwing with each other from day one. I remember telling Ryan [Guzman], he had a beanie on, and I remember telling him, he looked like Enrique Iglesias. [All laugh] He kind of half took offense to it and half laughed his ass off.
Brittain: I just remember Ryan had this mustache when we first started. He looked so ridiculous. For some people, a mustache just does not work for them.
Jenner: He looked like a big Luigi. [All laugh]
Brittain: MMA Luigi. [All laugh]
Hoechlin: Me and Ryan were sitting next to each other. We have similar features, and we both had staches going, and Rick was like, Ryan, we’re going to get rid of yours. And I was like, yes, we’re keeping mine. That was a sad day for Ryan. He wanted that mustache so bad.
This movie has like the best facial hair since Boogie Nights. You got sideburns and handlebar mustaches.
Blake, you’re sort of the main character. It’s definitely an ensemble, but you’re also supposed to be that guy who lets the audience into this world. How did you find that balance between being the new guy on campus, but also bringing a sense of confidence?
Jenner: That was all Rick. We were playing with it in rehearsals. It was the car scene where we were doing [Sugarhill Gang’s] “Rapper’s Delight,” and we kind of got into some dialogue about girls and stuff. I was kind of giving Ryan and Glen [Powell] some shit back, improvising, and Ryan looked back at Rick and he was like, I want to hit him. I want to punch this dude in the face. [Laughs] So like Rick comes up to him and he’s like, Jake’s character was the big man on campus where he comes from, but here he’s around McReynolds and Finnegan, these really, really great senior athletes, so you kind of have to find that fine line because you want to be cool with the guys and stand up for yourself and hold your own, but you also have to honor the fact that you’re a freshman and you kind of have to take a backseat and working your way through the group and finding your spot. From then on, I knew, ok, I’ll play within this space. I’ll make some discoveries from there.
I would still give you credit though. I think there would be a way that your performance could not work, and hurt the movie. But I think you pull off feeling confident, but you know, not too confident.
Jenner: He definitely gave me that nudge, so from then on, I was grateful for that and playing with that in the back of my head in certain situations.
Tyler, you get some of the best scenes of competition like the scene where you break the paddle playing ping-pong with Blake, and you’re one of the many characters who talks about how they’re proudly primitive. The characters are like animalistic. Was that something that Rick was really specific that he wanted that in there, or did that come from being around so many guys?
Hoechlin: I think it’s just that world. This is a team that is one of the best teams in the country. They compete for championships every year, and to be on a team like that, you really do have to have a full group of competitors – a group who always wants to be the best and win at everything. Guys that aren’t that way really kind of get left behind on teams like that. They kind of get singled out, and they usually only get into those programs just because those kinds of coaches don’t allow that environment in the first place. For me, it was just about tapping into back what college ball was for me back in the day. It didn’t matter what it was for us whether it was Tiger Woods golf, guitar hero, or actually playing baseball, there’s nothing that you want to let a teammate have the upper hand on. You would just constantly, constantly battle for that top spot. No matter what, you were going to have something to claim that I am the guy on the team for that. It could be darts, it could be beer pong. You’re constantly striving for that top spot. And that’s the mentality that gets teams to where they need to be when they’re going for championship.
Will, it’s kind of funny that Tyler is speaking about team members who gets left out. Your character, Billy’s a little bit of an odd man out. He has the girlfriend back home that he worried he knocked up, and he just doesn’t really want to deal with the bullshit at a certain point. He keeps coming in and out of the movie, but he still very much makes an impression. How did you view your character in terms of all these guys?
Brittain: All these guys like Blake mentioned are studs from where they come from. They’re the best athlete, they’re the best looking guy, they’re the coolest looking guy at their prospective high school. I tried to bring that in with Billy, and not have him be totally bulldozed by these guys, and completely humiliated. He’s proud of who he is, and when Blake comes to take the room for instance, he’s not just going to just give it up. It’s like, man, I’m having a good time too, that sort of mentality. Rick thankfully wrote this beautiful arc where Billy comes to realize that over the course of the film, these guys who give him a hard time, maybe they’re not the worst guys. I think Blake and I have a nice little bonding after the freshman batting practice. I really enjoyed that last scene I had with Blake and Glen and the rest of the guys. It’s like, you made it through the fire, you’re out the other side, and maybe these guys are going to be friends one day. Rick and I tried just to make sure to keep that going, so you didn’t leave the movie thinking ‘oh, that guy’s just a loser.’
Jenner: Also when you get to that cafeteria scene, it reads, he was just overwhelmed at first.
Brittain: Yeah, right, just overwhelmed by everything that’s happening.
You talked a little bit about the time period, but what was it like trying to get back to college? Tyler, you said you played college ball, did you other guys play sports in college?
Jenner: I didn’t play college ball.
Brittain: I didn’t either.
Hoechlin: The most important part of it, and the easiest part of it was just being surrounded by a group of guys again because I think being in that environment for so much of my life and leaving it to go do what we do now, which a lot of times, you end up spending a lot of time alone because you’re working on something or getting some line readings done or going over scenes. It’s very isolated sometimes. Being surrounded by a group of eleven other guys that you’re living together in a bunk house, and waking up and have breakfast together, and you go and do your table read and your practice and dance rehearsals and all this stuff. It creates that environment naturally, I think. I don’t know anybody who really has that kind of experience after college. It’s a very specific thing with a group of guys who all have a common goal from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. I think that was the most important part of it, and the easiest part of it as well just slipping back into that mindset.
Related to that, Linklater has said this is his spin on a “sports movie.” When you describe the movie to friends, do you even bring up the baseball aspect?
Brittain: Yeah, yeah. I always tell people it’s a baseball movie because it is. It’s just not about the game of baseball, it’s about…
Jenner: ..the spirit..
Brittain: …the soul of baseball.
Hoechlin: I say it differently just because the game is not really a part of it. We don’t focus on the game, and to me, that’s more interesting as someone watching the film who enjoys sports. If I’m going to watch a game, i’m going to watch a game. The game on TV is always going to be way more interesting than one that’s scripted. I enjoy seeing the dynamics of the characters and how they interact. There are interesting things that happen on a team. You pull for the guys because they’re on the team, or you root against them because you’re competing for a job, which is something that’s even said in the movie. So there’s this weird dynamic that happens between the players, and that’s the stuff that’s fascinating for me to watch.
There’s so many good pranks and random scenes in the movie. Is there anything that you wish made it into the final cut that didn’t?
Hoechlin: There were fun things that got taken out, but the movie, now that we’ve seen it, I think it flows so well that I’m not upset that it’s taken out.
Brittain: The movie that we have is a fantastic movie. I can think of maybe one thing that I’m like, that should have been in there. I can tell you, you’re going to have a great time watching the deleted scenes because there are full scenes, whammies, that are not in there that are just fun to watch, a lot of Finnegan’s speeches. [All laugh]
Finally, There’s something we have to talk about. We have to talk about the ax scene. Was this movie magic, or am I seeing something incredible in the flesh? [All laugh]
Brittain: Tyler is an incredible hitter, and the ax they had is incredibly sharp. And the timing just worked out.
Hoechlin: What I keep saying is that I did swing an ax and the ball did split into two pieces. [All laugh] However you want to interpret that is how you interpret it. That’s my answer from now on.
Had you done that before?
Hoechlin: I had never attempted it before. I don’t recommend it either. It’s probably not the safest thing to do.
You’re just going to let this be the myth that lives on after the movie.
Brittain: I don’t know what’s mythological about it though. I saw it with my own two eyes.
Jenner: Tyler was a little pissed off that day too.
Hoechlin: Taking my aggression out. I was like, Rick, we’ve got to do that scene today.
That’s the thing about it. It’s cut in a way that maybe it’s real, maybe it’s not real.
Hoechlin: To me, it’s one shot in slow motion. You can’t cut a swing. That’s the only thing.
Brittain: The ball splits in half.
No green screen or anything like that. I was just in awe and I couldn’t believe it.
Hoechlin: Definitely no green screen. [Laughs]
Brittain: One ball, two halves.
Jenner: One Tyler.
Brittain: One ax.
Everybody Wants Some!! is now in limited release and expands in the coming weeks.