“Dazed and Confused” (written and directed by Richard Linklater) is more than a teen comedy film. For many fans of the movie, it’s a classic that still resonates today. “Dazed and Confused” (which was released in 1993) was also a big movie break for many future stars, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich. Set in 1976 on the last day before summer break at a Texas high school, “Dazed and Confused” follows several teens as they navigate the highs and lows of partying, challenging authority figures, dating and getting hazed.
A 20th anniversary event for “Dazed and Confused” was held at the 2013 New York Film Festival in New York City, where a screening of the movie was held. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Linklater and “Dazed and Confused” stars Jason London (who played star quarterback Randy “Pink” Floyd), Parker Posey (who played “mean girl” Darla Marks) and Anthony Rapp (who played sensitive intellectual Tony Olsen). Here is what they said during the Q&A.
What was your music budget for “Dazed and Confused”? And were there any songs you couldn’t afford?
Linklater: There was so much music. I was happy to get the ones I got. It was tough to get the Aerosmith song [“Sweet Emotion”] in the beginning. It was tough to get the Bob Dylan song [“Hurricane”]. There was Neil Young song I was trying to get. I didn’t get that.
I didn’t actually get the [Led Zeppelin] song “Dazed and Confused.” I don’t really like that song that much. I wanted [Led Zeppelin’s] “Rock and Roll” for the closing credits. [Foghat’s “Slow Ride” was used instead.] The guys in Led Zeppelin weren’t getting along in that period, and we couldn’t get the rights.
London: I got to meet Aerosmith. And I got to be in one of their videos [for “Amazing”]. The music industry was very different back then. We got to be part of the industry just before it was transforming into the digital age …
When we got cast in the movie, Rick gave us cassette tapes of just the music that he was going to design the soundtrack around. And that’s all we listened to the entire time. And we tried to dress and be in it as much as possible.
There was a collaborative effort he allowed us to have from day one, along with the f*cking killer music that we got to enjoy that made the movie. We got to enjoy it as much as you guys as an audience. We didn’t know what we had.
Parker, can you talk about the memorable hazing scene you had in “Dazed and Confused”?
Posey: I heard about the hazing thing from my Aunt Peggy, who is from Texas too. And there’s something about those bad girls that I loved. I was doing a soap opera at the time, remember? I didn’t have the experience [filming “Dazed and Confused”] that these guys had. I was coming in and out of town.
These people told me about these twins who moved from Louisiana and Mississippi that were so badass and crazy — like, keying cars was dangerous. I was really dark and angry. That was a real comic whirl.
So my Aunt Peggy told me this really happened. This is the twisted thing about this movie, this hazing thing … It was these really cool girls acting out in this way. They used to tie oysters to dental floss and make girls swallow them. That was their day of fun in hazing. That really happened in this country, everybody.
London: And you designed your own paddles.
Was any of “Dazed and Confused” autobiographical?
Linklater: Yes. I had two older sisters, so I was kind of sitting after them in high school.
London: I graduated in ’91, and even then, there was hazing in Texas. It wasn’t quite as brutal as it was the movie, but it was pretty bad.
Linklater: I played on the baseball team. I was in eighth grade.
London: Luckily, I had some senior friends in high school, so I didn’t get beaten, but there was a lot of hazing in my school.
To the actors, where do you think your “Dazed and Confused” characters would be now?
Rapp: I think Tony would be working for a non-profit.
London: I think Randy would be working for Tony.
Parker: Darla would be an activist in San Francisco somewhere. I don’t know.
Linklater: The real Darla married and had a bunch of kids with the coach.
Parker: That’s interesting. Some crazy stuff happened, but I think [Darla] got it together.
Linklater: We were thinking about what would have happened in the next football season. I was thinking that in the first play in the first game, Pink get clobbered by the linebacker and doesn’t get to play in the season anyway.
Was there more to the story of the Kiss statue that was stolen?
Linklater: Yeah, we wanted a Ronald McDonald statue to be stolen, but McDonald’s wouldn’t give us the rights. There was a little more to the story. I learned a lot. It was my first real movie, I guess. The script was pretty long.
London: You can almost discern the original script we read to what ended up on screen. And I think there were so many organic things that happened with the actors that showed up that [Richard Linklater] was so open to.
Linklater: Matthew [McConaughey] originally didn’t have any lines. The AD [assistant director] was like, “OK, this is his last day.” No, it’s not!
There was a certain actor, who I won’t mention, who wasn’t quite there. It opened the door for Matthew McConaughey to be able to provide a relationship with a lot of different characters.
Rapp: As an actor, you don’t get to have experiences in movies like this, where you get to feel like your opinion counts at all times. The end result of this movie was the combination of the script and the organic chemistry that happened. It was such a great cast and it was fun and it was the right people.
Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson character famously drawls, “All right, all right, all right,” and that becomes one of the best-known catchphrases from “Dazed and Confused.” Was that line improvised?
Linklater: We were working on the scene that night. As it got darker and we got ready to shoot … he said he was thinking of Jim Morrison live. [Matthew McConaughey] has two brothers. The one in the middle, Patrick, he sort of based [the Wooderson character] on. They’re cool.
Posey: I was gone for a few weeks when they were shooting … I remember seeing Matthew McConaughey and thinking, “Who is this guy?”
Linklater: There were so many things that happened, like Joey [Lauren Adams] falling on her face. That was an accident. It was a brilliant accident.
How much of the dialogue “Dazed and Confused” was improvised?
Posey: It wasn’t really an improvised movie. We talked to Rick about …
Linklater: It was organized chaos.
Posey: I did say, “What do you think about this, Rick: ‘Wipe that face off your head’?” It’s a line that I thought of. It’s just a funny thing to say to someone.
Linklater: As a filmmaker and director, I thought as far as I could. The studio is financing it, and we’re all cast. Are we going to read word for word? It was taken to a whole other level, and that’s what you [actors] were here for … If the movie wasn’t that great, it would’ve been called a “sophomore slump movie,” and I didn’t want to be linked to that.
When did you feel that “Dazed and Confused” would become a cult classic?
London: It was such a large cast. When we got to see the film finally, we reacted the same way as any audience would. When we saw the movie put together with the music that we fell in love with at that time, that’s when it occurred to me that we had something on our hands.
Posey: It’s about the vibe and the atmosphere that the director wants. We weren’t really aware of “Do you think they’re going it love it? I hope they like it.” That wasn’t part of it at all [while filming the movie]. There was such love, and it’s part of our history. There’s so much that you bring, and to expose that, it’s for greater reasons.