Journalist Melissa Maerz on the behind-the-scenes drama on the movie Dazed and Confused.
This week our guest is Melissa Maerz. She’s been an editor at SPIN and Rolling Stone, a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, and a founder of New York Magazine's Vulture website. And her latest book is Alright, Alright, Alright, The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
Melissa Maerz 00:04
She brought a charm to it that made him seem less dangerous somehow, you know Sloane Crosley the writer she put it love Well, she was like, it's like if a sloth was coming very slowly to unhook your bra
Fiona McCann 00:23
Welcome to We Can't Print This
Eden Dawn 00:25
a podcast telling the story you don't know behind the story you do.
Fiona McCann 00:29
I'm Fiona McCann,
Eden Dawn 00:30
and my name is Eden Dawn.
Fiona McCann 00:32
And every week we interview a writer of some kind or another back the stories behind their stories.
Eden Dawn 00:38
This week. We have a very fun episode. You and I liked this week a lot.
Fiona McCann 00:44
Yes we did!
Eden Dawn 00:46
Our guest is Melissa Maerz who we adore, Melissa has been an editor at Spin at Rolling Stone. She was a staff writer for Entertainment Weekly in the LA Times. She's a founder of New York Magazine's vulture website, but we are here to talk about All right, All right. All right, the oral history of Richard Linklaters Dazed and Confused where we get in to talking about celebrity interviews as she interviewed over 150 people as we are now hitting the 30th anniversary of this film.
Fiona McCann 01:20
because film was like a celebrity bonanza.
Eden Dawn 01:24
Fiona McCann 01:24
a smorgasbord Would you say there was a myriad of celebrities I would say there were myriad celebrities.
Eden Dawn 01:31
Oh, we're in a fight about the use of the word myriad. Okay, so
Fiona McCann 01:35
Eden Dawn 01:36
Let's talk about celebrity interviews. Because let's not even try to pretend to be cool. We we love doing celebrity interviews.
Fiona McCann 01:45
Eden Dawn 01:46
Yeah, we love it. Some are so charming. We're the second you talk to them or see them in person. You just like understand why they're famous. And there are other people which I'm not gonna name where you see them and you're like, You got famous.
Fiona McCann 02:01
How did you? was it camera thing? What did you know someone?
Eden Dawn 02:06
It just doesn't come through.
Fiona McCann 02:07
Sometimes I wonder if any of them ever remember me? Answer No. But I will say well, so one of the things about the interview setup, a lot of the celebrity interviews that I've done have been done in a very particular setup, which anyone who's ever interviewed a celebrity will know about
Eden Dawn 02:24
the awkward 15
Fiona McCann 02:25
The awkward 15 The hotel room, and often because I worked for the Irish Times when I did these a lot. You got flown over to London because a lot of these celebrities did all their publicity in one place and
Eden Dawn 02:34
they won't go to Ireland.
Fiona McCann 02:36
Yeah, although some of them will but a lot of them wouldn't, until you fly over to this hotel. And you your car Shut up to this green room where there's always lovely biscuits and things and you have the lovely biscuits and you meet some other journalists and you're like, Oh, my God, you know, you know and there's always a few other Irish people there and you'd kind of sizing it all up and then it's like 50 minutes with each one and that poor celebrity is stuck in a poor celebrity
Eden Dawn 02:58
for just like us.
Fiona McCann 03:00
Eden Dawn 03:01
let's take a minute for the celebrity that's poor went out for the celebrity
Fiona McCann 03:04
what it must be so difficult.
Eden Dawn 03:06
It must be difficult actually to try to stay charming for that long while people ask you the same question over and over and you try to give them a slightly different quote, so that each person can have their own little bit for their publication. I do think it seems tedious if I'm on the side of the celebrity.
Fiona McCann 03:22
Yeah, me too. We're all in the same boat.
Eden Dawn 03:25
That leads into me thinking about my favorite celebrity interviews and here I was thinking about it when I was coming to meet you. And the tie that binds everything together for my favorite celebrity interviews is I was always
Fiona McCann 03:43
Oh are you always
Eden Dawn 03:47
it's always in it. This sounds this makes me sound like such a creep. I'm not a creep, but it was always me in bed talking to gay men. This has been the tie that binds for all of my okay because Isaac Mizrahi. Okay, Tim Gunn, and Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall. Those are like some of my three favorite interviews in my career. And they have all ended up like one in the pandemic where I was just trapped up in my room because my husband had the downstairs to do his zoom calls. And then
Fiona McCann 04:20
you want to take the bed baby.
Eden Dawn 04:23
I mean, that was my office for like two years. One day when I had just like the worst flu but was not going to give up my chance to interview Scott Thompson, which if you know anything about my sense of humor, it is perhaps too much defined by my childhood of watching Kids in the Hall. So all of these times and maybe by the time I interviewed Isaac Mizrahi, I just figured out I think I'm better if I'm laying down
Fiona McCann 04:48
but there's no time to get in position. Isaac sorry.
Eden Dawn 04:51
I just have to hold on Sorry, I just like went to fashion school because of watching your movie let me get lay down and tuck myself in. But the thing about it is you can't kind of be pompous and to on I feel like if you're laying in bed, so there was something about a very real conversation. And perhaps it was because I and I had,
Fiona McCann 05:10
can I just make clear that they weren't in the room with you for any days, right? I just want to make this clear because it does,
Eden Dawn 05:19
they were all
Fiona McCann 05:20
Maybe interpreted that you're inviting all these people into your bed and I just want to make that clear. Not physical.
Eden Dawn 05:24
No, every single one of those was a phone interview, which are you're having to get over the awkwardness of a phone call, and you're having to become friends quite quickly. And I like to think my charm is better in person because of my winking skills,
Fiona McCann 05:38
which you'll have great length.
Eden Dawn 05:39
Melissa Maerz 05:40
That was a good one.
Eden Dawn 05:42
They don't translate to a phone call and on a phone call, I'm afraid like I just sound like an over active muppet. Basically.
Fiona McCann 05:50
The winking on does that.
Eden Dawn 05:54
So I feel like there's just something you have to get across and all of them became very real conversation. You know, Tim Gunn and I both were fashion educators for a long time. I taught fashion at the college here and obviously a heat up so we like got to talk about that. And Scott Thompson and I had a very real conversation about coming out in the 80s and being punk rock
Fiona McCann 06:14
But you were in your bed.
Eden Dawn 06:15
I was in bed like down. Yeah, I was in pajamas.
Fiona McCann 06:19
So you're like, I let this talk. I'm a fashion educator in my pajamas.
Eden Dawn 06:24
I didn't tell any of them. I was in my pajamas. I actually might have told Isaac Mizrahi here because I felt like I was very stuffy and apologizing for like, Isaac. I've always loved your work so much like that kind of stuff
Fiona McCann 06:38
Oh that kind of stuff. Kind of meant like I was pumped and stuffy and I was like, Wait, you're in your pajamas?
Eden Dawn 06:43
No, I was not pumping stuffy. i Yeah, I was stuffed up. So perhaps we should start doing this podcast in our jammies in bed.
Fiona McCann 06:52
But we have this lovely studio.
Eden Dawn 06:54
Should we lay down? Here is the thing about a celebrity and review if if you have not done them. I feel like every celebrity the bigger the celebrity the greater this is true. Every celebrity comes in with a bit of armor on
Fiona McCann 07:12
Which they should maybe
Eden Dawn 07:13
As they absolutely should, particularly in a day when they're constantly critiqued, judged. Everyone's commenting on them, that they come in with that wall up. And your job is to attempt to get past that in some way. And the thing I really liked about our conversation with Melissa is having to you know talk with all of these people 25, 30 years after this movie was made and this experience is a formative experience and get people to talk about emotional times exciting times, times that were hard all of this stuff. Like that's so much that's so much energy and effort and I feel like if you've read the book, which if you haven't, you should she does such a good job of it and I don't know if anybody else could have done it the way that she does it.
Fiona McCann 08:02
Know what's extraordinary and and the fact that she got people to really open up people that I'm sort of surprised they granted an interview to her and yet, she really I think she really prize the whole thing open. It's fascinating.
Eden Dawn 08:14
It is fascinating. Have fun. Welcome, Melissa.
Melissa Maerz 08:17
Thank you. You do the All right. All right. All right, so much better than I do. People asked me to do it all the time and I just can't do it. This is embarrassing theater kid in my heart who's just like an accent. Let me give it a go. It was not good.
Fiona McCann 08:31
But I thought it was brilliant! can you imagine me saying it wouldn't work at all? All right. All right. All right, everybody.
Melissa Maerz 08:40
Matthew McConaughey there
Eden Dawn 08:43
I'm so excited to have you here and talk about this book. Let's begin with telling me how you were able to get the director Richard Linklater to sign on for this book. Because without him there is no book.
Melissa Maerz 08:56
Yeah, without him. There's not even a proposal. I mean, they wouldn't have considered my proposal if he hadn't agreed to be interviewed. And let me tell you, I don't know if this would work with any other directors. I was very lucky because I just cold emailed him.
Fiona McCann 09:11
And when we had you, sorry, I'm going way back
Melissa Maerz 09:13
Fiona McCann 09:14
But had you just sat down one day and thought you know what I'm going to write for my next book. We're gonna like how did you decide on this?
Melissa Maerz 09:21
Well, I've been talking about it for years with my literary agent. We've been kind of talking about like, why has no one done like a longer book about this? Because I've read some of the stories and just smaller versions, just stuff I'd read in magazines and I knew there were deeper stories there because I'd read that the cast all stayed together at the same hotel, and I thought that alone has got to give some story. The Olympics for summer camp. Yes, exactly. Yeah. So I was thinking about it for a while.
Eden Dawn 09:51
Fiona McCann 09:51
Yeah. So you're thinking I need to get Richard Linklater.
Eden Dawn 09:53
So you just emailed email@example.com and cross your fingers at work?
Melissa Maerz 09:59
Well, I had his direct email at his production studio. And, you know, I
Eden Dawn 10:05
just thought, you know, I
Melissa Maerz 10:06
didn't expect him to respond, but I thought I'm just gonna write him and you know, say kind of what my vision is for this book. And you know, I think it was like, two days later, he actually directly wrote me back which was shocking.
Fiona McCann 10:18
What did you like spend ages over that email? I would have been like, crafted it forever.
Melissa Maerz 10:22
Well, I woke up and I saw his name. You know, in my inbox, I thought, Oh my god, my heart is stomping and it was such a great email because the whole beginning was kind of a cube leave. People still want to read about this movie. It's not my best movie, I'd say it's middling. But then by the end of it, it was kind of like but I want to support people who are you know, working on their passion projects. I like to support artists and writers who are just doing stuff because they want to, and then at the end, it was kind of like, and have you seen this behind the scenes documentary about it? And have you read my diary that I wrote in The Austin Chronicle kind of leading me to some sources, so he basically said yes, but he went on a journey in that email
Eden Dawn 11:06
Fiona McCann 11:07
like, no, no, we're done with this. But also by the very end, yes.
Melissa Maerz 11:11
Yeah. But the yes was kind of like okay, what is that? Yes to I mean, it was yes to a single interview, right. And you know, at any time that can change, so he I think he said, If you want to tell other people that I'm on board with this, you can
Fiona McCann 11:26
what did that?
Melissa Maerz 11:29
Yeah. And I and so honest, you know, I mean, that's something that I feel is very true for him throughout is that he just kind of talks the way he thinks.
Fiona McCann 11:38
So that's really winning actually.
Melissa Maerz 11:40
Fiona McCann 11:41
What a generous man.
Eden Dawn 11:42
So you set the first interview. How long is that first one, tell us about it.
Melissa Maerz 11:47
So this is the weirdest thing. Before I got the main cast, I just wanted to get as many archival materials as I could just do some research. And I randomly seen that this guy was the unit publicist, on the film, and thought, you know, maybe he still has some publicity materials for back then. So I wrote him back immediately. It was like, call me right now. I stayed at the hotel with the cast. I have all sorts of things to say. So I didn't expect to interview him. I just thought I would see if he had materials. And I kid you not. He kept me on the phone for three hours. It's amazing. And he remembered everything. I mean, at first I was kind of like, is this guy really remembering this stuff? Or is he kind of embellishing every single thing he said checked out? It was incredible. I was so lucky that I talked to him.
Eden Dawn 12:39
Wow. Those are the people as a journalist or dream to interview. Anyone who remembers things you're like, great, be my best friend.
Melissa Maerz 12:48
Well, and I think unlike a lot of other movies, it was a lot of people's first project including this guy who was the unit publicist. And a lot of people got out of the industry afterward. So it's the thing they really remember. It's not like they're working on 500 films,
Fiona McCann 13:01
right? It's such a formative thing then for all of us. Wow. And everyone was
Melissa Maerz 13:05
Eden Dawn 13:06
Yeah, everyone was so young, and also they just don't make movies that way anymore. The cast was there for months together staying in the same hotel. Yeah. And they had this big, even rehearsal time to just bond it together.
Fiona McCann 13:20
And it's a huge cast of really young people as well. I mean, it's sort of an unusual cast in that sense, or maybe it isn't. I sounds so fun.
Melissa Maerz 13:27
Yeah. I mean, you look at all the people they turn down to get like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, like Claire Danes, and Alicia Silverstone like basically every major actor and actress at that time auditioning for the same roles, and the people they got were unknown at the time. They didn't oh! Claire Danes must be very upset about that. Well he got her later link later got her later, he told me that he actually sent her a letter later was like, man, you know, you would have been great in that role, but it wasn't the right time.
Eden Dawn 13:51
Melissa Maerz 13:52
Eden Dawn 13:54
Timing is everything. Yeah. So when you first interviewed him, you got your unit publicist, you get like a little bit more of the information. And then you go to rich first.
Melissa Maerz 14:07
Yeah, so I wanted to wait a little while I got a lot of the main cast first. Okay. And then they were having a dazed and confused screening and kind of like reunion type thing in Austin. So I thought I'll go down and get them there.
Fiona McCann 14:21
Do they have them all the time or was that just a
Melissa Maerz 14:23
they've definitely had every 10 years? I think they might have had a couple of five year ones because
Eden Dawn 14:28
They came out in 92,
Melissa Maerz 14:30
93. It was shot 92 and came out in 93. So we're coming upon. Yes, I know. Isn't that crazy?
Fiona McCann 14:37
So this is like a little family though. They all get together all the time. That's also unusual for fellows, isn't it?
Melissa Maerz 14:43
Yes. I mean, not the whole cast. You know, there's less of them. But it was interesting because Wiley Wiggins who plays Mitch I just had a great interview with him while I was in Austin before I had talked to Linklater in person for the first time and ever the first thing Linklater said to me as he was kind of walking out for this interview as Wiley told me you were so nice, he didn't know whether I should trust you. And he said it in kind of a jokey way and it also a kind of like
Fiona McCann 15:12
Raising my eyebrows.
Melissa Maerz 15:13
Yes we're gonna see about this.
Eden Dawn 15:16
Why this book is so interesting for the person who hasn't read it, because it's this oral narrative of people telling their stories. So having to kind of go through these things where you're talking with people about their different versions of history, but it felt a little bit like I imagined you having to kind of be therapist in some way. A kind of be therapist, in some ways, like, therapists but journalists sort of fret like how do you navigate that? And I'm sure you must have felt that the emotions there I'd like to see it in the quotes.
Melissa Maerz 15:52
Yeah. Well, a lot of people cried. I mean, the people that you might not have expected to cry cried. You know, I think it's in some ways it's like someone interviewed you about your high school years or about your first major job or something like that. It automatically takes you back to kind of an emotional place. And at first I struggled with you know, some of the gossipy parts of it, like, who was getting high and who was hooking up with who and like, Does this really belong in a film book?
Fiona McCann 16:19
Don't skip those bits.
Melissa Maerz 16:21
Eden Dawn 16:22
Please. We really want who was getting high and who was hooking up.
Fiona McCann 16:24
Did Ben Affleck cry? Now I want to know.
Melissa Maerz 16:29
I'm not gonna out who cried but Ben Affleck, he did not cry. But a lot of other people did it. And people in the crew did. I kept that stuff in there ultimately, because it's a movie about high school and I think a lot of them felt like the experience was like high school. Sure. And I just felt like it was a true thing to have this gossipy tone where people are like, Oh, she said this, I didn't say that this girl said this or like, you know what I mean that everyone's kind of contradicting each other. And it's also the tone of the movie, right? It's like people talking over each other and people having theories about things and other people contradict like, that's what makes a Linklater movie great. This dialogue. That's not a traditional dialogue. It sounds very natural and kind of the way a real conversation in high school.
Eden Dawn 17:12
And some of these people you interviewed several times and how did that relationship change over time as you keep talking about this kind of like emotional time or this like, Introduction to their careers?
Melissa Maerz 17:25
Yeah, well, most of the cast I interviewed a two or three times at least, I mean, like later, obviously, much more than that. But the first time I talked to people, I tried to be as quiet as possible, and just let people say what they want to and then the second time I obviously had to get people to respond to things that other people have said about them. So I feel like you know, there are degrees of you can either get more guarded once you know that the interviewer has more information from other people or you can feel more like okay, I need to weigh in on this or else everyone else is going to have their point of view recorded and I'm not going to have you know, my perspective in there. So I think people responded in different ways. The more we connected for more interviews, some people got a little bit more open, and some people were a little bit more guarded.
Fiona McCann 18:12
But those must have been difficult conversations as well because sometimes you're like, hey, well, did you know that so and so said this I mean, that's kind of tough to be landing those things on people who are already maybe feeling, you know, emotions were stirred up by these memories. That must have been hard.
Melissa Maerz 18:28
I mean, I think it would have been much harder if I'd interview them in 1993 I think people are..
Fiona McCann 18:35
Melissa Maerz 18:35
Yeah, it's like you know, I am much more willing to admit things that I messed up when I was in my 20s than I was back then, but I'm still probably going to have a different perspective than somebody who was like, I was terrible, you know, so I, I don't think that people were as upset as they might have been otherwise about some of the tougher things in the books,
Fiona McCann 18:55
Because they were grownups.
Melissa Maerz 18:57
Eden Dawn 18:58
You look back. It's not something when I started in journalism, I understood could happen that sort of cross over where an interview becomes more real conversation, like an intimate conversation. And I love it. I love when you have those real moments to something but it just is a different thing. You feel something switch in the conversation, and I feel like it seems tricky once you become a little bit protective of somebody to still write about them.
Melissa Maerz 19:32
Yeah, I don't. I don't know if I'd use the word protective. But I feel like the more time I spent with people, the more I felt like I understood them, but the more you understand somebody the more you kind of know where they're coming from and the less it is, the less easy it is to villainize them completely, I think which is why it's tough because someone like Shawn Andrews, who played Pickford in the movie, like everybody hated this guy. I mean, there's a whole chapter in my book where everybody's just talking smack about him. And I tried like hell to get him to go on the record for the book. And he just, you know, through his publicist, wouldn't talk to me. And I know he would have come across as a much more sympathetic person in the book if he had talked to me, but in some ways, it makes him a better character. Because he didn't you know, he's gonna be forever frozen in time as the person he was in 1992.
Fiona McCann 20:24
And that was his choice.
Melissa Maerz 20:26
Fiona McCann 20:26
In that moment. What did ever happened to that fella?
Melissa Maerz 20:29
You know, I still don't know. There's, there's lots of rumors, but I don't know the answer.
Fiona McCann 20:32
I ever seen anything after that?
Melissa Maerz 20:36
You know, he was in another movie. He had been trying his great project. I mean, this won't be shocking anyone who's read my book, but like he obviously saw himself as a very Jim Morrison type figure. Lots of people remember him playing the doors, and it was around the time when Oliver Stone's movie of The Doors was coming out. And he I think, had always seen himself as like Jim Morrison. So he was part of this film project where he was actually going to play a version of Jim Morrison but I don't think it ever came out.
Fiona McCann 21:00
I'm rolling my eyes.
Melissa Maerz 21:02
As you probably shouldn't.
Eden Dawn 21:03
Nobody can do it better.
Melissa Maerz 21:07
Well, you know, as the 90s was full of that guy. I feel like my high school had like 10 of them.
Eden Dawn 21:11
Yeah, and I was trying to date
Fiona McCann 21:13
Eden Dawn 21:14
Fortunately for me.
Fiona McCann 21:16
Terrible boyfriends. Terrible boyfriends.
Eden Dawn 21:19
Really? That's just blame my lifelong crush on Val Kilmer for that one. I somehow transposed it to that, right. That's his fault for being such a good method actor.
Fiona McCann 21:28
So was he the only one who didn't sign on because you got access to so many people, which is truly impressive. Usually, you sort of take on a project like this and you think okay, well, if I've got, you know, this percentage of people are these key players talk to me. You know, fingers crossed, but you had great access. But he didn't Pickford.
Melissa Maerz 21:44
He didn't sign on. He didn't sign on. And there are two other people who didn't. Milla Jovovich didn't sign on. And, man she has some stories because she ended up marrying John Andrews who played Pickford and she was six, when she was 16.
Fiona McCann 22:01
Melissa Maerz 22:01
Yeah. She already had a level of fame that many of the others didn't have at that point. Yes, and her mom got the marriage and know that she kind of got a bad rap because everybody hated her boyfriend on the on the film and they kind of you know, she was the most famous person cast in the movie at the time like you know, she was a model. She was coming from returned to Blue Lagoon. I mean, they put her on the poster even though she hardly has any lines in the movie. So you know, she was I think she, she might have had like bittersweet feelings about that movie, but she ultimately decided not to be interviewed on the one person I couldn't find is Jason O. Smith. And he you know, I tracked down his high school class on Facebook, and you know, I asked if anybody had kept in touch with them, everyone had lost touch with them. After the book came out. I put my email address in the book to be like, Jason, if you're out there, like please contact me so that in the paperback version, I can interview you. And his brother contacted me and said that the family had kind of lost contact with him. I tried my damnest to track him down.
Fiona McCann 23:03
But even his own family can't find him. It's like so remind me who he plays.
Melissa Maerz 23:07
Eden Dawn 23:10
Let's talk about the one and only Matthew McConaughey.
Melissa Maerz 23:14
Fiona McCann 23:14
Because don't say anything that makes me fall out.
Eden Dawn 23:15
I don't think we will I value him in a different way. Actually, after reading the book so maybe you could give people listening who haven't had a chance to read the book yet? A little bit of a summary of how Matthew McConaughey came into this film and became the Wooderson that we know now, Wooderson.
Melissa Maerz 23:41
Yes. I mean, it's, first of all, it's crazy to me. It's like in a packed cast of like Oscar winners award winners just super strong cast. The he's the one that everyone remembers. And I think part of it is that he has told this origin story of getting cast in this movie over and over and over again. My book is called All right, All right, All right. With all the quotable lines in this movie, that this is the one thing that people remember is that line, I think it's because he's constantly repeating it. So I kind of knew what I was going to get from him as far as that origin story, and he's always like, I just happened to be in this bar and there was a casting director there and we got drunk together and he was like, I have a little bitty part in this film. He's kind of told the story over and over again. But what was interesting to me is to hear other people's perspectives that people are like, he didn't just happen to be there. I mean, I talked to the bartender he was like, I was there. I overheard this casting director talking about casting this movie I called Matthew knowing that he wanted to get into the film industry. It was like you'd better get down here now and talk to this guy. Other people remembered McConaughey who was at you know, in the film program at UT at the time applying to be a PA as part of the movie and some people say that maybe he was even got that job beforehand. So he knew what he was doing. And I think
Fiona McCann 24:57
He's crafted this story ever since.
Melissa Maerz 24:59
Yeah. So I think the story of just like, you know, I was in a Bloomingdale's when I got discovered or whatever, you know, everyone has a Hollywood story. And I think he knows the charm of that and maybe in his mind, you know, it's true,
Eden Dawn 25:11
And that he wasn't the you know, we think of the Matthew McConaughey now the JKL just yeah, all this this easy, breezy, Texas. Just kind of dreamboat cowboy, meat surfer. He's like all the things right? He really is all the things.
Melissa Maerz 25:29
He is all the things.
Eden Dawn 25:31
But that that was not necessarily him. That's his,
Melissa Maerz 25:36
Eden Dawn 25:37
He's modeling that personality or persona, after his brother.
Melissa Maerz 25:40
Yeah, so this is the craziest thing. So they had two weeks of rehearsal before this movie where everybody was told you're playing younger versions of yourself. Just basically be yourself, you know, try and like bring some naturalism to these roles. And everybody said that the one person who was not at all himself was McConaughey. I mean, everybody said this guy came in, he was like a frat boy and a polo shirt. And then as soon as he became Wooderson, he just completely transformed himself into someone that he wasn't and that was because he was modeling it on his older brother, Pat, but exactly what you said, I think after this movie, he kind of became that persona, even though that's not really who he was before.
Eden Dawn 26:19
I think the word calculated has negative connotations to it. I don't necessarily think it does. Right. And I feel like this was a calculated move on his part where he saw there is a need for this type of thing. And, and he spoke very highly of his brother and even the way that he tells it now because that Hollywood story is so simple. And so lovable. And in my view, it makes me even a bit more endeared to him. Because I think that when people are easy, breezy and sweet, and this is me bringing my own baggage to the table where I think being an easy breezy, fun person, people think it means that we maybe aren't professional or aren't intelligent that those things and it's like, oh, no, no, no, no. Don't let the niceness fool Yeah, we have the rest. And I like it about him. I like that he kind of was like I want in this movie. I'll do whatever it takes and he did it and then he made it higher life out of it, and is one of the most successful people out of that movie.
Melissa Maerz 27:20
Absolutely. When you think about what that character could have been. First of all, it was a very, I think there were like three lines originally on the page. But I mean, the characters basically predator, right. It's an old guy,
Eden Dawn 27:31
Melissa Maerz 27:31
Preying on like young high school girls, but he brought a charm to it that made him seem less dangerous somehow, like, you know, Sloane Crosley the writer, she put it low? Well, she was like, it's like if a sloth was coming very slowly to unhook your bra. Like that's what that character is, you know,
Fiona McCann 27:52
It's so well said.
Melissa Maerz 27:53
Eden Dawn 27:54
She's so brilliant.
Fiona McCann 27:55
I was just saying so I rewatched this, but I I had not absorbed first time around that he was a predator and I we watched it last night and was like, oh, Rose!
Melissa Maerz 28:05
Fiona McCann 28:06
I can't believe it didn't pick up enough I thought it was..
Melissa Maerz 28:08
He walked away with the charm!
Eden Dawn 28:09
Which maybe even is that's a separate conversation about predator. Yeah, because when they're charming, it doesn't seem threatening. Right. Which is an is particularly when we saw it when we were young, which also is the thing when you're in high school when I was in high school, I got hit on by 20 something year old guys all the time. It wasn't uncommon.
Melissa Maerz 28:28
Well, this is one of my favorite things about Dazed and Confused is that it changes, depending on when you see it and how old you are. I mean, I think when I saw it, when I was in high school, I thought like even though it takes place in the 70s I thought like this is a vision of my future. You know, as my first year in high school. I thought this is what high school is going to be like partying with older kids, you know, having the best time like there was definitely you know, an element of violence from the older kids in the movie, but mostly it seemed like a good time movie. And now when I watch it, it seems so sad. And so wistful and so full of dangerous things that could happen to those kids but don't and you just watch it differently.
Fiona McCann 29:03
That was my whole takeaway last night. I was watching it with my mom eyes and yes we climbing up that we don't get behind the wheel of that car. Oh, it was really I was anxious the whole time. And I couldn't remember if something terrible happened. I kept waiting for it to happen because I was like, surely something's got to go badly wrong here.
Melissa Maerz 29:22
And Linklater is so good at that, like you see in boyhood the scene when they get him a gun for like a kid a gun first. Like That gun is gonna go off, something's gonna happen and it never does.
Fiona McCann 29:31
But like that's what childhood, checkups rules wasn't it?
Melissa Maerz 29:35
Exactly, Chekhov's gun does not go off. But that's just what high school is. It's like things constantly having an element of this could go wrong but somehow doesn't use survive. Or sometimes it does. But I think he's good at showing the moments when, you know, when it doesn't happen.
Fiona McCann 29:49
It doesn't happen. But I'm interested now and to have that parallels real life because this was also such a formative moment for all of these actors and the cast and the crew and all that and then for some of them, it sort of was it was a moment that led on to a bright future. And for others it was not.
Melissa Maerz 30:14
Yeah. Well, and there's a whole section of my book that talks about the idea, you know, everybody says, Oh, this this movie was the launching pad for all of these careers. It was not Yeah, you know, like a lot of they were doing Starbucks, you know, doing Pizza Hut commercials. You know, Ben Affleck couldn't get cast for a little while, like it was just kind of like, you know, the only person it really was a launching pad for was McConaughey. And that's because he really befriended the casting director who took them in and let him live at his own house and set him up. With an agent and like, did all of the above but it took other people a little while to, you know, to have their careers go the same way that he did, and some of them never did. You know, some of them moved out to Hollywood and tried to make it after that movie and could never make it happen. So yeah, I mean, I think even Ben Affleck said the Goodwill Hunting, you know him writing Goodwill Hunting and appearing in the movie was partly a response to the fact that he was like, everyone thought I was a total jerk. Yeah, after I was nice and that like
Eden Dawn 31:08
He's actually playing a jerk all the time all the time.
Melissa Maerz 31:10
So he's like, I wanted to write a rule for myself. That was a little deeper than that.
Fiona McCann 31:15
Yeah, he does not play a nice fella.
Eden Dawn 31:16
But eventually, he got to be the guy in Armageddon who right now tried to save the world. He came around.
Melissa Maerz 31:25
Fiona McCann 31:25
He came around.It's so funny seeing it as well, because receiving it, I suppose I'd forgotten you know who these were. That's probably the first time I saw Ben Affleck in the movie as far as I can remember. Like now? Yeah, and I rewatching it. I spent a lot of the time going. Wait isn't Ben Affleck in this because yes, takes a while before he appears and wait doesn't Matthew McConaughey and they it takes ages for Matthew McConaughey to appear.
Melissa Maerz 31:48
I mean, there's so many people in this movie. Renee Zellweger is in this movie. How bizarre no lines just walking through the background twice.
Fiona McCann 31:56
So strange. launched her career.
Melissa Maerz 31:59
Eden Dawn 32:01
It is interesting because you go back and use the people you are it's unexpected. That maybe the people that became famous.
Melissa Maerz 32:10
Eden Dawn 32:11
I mean, with hindsight is 2020 So now we look back and we see Parker Posey, whom I adore her career is such an interesting one. Waiting for Guffman will always be one of my favorite movies of all time. And you look back and you watch it and you're like, Okay, I can kind of see how this went have Darla went to this? Yeah, but I don't. I wouldn't have predicted it, was watching it. You know, there were other people. Maybe in that movie, you might have thought we're going to go off and do other things.
Melissa Maerz 32:39
Yeah. And you know, it's interesting, everyone, not everyone but a lot of people feel a little letdown that Linklater never cast them in anything. Again like Parker Posey, I don't know if you read her book, but in her I did. She writes about crying that like she really wanted to get into a particular project and Richard Linklaters and she it didn't end up working out for whatever reason, and like, I think everyone blames Ethan Hawke for being the one who got on that train and wrote it.
Fiona McCann 33:07
He really did write it.
Melissa Maerz 33:08
Eden Dawn 33:10
As somebody who had a framed eight by 10, kind of my nightstand in the late 90s. He could do no wrong.
Melissa Maerz 33:17
I mean not Ethan Hawke's fault that other people didn't get cast and whatever project but I think there is a real mountain copy of this. Yeah, yeah.
Eden Dawn 33:27
One just tiny segue I have to say if you need joy in your heart is in Parker Posey's book, when she talked about trying to repel off the building and I think blade three like holding guns, and they couldn't use the tape because it's you know, they put the noises in post and as she was rappelling off holding her gun, she kept going. Pew! pew! pew! pew! She couldn't stop doing the drugs. Now I love her more. And I love that because that is what you would do if you're supposed to be shooting off a fake gun to you, right you and picturing her doing that in my mind. Just on a dark day. Bring that bring that image forward if you need it.
Melissa Maerz 34:04
I mean, she's so great. You know, you talk about people who other people in the movie assumed would be the ones to break out of dazed and confused. Everyone says that they thought McConaughey would from the very beginning be a big star but a lot of people said Parker Posey, a lot of people said Jason London you know, I mean, she people described her as if she was like this grand drag queen, you know that she just had this outsized personality, super flamboyant, even back then and that people kind of either loved or hated her.
Fiona McCann 34:32
Melissa Maerz 34:34
I love her too.
Eden Dawn 34:36
In doing these interviews, who would you say was perhaps the most like you expected them to be? Or the least like you expected them to be?
Melissa Maerz 34:46
Yeah, that's a good question. Let me think about it. I mean, I think I feel very lucky that Affleck agreed to be interviewed for this. He has very rarely agreed to be interviewed in anything about Dazed and Confused, and I wasn't really sure how he was going to react. To some of the memories that people had of him like some people remember him being kind of a bully, and he was great. I think I was very shocked at how important this movie is to him. You know, I think he called it the most formative creative experience of his life and this is guy who's won Oscars. And he only has like two posters of movies that he's done in his house and Dazed and Confused as one of them. So I..
Fiona McCann 35:33
What's the other one though?
Melissa Maerz 35:34
God, must be Argo. It's I think he did say it was Argo. Yeah. But yeah, so I mean, that was surprising to me. And you know, he agreed early on, I got his phone. number from somebody else. And I was like, Hey, do you want to be involved in this thing? And he was like, yeah, and then he would just never answer the phone when I called for like a year. So he finally, I got a friend to help me kind of lock this down. And it really was an emotional experience. I think that was what surprised me that somebody who's had such a career would still find this such an emotional experience and also was just honest about you know, none of the girls would sleep with me and like nobody thought I was cute, and I had terrible hair and like,
Fiona McCann 36:14
He did have terrible hair.
Melissa Maerz 36:15
He did have terrible hair.
Fiona McCann 36:17
Nobody would sleep with Ben Affleck?
Eden Dawn 36:19
The whole chapter about everybody hooking up and all this stuff, which is so high school. And of course, this is the kind of thing that Fiona and I live for where we're like, give us the gossip who made out with whom I know. And that flicks off in the corner like no one will make out with me.
Fiona McCann 36:33
That's so surprising, though. Do you think it was because of the way he played as well?
Melissa Maerz 36:38
You know, that's a very good point. Yes. In fact, you know, someone in the crew that he was really flirty with, that told us that he was like, Hey, I'm not this guy. I don't have this hair. This is like, I'm not I don't dress like this. I'd be like, That's not me. And I think he spent a long time after that being like, This isn't me, you know?
Fiona McCann 36:56
Trying to get out from a bandit's shadow.
Melissa Maerz 36:58
Eden Dawn 36:59
Were you able when you were interviewing Matthew to get beyond any of that JK live in shell or is that just who he actually is now?
Melissa Maerz 37:12
Yeah, I mean, I don't think so. But I have to say I'm like he. He didn't tell me stories I hadn't heard before, but he's just kind of a human storytelling machine. Yeah. Like everything is crafted into an anecdote and every everything that he says is not off the cuff. It's like there's a beginning to this and an end to this and there's like a Zen Cohen moral to this, you know, he's just kind of that's we had some people said that to his dad was, you know, his dad passed away while he was making this movie. And he said that one of the ways he wanted to keep his dad's memory alive is just kind of, you know, keeping this just keep living attitude going and you know, at his dad's funeral, people talk about it in the book, that it was all people telling stories like this.
Fiona McCann 37:55
Melissa Maerz 37:55
So I think that he that's just who he is, you know, it's not him being fake. It's just like, he grew up in a family of storytellers. And he's just gonna keep that tape rollin.
Fiona McCann 38:05
Spinning a yarn. Well, I was thinking about how some of some of them like Matthew, I'm just calling him Matthew now you know,
Melissa Maerz 38:11
your good friend Matt?
Fiona McCann 38:12
MAtt, Matt.. Some of them people went on to have like, very lengthy and successful careers, and probably have a lot of experience dealing with the media and then you have people who maybe did not go on to do that and have less experienced. Did that feel different? Was there sort of a difference there when you're like, oh, now I'm talking to superstar and this is clearly all I'm gonna get because they're much better at putting the wall up.
Melissa Maerz 38:37
I think you have less to lose if you're out of the industry, right. You can just talk really, honestly.
Fiona McCann 38:41
That's true too, yeah. It was just too close.
Melissa Maerz 38:43
Yeah, I think that there was a less of a like self protective eveness. Yeah. Like, you know, for example, I had a really great time talking to Joey Lauren Adams, and she was open enough with me that she sent me some artifacts from that time like pictures of her and Parker Posey together and like, one of the things that she sent me was a letter that Parker had written her on the last night of filming and it is a wrenching letter. And she said, you can use it if but only if Parker says it's okay. So I asked Parker, you know, I told her what was in it. I told her I could read it to her send it to her and she did not want it in the book. And there's nothing damning about it. Yeah. And it's like what did she have to gain by putting it in there? But I can describe it. It was just a really beautiful like, you know, the kind of letter you might give someone before like high school graduation or something like that. It was like we had this amazing friendship and like,
Fiona McCann 39:38
This was so meaningful to me..
Melissa Maerz 39:39
So meaningful to me, like I'm up at 3am writing this and I never want to lose you and like that kind of thing. It's really just a beautiful piece. But you know, she didn't want it.
Fiona McCann 39:49
in there. Well, I mean, there's a lot that I've written when I was at age that I wouldn't want people..
Melissa Maerz 39:53
Fiona McCann 39:55
Even just the way you use language and be like, mortifying!.
Eden Dawn 40:01
I'm curious about if there was an emotional toll on you writing this book. How were you feeling in the process? I mean, were you overwhelmed?
Melissa Maerz 40:12
No, because I started transcribing from the very first interview. And what I did was I didn't know what the narrative arc was going to be yet. So I just had seams. The first question I'd ask everybody is, what do you want to talk about? And the same?
Fiona McCann 40:28
Who did you sleep with?
Eden Dawn 40:28
What do you want to talk about is a very underrated journalism question because a lot of people come in and they've got something to say. And it's like, you don't even always have to craft the best. You're just like, what are we here to do?
Melissa Maerz 40:41
Well, it's like, you know, my husband is a writer too. And he always says, after you come back from an interview, when somebody's like, how did it go? The first thing you say that's what you need to write about. Like oftentimes, it's stuff that you're like, you didn't hear it from me, but this person was, you know, crying backstage or something like that. And like if that's important enough to tell the person first, you need to put that in the piece. So I think oftentimes people's first reaction of like, what do you want to talk about about this experience, formative experience they're gonna bring up the stuff right away without thinking about it. That's like, oh, this was important to me and the things that came up the most. were partying at the hotel, you know, everyone hooking up with each other heating Shawn Andrews, who played Pickford, that this sense of creative freedom that everyone felt in the rehearsals where they were bringing kind of reel things from their lives into the process. Um, how crazy the casting process where they had this kind of fake pizza party, and everyone was supposed to be friends, but they were really competing against each other. I mean, like, all of these and like this, this general theme of nostalgia, but you know, Richard Linklater, wanted to make this an anti nostalgia movie that was like, you know, the 70s kind of sucked I mean, the character even there even character to say the 70s Sack Yeah, and that everyone has attached so much nostalgia to this movie, you know, the fans. I missed the nostalgia for the heiress and nostalgia now for the 90s when it came out, it's nostalgia for high school, it's the it's the casts nostalgia for being in this moment in Hollywood when things were really creatively free. So a lot of these things just kept coming up.
Eden Dawn 42:11
This book is hefty, it's a hefty book and it is so it covers so much. And I often read late at night right before bed and there were times I would be totally giggling and laughing at these things. I emailed you the morning after I had insomnia was reading the hookup chapter and was just like giggling, thinking I was gonna wake a shot up because I was just giggling in bed reading it. And then there were other things that were hard to read. People talking about how they carried hurts with them, or the disappointment of you know, you could tell their careers not going the way that they had hoped they would go. And so I think you did a really beautiful job of being able to call so much information together and let people ride that wave up and down, which also kind of speaks to the high school experience right? The good times, good times and bad times.
Melissa Maerz 42:58
Yeah, I mean, I think that movie was mostly memorable and positive ways for everyone except Richard Linklater and some of the some of the other character I guess some of the other actors too, who played the freshman. But you really see it's like, you know, an emotional time for Matthew McConaughey who lost his dad and kind of turned his loss of his dad into that just keep living, you know line which he improvised, which was a tribute to his dad and use that too, as like a launchpad to create the persona we know today versus someone like Jason London who just had this amazing experience making this movie he lost his sister, who was very young immediately after this movie, and now feels like Dazed and Confused is a marker in his life. After things got pretty dark.
Fiona McCann 43:43
It's like high school. Yes, exactly. You know, they're the people who peaked in high school. Not one of them. And I it did make me think a little bit about the sadness of peaking too soon.
Melissa Maerz 43:55
Yeah, I think when I first saw the movie, I saw Ben Affleck's character and I thought, like, Oh, this is the popular guy who's me and everybody. And now I watched I catch details. I didn't necessarily catch the first time around or it's like, oh, he flunked a bunch. of times. The first thing he says in the movie is that he's out of gas. So someone else has to pay for his gas. He has a terrible car, like this guy is not going.
Eden Dawn 44:17
He's not doing well.
Melissa Maerz 44:18
And not having fun and not a happy I mean, obviously, you could tell him maybe that he wasn't a happy person to begin with, but you just get a definite sense that he is somebody who did peak in high school and like, we'll never get that back.
Eden Dawn 44:30
My last question, before we have to let you go is I want to know, how did Richard view the book?
Melissa Maerz 44:38
Yeah. I mean, I think he was, I struggled with whether or not I was going to ask him to read it before it was published. And one of the reasons I ended up doing that is that he has an incredible memory. I could not believe the things that he can remember. And he was just my greatest fact checker. I mean, if anything was not, not in terms of like if someone said something that he disagreed with, but he was like, you know, that happened on this day in August. And you know, and I just also wanted to see he's, he's his opinion is more important to me, you know, because he was the one who was involved in everybody else's stories. So I think his main thing that he told me that he loved was reading about his high school friends, memories of things that were that inspired parts of dazed and confused, so I tracked down a bunch of his high school friends, some of whom have the same names as the characters, some of whom actually ended up doing because they thought that they had bad representations of who they were on screen. Everybody thinks it's about them. I think that's one of the genius things about this movie, is the people from his high school all think it's about them, but also people like you and me. It's like, oh, you know, can really relate to it. Even though it's such a specific story. That's about his own high school life. It still feels like it's about people like you and me. It's about all of us. Yes.
Eden Dawn 45:59
It's about all of us. Well, thank you again, Melissa, for coming. Go by All right, All right, All right!Just keep living. Follow Melissa on Twitter @msmelissamaerz and go get the book. That's it from We Can't Print This for today. You can see more info and we will link to the book on our website wecantprintthis.com And you can also follow us on Twitter and Instagram @wecantprinthis.
Fiona McCann 45:59
And thank you to our producer Miranda Shaffer and to Dave Depper for our music. Death Cab is on tour all year. So go! This podcast was recorded at the Writer's Block in downtown Portland. So shout out to Monica Geller for all her support. Thanks, Monica. But the biggest thanks. Let's go to our third work by Rachel Ritchie. For all her input and tolerance and putting up with two very loud officemates.. It's about all of us.
Eden Dawn 46:53
If you're a writer with a great behind the story, story write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank you, Melissa.
Melissa Maerz 47:01
Thank you so much for having me on.
Fiona McCann 47:03
All right, all right, all right! I like the way you said it.
Melissa Maerz 47:07
Drop the mic.
Fiona McCann 47:08
God has loads to say.