Acclaimed indie director Richard Linklater spent part of his boyhood in Houston, so it makes sense that he sets many of the pivotal scenes of his remarkable movie, Boyhood, in the Bayou City. If you haven't seen the film, I suggest you read no further because part of the pure enjoyment of watching it is not knowing what will happen next. But if you have seen it, here are some details about how and where key scenes were filmed in Houston.
Rick Ferguson, executive director of the Houston Film Commission, recalls that the Houston scenes were shot between 2002 and 2005, during the early boyhood years of the movie's main character, Mason Jr. (played by Eller Coltrane). "Over four to five years, they were here anywhere from four to five days (each time)," Ferguson recalls. "It was not the stereotypical movie shot because it was so small."
"An awful lot of times films shot here represent someplace else, so to have something by a Texan about Texas, particularly Houston, is a wonderful thing," Ferguson said.
Ferguson estimates no more than 15 people were on the set at one time, including actors and crew.
The movie was shot a few days each year over a 12-year period as Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (director Linklater's daughter who portrays Coltrane's sister) grow up before our eyes. Early on, divorced mother Patricia Arquette moves from a small Texas town to Houston with the kids to be near her mother and attend the University of Houston. An extended scene takes place at the university in a classroom with students wearing UH shirts as Arquette meets her future husband.
On an outing with their father (Ethan Hawke), the kids go to a Houston bowling alley, although the scene was actually filmed in Austin. Linklater, who is based in Austin, told the New York Times that he created the scene based on boyhood recollections in Houston. “That bowling alley would be like the one on Main Street,” he told the Times. “But in real life, we’re filming a lot of that at Dart Bowl in Austin. We put up a Houston Texans poster on the wall that we ultimately didn’t get the rights to. We had to change it.”
One touching scene was filmed on the streets of downtown Houston, where Hawke pulls the car over to have a frank discussion with his children on how they can communicate better with him. Then they attend an Astros game at Minute Maid Park. The scene was filmed during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers, where Astros player Jason Lane hit a home run, almost on cue, in the direction of the camera during a scene.
Other scenes shot at the Astrodome and in the Museum District did not make the final cut of the movie, Ferguson says. Even so, the attention it has generated has been invaluable to tout Houston as a good place to make movies, he notes.
"An awful lot of times films shot here represent someplace else, so to have something by a Texan about Texas, particularly Houston, is a wonderful thing," Ferguson said. "It not only puts us on the national consciousness from a general perspective, but from a filmmaker's perspective, it says that Houston's a nice place to check into."
He adds Boyhood to the list of top-notch movies set and filmed in Houston, including Terms of Endearment, Rushmore and Reality Bites. "Unfortunately the number of special Houston films are few and far between, but the ones that have been made here are classics."