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Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane

Co-stars of Boyhood, the most buzzed-about film of the summer


She's an Emmy Award-winning actress. He's in the first starring role of his life and has received some of the best reviews in recent memory.

Together, they're mother and son in the most-buzzed-about film of the summer: Boyhood.

You already know Patricia Arquette from her seven seasons on NBC's Medium (she'll return to series television this upcoming season in CSI: Cyber), in addition to big screen star turns in True Romance and Flirting With Disaster. She began her film career at 19, and you might also be familiar with acting siblings Alexis, David, Richmond and Rosanna. Her family's roots even trace back to explorer Meriwether Lewis.

But chances are you haven't yet heard about 19-year-old Ellar Coltrane, the Texas-based actor who is dazzling the nation's critics in Boyhood, which opens in Boise on Friday, Aug. 8.

Boyhood is the inspiration of writer-director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, School of Rock). Principal photography began in the summer of 2002 and wrapped in October 2013; so, yes, this movie was an unprecedented 12 years in the making. Aside from the novelty of marathon movie-making, Boyhood has garnered near-unanimous acclaim for its intimacy and insight into the human condition, all through the eyes of a boy who becomes a man before our very eyes.

When Boyhood was first presented to you in 2001, was the script fully realized?

Arquette: Not really. We had an outline and some firm ideas of all of the family's changes through the years. But we committed to working on the story through improvisation, which sounded amazing to me. When Boyhood was first presented to me, my own son was 12 years old at the time and I was thrilled with the idea of a project that would watch a child grow. Plus, I always wanted to work with Rick [Linklater], and [co-star] Ethan Hawke. I'm not sure I would have jumped into a project without a script with any other people. We talked for hours about character development, childhood, parenthood, getting divorced, all those things. And here's the thing: The movie that Rick first talked about in the very beginning is the movie we ended up making.

I'm guessing that's extremely rare.

Arquette: I was part of an incredible alchemy. We weren't just putting a cast together with good actors. We were put together emotionally. I have to add that nobody was really contractually obliged to return every year.

The cast and crew wasn't under contract?

Arquette: You can't have a contract with anyone for longer than seven years. Anyway, I don't know how Rick would have felt about forcing a kid to come back year after year if he didn't want to do it. But here's the thing about Ellar; he's from a family of artists that knew what a beautiful project this might be.

So, did you feel personally accountable to the project?

Coltrane: It became really personal. For most of the process, it didn't even feel like a movie. It was more of an exploration of the way humans experience time, and through that, our relationships with one another.

How old were you when you started Boyhood and when you wrapped?

Coltrane: I was 7 when we started filming; 19 when we finished last October. I'll turn 20 later his month [Aug. 27].

Do you read reviews? The notices on your performances have been pretty astounding.

Coltrane: It makes me a little uncomfortable. But I've read bits and pieces. It's incredible when audiences and critics express really genuine, vulnerable emotions when they're talking about the movie.

Arquette: I don't know if actors really learn that much from their own reviews. And some reviews can be pretty ridiculous. That said, I would read some of the reviews for this movie.

I must admit that your movie snuck up on me. By the time it was over, I felt as if your character was a childhood friend that I didn't know I had. I didn't expect the emotional impact it delivered.

Arquette: We remember our childhood, not necessarily huge, obvious markers like birthdays. In reality, it's the little things.

Coltrane: Those little things accumulate. They're not really profound. But those moments make up who you are. When you see that portrayed on a movie screen, it's something that's quite different than any other film.

I was stunned when I looked at my watch at the end of the film. It was more than two-and-a-half hours long and yet it seemed like a moment had flashed by.

Coltrane: It's two hours, 41 minutes.

Arquette: Even after our first year of filming, we said there would be no way that this movie would be 120 minutes. But when you have a movie of this length, it means that theaters will have one less showing each day. And when we were done filming, yes, there were some people who told Rick that he had to cut about one hour off of the movie. He said, "We took 12 years to make this thing. People can take two hours and 50 minutes to watch it."

Ellar, I'm presuming that your life, and particularly your acting career, is about to make a big change.

Coltrane: I'm a little overwhelmed with the promotion. The next few months will probably be exciting.

And that notoriety will only gain momentum when top 10 lists are put out by critics in December.

Arquette: Let's hope. I would really like to see Rick get an Academy Award.

Patricia, are you inclined to give Ellar any career advice?

Arquette: The only thing I might say is to stay certain within himself and forge his own path. Ellar has an amazing head on his shoulders and he has a very sophisticated palate for art.