Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2015 by Germain Lussier
The great thing about Dazed and Confused? I get older and it stays the same age.
Twenty-two years after Richard Linklater‘s ’70s slice of life film hit theaters, listening to it read by a group of actors still feels as poignant and relevant as ever. Maybe the music and references have changed a bit but a teenager’s insecurities, rebellious nature and mischievousness are and will continue to be universal. In Linklater’s script those ideas are delivered with an almost unfairly simple and eloquent precision.
At Thursday’s Live Read, presented by Film Independent at LACMA, Jason Reitman brought together a group of actors to read the script and, yes, the huge cast of characters made things a little confusing. In back-to-back scenes, an actor might have to jump from nerd to cool guy to stoner, giving the whole evening an unpredictable energy. It was even more unpredictable as they were reading an earlier version of the script that had some huge differences from the final film.
Below, we’ll break down those script changes, the cast, some of the crazy performances, and talk about how even in a form that’s unfamiliar to most of us, Dazed and Confused remains as good as ever.
(All photos by Araya Diaz/WireImage, used Courtesy of Wireimage and Film Independent)
Dazed and Confused Live Read Wrap Up
Okay, to start, here was the cast for tonight’s Live Read, including two or three of their major roles.
- Mae Whitman – Wooderson, Sabrina
- Travis Tope – Mitch
- Catherine Reitman – Kaye
- Jason Mantzoukas – Mike
- James Van Der Beek – Pink
- Paul Scheer – Pickford, Clint
- Whitney Cummings – Darla, Julie
- Michaela Watkins – Jodi, Cynthia
- Nick Kroll – Slater, Tony, O’Bannion
- Jonathan Tucker – Benny
- Eric Andre – Don
And those are just a few of the roles. Most of the actors had to double as the younger freshmen too, making it virtually impossible to nail down all their roles or explain every single thing they did. It was just too much going on at once. But here are a few of the highlights.
Mae Whitman was originally cast only as Sabrina, the outcast freshman girl, but after a last minute cancellation (more on that in a bit) she also took on Wooderson, originated by Matthew McConaughey. Reitman didn’t have a nametag on stage for the iconic role, so someone literally screamed out before the read began, “Where’s Wooderson?” “Good question,” Reitman said. “Who will be Wooderson? Place your bets.” Once the role finally came into the script about halfway in, Whitman literally took off her jacket to get into that southern swagger. And for his most iconic line, the one about high school girls, she put a cigarette in her mouth just to make sure it sounded right. That, of course, got a huge cheer.
What’s most interesting about Wooderson in this version of the script though is he doesn’t have as much to do, suggesting Linklater saw something special in McConaughey and expanded the role. We’ll talk more about those differences on the last page.
Travis Tope was the lone actor who had only one role, and that’s because he was the lead – Mitch, the young freshman. Tope is a very interesting actor and took Mitch in a slightly different direction than Wiley Wiggins. His Mitch was a bit more stoic, a bit more relaxed, and a tad less flighty.
Catherine Reitman played Kaye, originated by Christine Harnos, which isn’t a particularly big or significant role. (Though it is bigger in this version of the script.) Still, she handled it like a pro, really diving into the character and getting very animated with it. She was moving around her seat, interacting with the actors, it was one of the more stand out performances. In particular, her speech about Gilligan’s Island being a male fantasy was a highlight.
Jason Mantzoukas and Paul Scheer were the everymen in this live read, picking up a lot of the supporting male characters. Mantzoukas’ main role, though, was Mike, originated by Adam Goldberg. He’s the super smart, insecure guy who likes to wax poetic and hopes for some real visceral experience. It was a role Mantzoukas was born to play, as he delivered the lines in a precise, yet flighty way, almost like Raffi from The League was stoned and had a higher IQ.
Scheer’s primary role was the mostly forgettable Pickford, originated by Shawn Andrews. He’s the guy who is supposed to have a party at his house only to have the kegs arrive too early. It’s not much of a role, but Scheer did what he could with it. His funniest moments however were as Clint, originated by Nicky Katt. Scheer isn’t a particularly menacing guy but his delivery was definitely forceful and intimidating.
When Jason Reitman introduced James Van Der Beek as Pink (originated by Jason London), he said he was correcting one of his small issues with Richard Linklater’s movie – he was finally making Pink a real quarterback. Any veiled Varsity Blues reference is good enough for me and Van Der Beek was perfect as Pink. Calm, aloof, sure of his uncertainty, and with a dash of swagger, it was impeccable casting. Oddly though, Pink’s role in this version of Linklater’s script never calls him out as a quarterback.