21 Things You Might Not Know About Dazed and Confused
Since its 1993 release, Dazed and Confused has gone on to become a cultural landmark. Currently, over two decades after the release of his heady high school masterpiece, director Richard Linklater is working on a “spiritual sequel” to the movie to be called Everybody Wants Some, which will be set in the baseball world. With that in mind, we encourage you to find the nearest paddle, toss on some Foghat, and enjoy these 21 Dazed and Confused facts you might not have known.
1. It was a box office flop.
It might be hard to believe now, but Dazed and Confused was a turkey at the box office, making just over $7,950,000 (its budget was $6.9 million). Of course, the film has gone on to have lasting financial legs, selling big on VHS and DVD. The soundtrack also eventually went double platinum (back when soundtracks did that kind of thing).
2. A huge chunk of the budget went toward securing rights to tunes.
What would Dazed and Confused be without timeless classic rock tunes like Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”? Knowing that music was absolutely vital to the film, Richard Linklater spent a whopping one-sixth of the film’s budget on securing the necessary music rights.
3. The title is a reference to the Zeppelin song, but it isn’t all about booze and drugs.
According to Linklater via an interview with Dazed Magazine (no relation), while the title is lifted from the Led Zeppelin song of the same name, it’s actually meant to accompany the idea that “it takes a full decade to process your teenage years.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to secure rights to any of Zeppelin’s music, since the band wasn’t interested in licensing their music for movies at the time.
4. Linklater gave each actor his or her own mixtape to get into character.
5. It’s one of Quentin Tarantino’s all-time favorite movies.
In surveys conducted by Sight & Sound magazine in 2002 and 2012, Tarantino included the film alongside classics like Taxi Driver; The Great Escape; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; and Carrie as one of his 12 all-time favorite movies. Tarantino also spoke about the film when it was honored at the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards in 2013, calling it “maybe the only movie that three different generations of college students have seen multiple times.”
6. The cast included one future star you might have missed.
One of the reasons why Dazed and Confused has become near-mythic is in the amount of future Generation X acting successes it caught in its crosshairs. The massive cast includes pre-fame turns from Milla Jovovich, Anthony Rapp, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, and Parker Posey, alongside many more faces that are highly recognizable in 2015. One future Oscar-winner you might have missed, however, is Renée Zellweger, who pops up as an uncredited extra.
7. Lots of future stars were turned down for roles.
According to casting director Don Phillips, “every actor in [Los Angeles] wanted to be in it.” Claire Danes, Elizabeth Berkley, Ashley Judd, Brendan Fraser, Jon Favreau, and Vince Vaughn were all considered for roles, but didn’t make the cut. (Vaughn was in the running for the role of Fred O'Bannion, who was ultimately played by Ben Affleck.)
8. A chance meeting led to McConaughey getting cast.
Before he was an Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey was just another University of Texas graduate with a film degree aspiring to be a director, with just a beer commercial and a music video on his acting resume. He landed the role of David Wooderson after a drunken chance meeting with casting director Don Phillips, which ended with the two getting kicked out of an Austin bar. He then nabbed the role following a now-infamous audition.
9. The casting director was responsible for another teenage classic.
Dazed and Confused wasn’t the first time Phillips had been charged with discovering an ensemble of future stars. He was also the casting director for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which featured early-career appearances by Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker and Nicolas Cage, among others.
10. Wooderson was supposed to be a much smaller part.
McConaughey's now-signature character was originally only supposed to have a few lines, but Wooderson got more screen time when one of the hired actors had some trouble fitting in with the rest of the cast. This resulted in Wooderson getting written into the scene on the football field, which is where he gave his “Just keep livin’” speech. The lines were inspired by a conversation between McConaughey and Linklater about the passing of McConaughey’s father during the first few days of filming.
11. Unbeknownst to Linklater and McConaughey, the two shared a surprising bond.
In a recent interview on WTF with Marc Maron, Linklater revealed that their dads played football together at the University of Houston, both competing at the defensive end position in the early 1950s. McConaughey's dad, Jim, would go on to be drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 27th round of the 1953 NFL draft (they were a bit longer back then), but never played in the league.
12. McConaughey reprised the role of Wooderson in 2012.
The music video for Butch Walker and the Black Widows’ song “Synthesizers” features McConaughey lip-synching, air-trumpeting, slow-motion walking, drinking, and womanizing as his career-making character. For more proof that McConaughey hasn’t forgotten his first major role, look no further than his 2014 Oscar speech, where he dropped two of Wooderson’s best and most timeless lines: “Just keep livin’” and “alright, alright, alright.”
13. One of the young actors became successful in an entirely different field.
While many of the movie's cast members became recognizable Hollywood actors, Wiley Wiggins—who played Mitch Kramer—had a very quiet acting career after the film. It’s not because Wiggins couldn’t cut it as an actor; he just shifted his focus to designing and developing video games and running an independent gaming festival called Fantastic Arcade. He has popped up in a few more films, including Linklater’s trippy philosophical piece Waking Life in 2001 and in the Sundance Film Festival favorite Computer Chess in 2013.
14. Linklater was sued by some of his real-life classmates.
Linklater wasn’t especially creative when it came to making up character names with which to populate the fictional Lee High School. In fact, at least three of the characters' last names—Wooderson, Floyd, and Slater—were lifted directly from Linklater's own Huntsville High School, which became the basis of a defamation lawsuit for the real-life trio in 2004. According to the real Wooderson, Floyd, and Slater, the movie resulted in an onslaught of, well, mostly kids wanting to party with them all the time. The case was eventually tossed.
15. It made its at-home debut on a long-forgotten medium.
Dazed and Confused was released on September 24, 1993, and hit home video in March of 1994. But anyone up on their huge-discs-that-are-soon-to-be-defunct technologies could have grabbed it on LaserDisc two months earlier, which seems oddly appropriate for a movie that’s all about nostalgia. The movie became a formally-sanctioned cult classic in 2006, when it received a Criterion Collection DVD release.
16. Originally, Linklater had imagined it as a stranger, much more experimental movie.
According to Linklater, the plan for the movie was always to examine a single day in the life of a group of high schoolers in the '70s, but his original idea was a movie about “four guys in a Le Mans, listening to an eight-track tape of ZZ Top’s 'Fandango!'”
17. Linklater tried to keep the atmosphere professional (but occasionally failed).
Linklater claims to have enforced a professional atmosphere on the set that included no drugs or alcohol, saying “People are surprised how militant I am about that kind of work ethic. I set a tone.” Although, by Linklater’s own admission, while the on-set marijuana wasn’t real, “the cast does admit to being stoned in several scenes, particularly at the very end."
18. The film features a frequent Linklater trope you might have missed.
One scene features Slater smoking a cigarette and hammering away at a 1972 Bally "Fireball" pinball machine. Linklater’s films Waking Life, Before Sunrise, and his little-seen 1988 debut It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books all feature scenes that include characters playing pinball.
19. Slater’s line about George Washington growing weed is true (kind of).
Slater, the pottiest of Lee High School's potheads, had some memorable theories about the goings-on at Mount Vernon, claiming “George toked weed, are you kiddin' me, man? He grew fields of that stuff, man.” While Washington did indeed grow hemp at Mount Vernon (fun fact: the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper), significantly less evidence exists to claim he ever grew or smoked a psychoactive strain of cannabis.
20. Linklater and Universal Pictures were constantly at odds over the movie.
At first, Universal wanted the movie to be rated PG-13, with the belief that it would lead to better box office results, to which Linklater responded, “we have 78 'f---s' in the script, pot smoking all the way through and teenagers drinking and driving." Later, the studio would complain that Linklater hadn’t used the movie’s R-rating to its fullest extent, lamenting the film’s lack of nudity.
21. Linklater saw it as an “inverse” of John Hughes’ teen movies.
Unlike John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink, which culminated in important kisses and life-changing revelations, Linklater designed Dazed and Confused to feel more true to the mild drama of real life, saying “I don’t remember teenage [years] being that dramatic. I remember just trying to go with the flow, socialize, fit in, and be cool. The stakes were really low. To get Aerosmith tickets or not? That’s a big thing.”