A man with stringy brown hair grazed around the campus on Thursday. He wasn’t walking at a particularly fast pace, but he wasn’t really strolling. His black back pack, and vibrant red shirt went unnoticed by most Sam Houston State students, as he walked around the mall area and headed to the library.
When he got to the library, he went straight to the fourth floor, headed for the Thomason room, where he viewed the featured writer. He used his time to read, as students sat in the Evans building watching his new movie, “Orsen Welles and Me.”
Richard Linklater is a name most Sam Houston students might not know. As a former student of the University and Huntsville High School alumni, the now movie director was back on campus Thursday as he aired a new movie and answered questions from students.
Linklater, 49, attended Sam Houston State after he graduated from Huntsville High. His old high school is now an intermediate school but the stories of his days in high school will live on in infamy from the movie “Dazed and Confused”, which he described as, “My entire freshman year put in one day.”
Linklater was also a stand-out athlete in Huntsville, until recent years he held a record in Texas football for the longest run from scrimmage, 85-yards, and was also a great baseball player, so much so that he received a scholarship to play baseball at Sam Houston State.
Although he only stayed at Sam Houston for two years, it’s where his love for movies began. Reading English books, and studying stories and plot lines began to start the works in his brain. His first major production, “Slackers”, was shot as a camera followed around his friends who talked about their days. This movie was so moving it actually inspired Kevin Smith to go into film making.
One day while in college, Linklater watched a movie called “Raging Bull”, directed by Martin Scorsese.
“I had a revelation,” said Linklater. “She thought it was boring, I broke up with her, and she was hot too.”
Scorsese became an influence to Linklater, and like Scorsese, he has tackled some serious issues in his movies, like “Fast Food Nation”, which examined the health risk involved in fast food.
The next day Linklater had lunch at Humphrey’s – this time wearing black shirt and blue jeans he sat near the porch and ate a caesar salad, because he is a vegetarian now, and was never noticed. Fifty people walked right past, what could be Huntsville’s most famous resident without so much as a “hello,” or a “Are you Richard Linklater?”
He dropped names of famous director’s and actors like they are every day occurrences in his seemingly normal life. “What was it that Quinton said?”, and “Shia said he would be interested in that part.”
Later that night at the old Huntsville theater Linklater sat in for a dinner with towns people, raising money for Walker County Historical Commission, Huntsville Main Street, and Huntsville Community Theater. All the organizations are non-profit, which always holds a soft spot for Linklater.
After his two year span at Sam Houston, Linklater got a job working at Camco, an off shore oil service, and was able to save up some money.
“I got myself into a position, well worked myself into a position where I didn’t have to work; I could live cheap,” said Linklater. “It’s what everyone wants, complete freedom.”
He moved to Austin, and began work on his film career.
“I worked hard, I didn’t read, I just watched movies, shot movies, put down a foundation,” he said. “I pretty much gave myself a film boot camp.”
It wasn’t long till Richard got to Hollywood. At 35 years old he released the cult classic, “Dazed and Confused.”
“Dazed was a weird movie, in testing people would be laughing the whole way through,” Linklater said. “But then we would get our score cards back and they were all negative.”
Even so, it’s hard to find a college dorm or apartment that doesn’t contain the movie now.
When Linklater returns to Austin later this week, he will go back to studying film. He estimates that he watches close to 650 films a year, sometimes two a day, sometimes four a day. A feat made possible by his three Netflix accounts he got for free by doing an ad with them.
He might spend some time working on a movie that is taking 15-years to film about a child growing up and how he changes, but one thing he won’t do is change.
He won’t be the director who barges into a room and demands acknowledgement. Linklater has always had a philosophy of staying grounded.
“It works for me,” he said. “I want to be unnoticed, I like the stealth in my operation.”