Richard Linklater’s new film Everybody Wants Some!! is set in that sweet spot between Saturday Night Fever and the Reagan Years. Ripe with feathered hair, bell bottom pants and milk crates used as LP storage, it’s the story of college life over the course of one weekend in 1980 set to the throbbing beat of disco and new wave music.
“It was a raunchy time,” says Linklater. “It was pretty hedonistic. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. I had to impose that back on my cast. Disco was sex. Dancing was foreplay. You were hoping to keep it going and that it would get personal. The humour was really raunchy. It was not innocent but there was a certain kind of playfulness to it.”
The fifty-five year old director calls the 1980s “a good time for me. A good time to be in your twenties. I was that guy who took his album collection and his music and his speakers off to college. My entire net worth at that age was in music.”
“You do a movie to examine your feelings or what you think,” he says. “I thought a lot about my own life at that time and also the culture. It’s my little anthropological look [at 1980]. I came out of it thinking that was the end of something. The eighties got much more serious. There was the AIDS epidemic but also there was the cultural backlash. There was the Reagan administration, Pat Robertson, [Jerry] Falwell and it kind of a war and not only a war on drugs. They were trying to move the culture back to the fifties or some mythical past before all this corruption, i.e. the freedoms of the sixties, women’s liberation. That was really in full gear by 82, 83 so I look at this and think, this was the last time there was that unabashed, raunchy hedonistic pure fun. I look at it and go, that was a good time to be young because that was all going to change.”
The Texas born filmmaker says he spent his 80s college years underground, immersed in punk rock. “It was getting kind of ugly in accepted culture so I zoned out a lot of it.” Since then he has made a career chronicling contemporary suburban culture in films like Slacker, Dazed and Confused and most recently in the twelve-years-in-the-making Boyhood. Along the way he’s learned a thing or two about how society is changing.
“I think the culture has actually changed less and less,” he says. “I observed that on Boyhood. I thought the world would look a lot different in those twelve years. If you take 1969 to 1981 you got a lot of different looks, cars, everything. In Boyhood nothing changed. The phones changed but the cars all looked the same, the hairstyles. I think we’ve hit a wall. Technology is so quick moving that it satisfies that desire in us for change. Punk comes out of [the idea] that I want something new. I don’t think humans don’t feel that deep need for demonstrable rejection of the old and embracing of the new because they feel there is so much being satisfied technologically. Whatever urge that was to stick a safety pin in your cheek and go create a new dance, you don’t see that anymore.”