Richard Linklater is about as Texan as they come. The Houston-born filmmaker speaks in a lethargic Southern drawl, peppering his sentences with the occasional y’all, is often seen sporting an embroidered cowboy shirt, and received a Bible and a shotgun for Christmas when he was 13.
But when it comes to politics, well, the 55-year-old filmmaker behind classics like Dazed and Confused, the Before Sunrise trilogy, and the best movie of 2014—Boyhood—runs further to the left than most of his fellow Texans. And when it comes to Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX), Linklater is clearly not a fan.
“Who? The Canadian guy?” jokes Linklater. “He’s evil. It’s so calculating and cynical. It’s tough to watch. Didn’t we get anything out of [George W.] Bush, that anyone with a ‘Texas’ next to their name running for president should be discounted? But no! They’re back. How can it be taken serious? Again, the public is fooled.” “But Cruz is radioactive,” he adds. “On closer inspection, I don’t think he has a chance.”
Linklater told me this at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where he was the subject of the fawning documentary, Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, and also hosted a special screening of his coming-of-age classic Dazed and Confused. It was a full-circle trip for the director, who brought his $23,000 flick Slacker to the fest 25 years prior.
The prediction seemed to be a bit premature, however, as days later Cruz would go on to win the Iowa caucuses with 27.6 percent of the vote—thanks in part, it seems, to fraudulent mailers his campaign sent to thousands of voters, leading No. 2 finisher Donald Trump to demand a retabulation of the votes, or that Cruz’s results be nullified.
When it comes to counting, Trump might not be one to talk. Though the real estate magnate claimed to be worth a whopping $10 billion in his financial-disclosure report, Forbes begged to differ, claiming his net worth was $4.5 billion.
“Trump has a lot less than he says he does,” says Linklater. “I talked to someone who works on the Forbes 400 every year, and they said he’s the only one who calls them up screaming, ‘I’m worth more than that!’”
Though Linklater was born in Houston, Texas, and went to school in nearby Huntsville, he’s spent the last thirty-plus years living in Austin, forming the Austin Film Society in 1985 and having the eclectic city serve as the setting for his aforementioned breakthrough 1991 film Slacker. On Aug. 1, 2016, “campus carry” will take effect, allowing those with concealed handgun permits—including students—to carry their firearms on college campuses in Texas, including at the University of Texas at Austin, right in Linklater’s backyard. It marked a major coup for guns-rights advocates who feel that campus carry would prevent tragedies like the mass shootings at Virginia Tech or Umpqua Community College.
“Well, as we say in Austin, the only thing wrong with Austin is that it’s surrounded by Texas,” says Linklater. “It was bad enough having the State Capitol right there. With campus carry, it happens on August 1—ironically, on the 50th anniversary of the Whitman shooting that ushered in the era of mass shootings in America.”
“It’s stupid,” he adds of campus carry. “I think if there was a little more respect coming then there wouldn’t be this arch paranoia that has manifested itself in these forms. There’s just enough condescension and fear on [the left] side that conjured up this huge problem. It’s just too late to ban all guns. There are 300 million. We should’ve done that after the Civil War—that’s when we should’ve taken away guns and defined what militias were. But we didn’t do it then, and we can’t now.”
On the bright side, Linklater will be releasing his college-set sequel to Dazed and Confused in April. Titled Everybody Wants Some, it answers the question of what happened to Dazed’s Mitch Kramer—the nose-gripping freshman baseball pitcher—after high school.
“It’s four years later, and the true sequel to Dazed,” said Linklater. “People call Everybody Wants Some a baseball movie, but there’s no more baseball in it than there is football or baseball in Dazed. It’s about it, but it’s not the season; it’s a first weekend of college movie. But it’s as if Mitch, four years later, went off to college and he’s still a baseball pitcher. It’s a different character, but it’s the same thing.”
All right, all right, all right.