Richard Linklater Looks Beyond His 20-Year ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Project: ‘I See Myself Making a Film When I’m Like 94’

Time is an obsession of Richard Linklater’s. His films, from “Slacker” to the “Before” trilogy to “Boyhood,” have been thorough examinations of its passage on scales large and small, but his latest ongoing project, an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s under-appreciated musical gem “Merrily We Roll Along,” aims to be Linklater’s biggest canvas yet. The musical tracks the deterioration of a 20-year friendship between three creatives with one specific feature: the entire story is told in reverse, beginning with the end and slipping back into the past to show how things go so bad and eventually why they were so good together.

“It’s the kind of thing I’ve thought a lot about my entire life: What could transform me?” Linklater said in a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine. “I was probably more in the camp of we’re fixed, give or take whatever little percentage around the edges. So I was interested in this notion lately that, oh, you can change, the personality isn’t fixed.”

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For this reason, trying to imagine if he’ll be able to maintain his faculties to see production on “Merrily” through — he would be 80 by the time he finished — isn’t part of his thought process.

“I see myself making a film when I’m like 94,” Linklater said. “I really do. I’ll go along, try to stay in shape, try to be healthy, hope to get lucky. But we’re telling a story that takes place over 20 years, and it’s really important, for this story to work, that you feel those years go by. That was ‘Boyhood.’ You had to feel life going by. And this movie is about long-term friendship and the way life treats people and how that shifts around over 20 years. Everybody involved is clearly doing it because they care, so we just have to assume they’ll keep caring and they’ll care 10 years, 15, 16, 17 more years. You judge people on that.”And if something does happen that stops Linklater from fulfilling his directorial duties, he said, “I would adapt somehow. Or just turn the whole thing over to someone else. I’ll deal with that when it happens. I mean, what’s the alternative? I think of death regularly. But then I have this other side that just expects to play it out, I guess.”

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