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Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater both surprised by 'Boyhood' award nominations

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Ellar Coltrane stars as Mason in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."
IFC Films
Ellar Coltrane stars as Mason in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."

The director and actor did not expect the film that they made over 12 years to land with audiences, much less gather up award nominations right and left.

In recent days, a slew of film critic organizations across the country named Richard Linklater's film "Boyhood" the best feature of 2014. And voters for the Screen Actors Guild Awards have nominated the cast for Best Ensemble — the guild's equivalent of the best feature category. Naturally, the movie is being talked about as a heavy favorite for the Academy Awards.

But in separate interviews, both Linklater and Ethan Hawke — who plays the father in "Boyhood" — told The Frame that they did not anticipate this reaction. In fact, during filming, Linklater said that he actively cautioned Ellar Coltrane — the young actor at the center of 'Boyhood" — not to expect much of a reception for the movie at all.

I think I started preparing Ellar three years before we were finished. He'd invested so much of his life in this movie. But I've worked with so many actors over the years, so I'm used to preparing [them]: "You know, one film doesn't really change your life. Don't get your hopes up. Some of my best films, I feel like no one ever saw. We didn't do this for some reward at the end of the rainbow; we did it to do it."

Linklater told the young actor "no one's ever going to see it" because "Boyhood" isn't the kind of movie you could describe in an easy elevator pitch. But now that it's found an audience and received lots of love, Linklater realizes something:

I was completely missing the fact that the structure of the film, just the making of it — Oh, they shot it over 12 years. You see a kid grow up — in itself was the wow factor. To me that was just the technical apparatus to tell the story. I didn't think it itself would be a story.

Hawke has been equally surprised:

I've made eight movies with Richard Linklater. I believed in every single one of them. I don't want to be falsely modest, like I think they're all great. I just know that it [took] years for "Waking Life" to find its audience and I assumed the same would be true of "Boyhood."

Hawke, now 44-years-old, says that the audience reception of "Boyhood" is something he's only had once before in his long career.

I was 18 years old when "Dead Poets Society" came out, and it was an amazing experience, the way that film affected people emotionally. It affected them in their guts, and I remember [actor] Robert Sean Leonard and I going out to dinner once in some little cafe in New York, some little dive cafe.

At the end of dinner we asked for our check, and a whole table of 10 people stood up on their chairs and [recited], "Oh captain, my captain." And Bob and I had never made another movie, right? We'd made different little things, but we'd never had this kind of experience. I remember our eyes filled with tears, like, What is this?

I see the same kind of look in people's eyes where people come up to me. And ["Boyhood"] — it's clear that it's theirs. It's turned into something else.

Hawke's theory as to why the movie has not only found, but wowed, an audience is simple.

What's surprising about it is that all you have to do to relate to that movie is to have grown up. If you grew up — whether you're 18 or whether you're 78 — there's a relationship you have to it.

Below is the IFC Films featurette showing how "Boyhood" 'grew up' over 12 years.

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