- An Interview with Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater (RL): I have very fond memories of the Velvet Light Trap.
Kevin John Bozelka (KJB): You do?
RL: Yeah, I've been reading it for a while. I have old copies.
KJB: Great! Well, one of the reasons why we chose the subject of remakes and adaptations for this issue is because of Hollywood's increasing sequelitis. I want to talk to you first about what you think of this trend and ask you if you think it's anything really different from what Hollywood has always been doing.
RL: On the one hand, I think Hollywood has always been doing it. And certain stories deserve to be told multiple times in multiple generations. Shakespeare's stories, for instance, never get old. But in the latest version of Hollywoodit's become a financial imperative for the studios for the films that they back. I think if you really look at it, the only films they do finance are sequels, remakes, huge tent pole theme park ride–type movies. Or high-concept comedies with stars. Even adult dramas they don't do. They kick those down to their indie arms. It's very different now. I think filmmaking costs so much that they just can't risk anything else simply on a sheer financial level. It's become an economic model for major studios.
KJB: Do you think a switch to digital is going to—
KJB: —change this situation.
RL: Why would it?
KJB: Well, because it's supposedly cheaper and more accessible—
RL: One of the great myths is that digital is cheaper. When it comes to big studio films, they're spending $15 million on a big star. So you'd save only a couple hundred thousand on film stock, which isn't really a big deal. The only way digital helps is at the documentary level, where it really is a financial difference. But you still have to finish the film on film. You have to do the sound mix. The difference with digital really is negligible, totally an artistic choice.
KJB: Tell us a little about how the remake of Bad News Bears came about because I think a lot of people were a bit surprised when you took this on.
RL: Oh, really? On the one hand, it's sort of a can't win situation because some people seem allergic to sequels and remakes. I often am myself. But first off, I was a baseball player for years, even into college, so I had a strong baseball past, just like I had a strong music past that enabled me to find my way into The School of Rock. The baseball element of Bad News Bears intrigued me because it really is a baseball movie. You probably have a higher percentage of baseball in Bad News Bears than any other baseball movie. So that was a huge challenge and something to get me going. On the other hand, the ethos of the film—the negativity of the kids and the smart-ass attitudes and the irreverence—would never have gotten green-lit in 2005 if it was in an original screenplay. No way in hell. But the fact that it had the successful precedent thirty years before allowed them to feel secure in their financing. You get incredible free rein with a remake. And it's wonderful to be at the studio level. Working with Billy Bob [Thornton] and Greg Kinnear and getting the music budget and everything I need and yet still have free rein to make this pretty edgy, nasty little comedy with kids—for me it was a double win. The only mindset I knew I couldn't win over is the mindset I don't care that much about, which is the knee-jerk opinion of "Oh, this is awful; you should never do that." This made me think about the history of storytelling. Shakespeare's adapted and remade over and over. Many of my favorite movies have been remade. Still, if I'm lucky enough, remakes are not the kind of thing I'm going to do a...