For his buzzy indie film following one kid over 12 years, director Richard Linklater sought out the perfect songs to mark the era

”I wanted the film to feel like a memory,” says writer-director Richard Linklater of his Sundance hit Boyhood, which tracks Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from the first grade to the beginning of college. To capture the passage of time, Linklater shot the film — which also stars Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei — over 12 years, a few days at a time. The director used his score to chart the physical maturation of the actors. ”Music is a trigger,” says Linklater. ”I hear a song and go, ‘Oh, that’s eighth-grade dance!’ All of these songs were chosen not just because I like them but also because someone in my world has a personal connection to them.” And he was able to nab works by major artists even though Boyhood is ”a super-low-budget indie.” Linklater says each of the film’s 36 tracks has a story — here are a handful.

Britney Spears, ”Oops!…I Did It Again”
Early in the film, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) wakes Mason up with a little song-and-dance routine set to this Spears classic. But in real life, the director says his daughter was listening to medieval harp. Ellar Coltrane, then 8, was grooving to Radiohead and Pink Floyd. ”He had the tastes of a grad student!” Linklater says. ”Lorelei’s dance was one she’d do at the time to ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ I thought, ‘We’ll use this song instead.”’

Wilco, ”Hate It Here”
”Ethan [Hawke] knows [lead singer] Jeff Tweedy pretty well. I’m a huge fan, as is Ethan. Since Ethan’s character is a songwriter-musician, we figured Wilco would be the kind of music he liked.”

Arcade Fire, ”Suburban War” and ”Deep Blue”
Linklater met the band’s William Butler this past winter when they were both Oscar nominees (Linklater for his Before Midnight script, Butler for co-scoring Her). The director belatedly asked permission to use songs from The Suburbs. ”I told him, ‘You have no idea how intertwined this album is with my movie,”’ he says. ”I didn’t have the heart to say, ‘I already premiered the movie [at Sundance] and a couple thousand people have already seen your song in it.”’

Paul McCartney & Wings, ”Band on the Run”
”Originally I started with the George Harrison song ‘What Is Life.’ But my music supervisor said that one was going to be trouble to get. For some reason, I had a Beatles hierarchy in my mind and I thought Paul would be the hardest, but it wasn’t that way at all. This is one of the great pop songs of all time, and it makes me smile.”

Family of the Year, ”Hero”
”This has become the anthem of the film. It’s in the trailer. It’s sort of the perfect song for this movie and I didn’t know it. This guy Ben who was working as an intern [suggested it]. He said he was driving somewhere and he heard it and it gave him some comfort. The lyrics are perfect. It’s not too polished, but it’s sincere. It is the movie.”

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