Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas

By Alison Macor | Go to book overview

You know you’re in trouble when the
reviews go, “The best thing about The Newton Boys is the closing credits.”
RICHARD LINKLATER


7
Winning the Battle, Losing the War
The Newton Boys

In the summer of 1994, while Robert Rodriguez was in Mexico embarking on Desperado, his first big-budget studio film, Richard Linklater was recovering from his own studio experience on Dazed and Confused by traveling to Vienna, Austria, to shoot a two-character romantic drama entitled Before Sunrise. The $2.5 million production was the first film in a two-picture deal with Castle Rock, an independent production company co-founded by Rob Reiner. Linklater signed with the company in March 1994 after meeting with other studios in Los Angeles. The deal allowed Linklater to retain creative control of his projects and to continue to base himself in Austin. By this time he had also moved his production company, Detour Filmproduction, from rented offices near downtown to a 7,000-square-foot, two-story building just east of the interstate that he purchased for about $200,000.1

While Before Sunrise and Linklater’s next film, SubUrbia (1997), seemed like typical Detour projects in terms of their smallish budgets, limited sets, and personal stories, The Newton Boys (1998), which he would also begin planning in 1994, seemed to represent a complete departure. The epic western was based on the true story of the Newton brothers, a band of Texas bank robbers. Co-starring Matthew McConaughey and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, The Newton Boys had movie stars and action scenes and, at $27 million, it was the closest thing to a blockbuster that Linklater had ever worked on (and that Austin had ever produced). Argues Ethan Hawke,

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