By Bill Zwecker – Chicago Sun Times – 03.26.16
For the young actors to come together and bond — to be believable as Texas college baseball teammates in the early 1980s — writer-director Richard Linklater came up with a pretty simple plan.
“It was a great opportunity given us by Rick,” says Tyler Hoechlin, who portrays cocky senior star McReynolds in the film “Everybody Wants Some!” (opening Friday). “He allowed us to come out to his property in Texas for about three weeks prior to shooting. We basically lived together.
“We had a bunkhouse, where we would sleep every night. We would wake up and eat breakfast together. We would go through our table reads [of the script] together. We’d go to our dance rehearsals and baseball practice — always together. It was like being back in college and playing ball again.”
Hoechlin was the only actor in the movie who had much experience on school baseball diamonds, having played for three years in college.
“Getting back on that field was like a homecoming party for me to relive that,” he says. “It was a blast.”
For Will Brittain, who portrays a senior class pitcher in the movie, baseball was pretty much in his distant past.
“I played a ton of ball up until the age of about 13 or 14,” Brittain says. “I was pretty good at it but not as good as I was at other sports, so I started to focus on football and track.
“So it was really awesome for me to get back on the ballfield, swing a bat and throw a ball around again. It was a nice trip back to childhood.”
It wasn’t easy for Blake Jenner, the main star of this ensemble picture, to make himself convincing as Jake, the star freshman pitcher.
“I grew up playing a little bit of football and some basketball and still play basketball today,” Jenner says. “I also did some wrestling in high school. But I never played baseball — not ever.
“So, as you can imagine, what I had to do was to work very hard with some really good coaches at [the University of Texas] in Austin. They were terrific and very patient with me. It was cool to actually learn from them.”
Beside the athletic aspects of the film, the core of “Everybody Wants Some!” is Linklater’s somewhat autobiographical look at a group of young athletes as they connect and live together in a ramshackle, fraternity-like house off-campus the week before the start of the fall term. Though not a sequel, it is seen by many as Linklater’s follow-up to his 1993 cult classic “Dazed & Confused.”
Brittain says that while they were prepping to shoot the movie, he and his castmates were given a lot of leeway by Linklater — using that as an example of the Oscar-nominated director’s collaborative approach.
“When we were out on Rick’s farm, workshopping the whole piece before filming, we’d talk about the party scenes, for example,” Brittain says. “A lot of stuff you see at those party scenes came from us tossing around ideas with Rick — things that might be fun and that our characters might actually have done back in the day.
“In watching that final cut of the film, it was fun to see those ideas actually come to life on camera. It was very cool to see that.”
Jenner says he also was “pretty much in awe” of Linklater, impressed by how much the “Boyhood” and “School of Rock” filmmaker was willing to listen “to all of our ideas. … especially considering this was for a film that he not only was directing but also wrote based on aspects of his real life.”
Brittain was equally impressed with Linklater when the director wasn’t happy with how a scene was going.
“He was kind of like your favorite coach. He wouldn’t come up and tell you were doing something right — he’d just let you keep doing it.
“But when he did come up to tell you you were doing something wrong, it wasn’t to grill you. It was more like, ‘Why don’t you try this?’ It was always done in a way that was very gentle and respectful.”
For contemporary college-age kids watching “Everybody Wants Some!” the film will showcase a period when social media, cell phones and the like were not yet part of American culture.
Brittain says that was something he and the other actors embraced. “I loved the fact that we got rid of the phones on set. In other projects, other movies, whenever there’s a break, people immediately jump on their phones and start texting and the like.
“That never happened on this set. Frankly, rarely did people have their phones outside their trailers. I think that is one of the reasons we became so close. We simply had to sit down and talk to each and work things out — face-to-face and person-to-person.
“Of course, ironically, the way we now stay in touch is to keep texting each other almost every day now.”