book excerpt

‘We Basically Smoked Austin Out’

The Dazed and Confused cast remembers what it was like at Richard Linklater’s “summer camp.”

“There’s no more weed! I gave you all we had!” Jason London recalls telling a co-star. The quote is one of many in Melissa Maerz’s new oral history of the film, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Linklater.
“There’s no more weed! I gave you all we had!” Jason London recalls telling a co-star. The quote is one of many in Melissa Maerz’s new oral history of the film, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Linklater.
“There’s no more weed! I gave you all we had!” Jason London recalls telling a co-star. The quote is one of many in Melissa Maerz’s new oral history of the film, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Linklater.

When Cole Hauser left his audition for Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater called after him: “It’s gonna be like summer camp in Austin!” With those words, the director shaped how the cast viewed their experience making the movie, and what the vibe would be behind the scenes. Many of them still describe making Dazed as “summer camp,” whether they consciously remember Linklater’s words or not.

When they weren’t shooting, they were swimming, boating, running around barefoot, and getting into trouble. Linklater didn’t try to rein anyone in. No one did. Dazed was about ’70s kids coming of age at a time when adult supervision was sporadic, and behind the scenes, these kids were unleashed. Long before he became an actor, a 22-year-old Jason Lee — future star of Almost Famous and My Name Is Earl agreed to be the legal guardian of his 17-year-old girlfriend, actress Marissa Ribisi, and he ended up partying even harder than she did. It was summer camp, for sure. But it was summer camp with alcohol, weed, and locked doors.

But about 30 minutes into Dazed and Confused, the film switches from daytime to nighttime. There’s a marked difference between the breezy, “school’s out for summer” tone of the beginning and the more manic tone of the rest of the movie. The daytime part mostly focuses on kids hanging out and chasing one another around, with some mild humiliations along the way. But once the sun goes down, the freshman boys get paddled, Mike (Adam Goldberg) gets into an ill-advised fistfight with Clint (Nicky Katt), and a total stranger points a gun at Pickford (Shawn Andrews). Dazed was mostly shot in sequential order, and when the cast started working at night, they felt the vibe changing, too.

Clockwise from top left: Ben Affleck, Sasha Jenson, Cole Hauser, and Rory Cochrane, swimming in Austin. Photo: Courtesy of Jason London

Sasha Jenson (Don): When we transitioned from day shoots into night shoots, that’s when it shifted gears for us, too. We all got a little darker during that period, because we turned into vampires. We’d work all night and then hang out all day. We just wouldn’t sleep.

Peter Millius (former boyfriend of cast member Deena Martin): Our hotel was by the Congress Avenue Bridge, and that was the bridge where the bats would come out at dusk every night.

Jason London (Pink): Right when it’s time for the bats to wake the fuck up and eat, they all fly out at the exact same time. It’s kind of scary at first. As the sun is setting, a million bats fly out and people go down and lay on the banks of the river. The bats have sonar—they won’t run into you. You’d lay down and have a million bats flying right over you, so many that it almost darkens the sky. And in the morning, you can watch them come back in.

Peter Millius: Our nights would end long after the bats were coming back under the bridge to sleep.

Marissa Ribisi (Cynthia): We’d come back from working, and then everyone would go to the bar at 7:00 a.m. and start drinking till noon.

Rory Cochrane: After the first night shoot, I wake up in my hotel room, middle of the day, and the maid’s in the room. And I’m like, “Fuck, I’m sorry, let me put the Do Not Disturb sign out.” The next day, the maid’s in the room. I’m like, alright, I’ll put the Do Not Disturb sign out and the dead bolt. And the next morning, I hear the door open and boom! It’s the dead bolt. Boom! And I’m like, what the fuck is going on? And then I hear voices, and I see a guy’s arm reaching inside the door with a screwdriver, trying to take off the dead bolt. And I just lost it. I opened the door, and I was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” And they were like, “We wanted to make sure you were still alive.” You know: Maybe you’re a fucking heroin addict?

Adam Goldberg (Mike): Everyone was just drinking and getting stoned the entire time.

Cole Hauser (Benny): As you get older, you can’t get smashed on a Sunday from 1:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., fall asleep, and wake up at 6:30 p.m. and feel good. But at 17 years old, you’re like, “Give me a bottle of water! I’m ready to go.”

Adam Goldberg (Mike): I got so high one time in Jason’s room, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I think that was the last time I smoked pot while we were shooting. I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and thought, I don’t know who you are.

Ben Affleck (O’Bannion): I had a bad experience with marijuana at 15. I had a dissociative panic attack. So I only smoked weed if everyone else was smoking, and I had to sort of “Bill Clinton” it and fake it. I didn’t really like marijuana. I also wasn’t a very heavy drinker then. I became an alcoholic much, much later, and I’m in recovery now, so that was a whole different time. I was a little nervous, like, “Should we be drinking before we’re working tomorrow?” Some people were actually drinking and getting stoned at work.

Christine Harnos (Kaye Faulkner) and Jason London (Randall “Pink” Floyd). Photo: Courtesy of Jason London.

Jason London: The first time I smoked real pot and worked was the scene where the old man grabs my arm and says, “So you’re gonna throw for so-and-so yards this year?” I went into the scene and met this lovely old couple and I was like, Holy crap, this is surreal! So that’s when I discovered, like, wow, for certain scenes, having a little puff was not a terrible idea.

Sasha Jenson: I got high during the scene on the baseball field, with the paddles, and I hated it. I wasn’t comfortable doing that.

Joey Lauren Adams (Simone): I was high for the scene on the football field. A lot of us were.

Rory Cochrane (Slater): We were shooting one scene where we’re driving around in a Chevelle, and I took a hit off a real roach. That scene’s not in the movie, but Matthew had to hit me on the back when they were rolling so I’d wake up.

Jason London: We basically smoked Austin out of all of its weed, and the person who was the worst was Milla [Jovovich]. The rest of us were like, okay, we just have to wait till we can get more weed. She just went into full meltdown mode.

It might’ve been just her getting into character, but there was a certain point where people were like, “There’s no more weed! I gave you all we had! It’s not like this shit is growing in the backyard. This shit comes from Mexico.”

John Frick (production designer): There was a cast party in the Emporium and the cast pretty much trashed it. The owner of the place we used for the Emporium scenes, one of his big demands was no smoking, no drugs, no alcohol on his property. We had rented expensive pool tables. It must have been a long, wild, late-into-the-night party, because there were beer cans on the pool tables and cigarette butts everywhere.

Keith Fletcher (extras wardrobe supervisor): I was at the party, and Milla was standing next to me, and she literally just passed out.

Tracey Holman (wardrobe assistant): At one point I looked up and I think Affleck was carrying Milla outside.

Keith Fletcher: She woke up a minute or two later. We were all standing over her, trying to help her, give her air, and she comes to, like, “Oh, that was weird!” Got up, and went on with the rest of the night.
The rest of us were like, “That was not healthy.”

Melanie Fletcher (extras set costumer): Everybody was getting high, and Milla wasn’t eating. She always felt like she was just about to tip over.

Shawn Andrews (Kevin Pickford) and Milla Jovovich (Michelle Burroughs). Photo: Courtesy of Richard Linklater.

Adam Goldberg: Back at the hotel, we were all getting into trouble.

Jason Davids Scott (unit publicist): Ben Affleck got a baby Siberian husky, but he had to keep it in the hotel room and not let them know, so he just didn’t have them clean his hotel room, and it smelled.

Ben Affleck: Only when you’re 20 do you think, “I’m broke, I have nothing, maybe I can be responsible for an animal?”

Anthony Rapp (Tony): I heard the cast got reprimanded because they went through the hotel, tipping over the tall ashtrays that were near the elevators. But I didn’t do that.

Ben Affleck: We’d come back to the hotel from wherever we were, and everyone would break into the kitchen.

Marissa Ribisi: My brother came to visit. At one point, he and Jason [Lee] broke into the kitchen and stole cheese in the middle of the night. I was like, “You fools! We’re gonna get kicked out of here.”

Adam Goldberg: It was Marissa’s brother, Giovanni Ribisi, Jason, and me, chasing each other, running up and down stairs, and drinking. I was sent to my room the day before my fight scene with Nick [Katt], and when we shot it, I used the security guard who sent me to my room as my substitute for Nick, because he was just some fuckin’ asshole security bully dick.

Cole Hauser: This was around the time Matthew [McConaughey] came into the fold.

Joey Lauren Adams: I didn’t know what to think of Matthew. He wasn’t staying at the hotel, so I didn’t get to know him that well. The whole cast was there for two months and got really close, like family. And Matthew didn’t feel like a part of that to me.

Adam Goldberg (Mike Newhouse) and Marissa Ribisi (Cynthia Dunn). Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Burkhart.

Adam Goldberg: I thought McConaughey was just a bartender who got a kitschy, nonsense role. He directed me in the last scene we shot together, like he was telling us what to do. I was just like, “Oh, I’ll let this local have his little power trip.” I mean, that’s Matthew.

Cole Hauser: Matthew was like, “C’mon guys, get out of your hotel room, let me take you down to the river.” You’d have these tubes, and you’d just throw a big cooler of beer in the middle, and you’d just float. It’s muggy and nasty in Austin during the summer, so to have a cool spring with a beer in your hand and beautiful girls cruising by? It was heaven on earth.

Adam Goldberg: Floating down the river? I never did that shit.

Renée Zellweger (extra): They were bonding as a cast, and I wasn’t part of that. But the stuff they were doing? That was my life! We were always at the lake on the jet skis, or tubing, or whatever. That’s just Austin.

Chrisse Harnos (Kaye): We went river rafting. Oh god, you’re in rapids, and I was scared shitless. It was like, Ahhhhhhh! Should we really be doing this?

Rory Cochrane: We went cliff jumping. There was a river, and you’d run and jump off the cliff, but you’d have to wear sneakers because you’d dive so far down, it would hurt the bottoms of your feet. I don’t know why I thought that would be great to do.

Jason London: There was a swing hanging from a tree near the water. You could go up in the tree and swing out, but there were these spikes, like a death pit, that you had to clear to get to the water. You had to let go, and if you dropped at all, you were literally impaled. And apparently, that had happened a few times to people. That was terrifying. I refused to do that.

Sasha Jenson: Oh god, it was horrible. One of the local girls jumped in first, and she didn’t come up. Yeah. Didn’t come up. One of us said, “And that’s the last we ever saw of her!” Like we had to throw in the comedy moment first. And then everybody jumped in looking for her.

We found her, and it wasn’t good. She was under a log. And then I heard that, like, a week later, somebody died there.

Nicky Katt (Clint): Cole and Rory and Ben and me, we were all blowing our per diem at Red’s Indoor Range. That was probably me trying to show off, you know, “I’ll show you what real men do” kind of thing.

Peter Millius: Ben liked to be the alpha male. He was definitely one of the guys who was like, “Yeah, let’s go to the gun range!” Him and Cole.

Cole Hauser: We’d shoot all kinds of guns: .44s, 57s, shotguns. Man, they would give you anything. If they’d had a bazooka in there, we would’ve shot it.

Peter Millius: One time, we all went out drinking. At 9:30 in the morning, we get back to the hotel, and someone says, “Hey, let’s go to a shooting range!” I thought, “Guys! We’re all hammered as hell. There is no way anyone’s gonna give us guns.” We get to the gun range, and everyone’s so excited, they all run in ahead of me. When I walk in, half the guys already have guns in their hands, shooting! And I can’t believe they’re giving all of us guns! It’s a Texas thing. They’re like, “You want a cup of water, or you want a gun?”

I think Ben and Cole actually bought guns.

Ben Affleck: Texas had extremely lax gun laws and most of us came from states where it was next to impossible to buy guns, so part of the newfound freedom of being down there was that a bunch of us bought guns and went shooting at ranges on weekends, which seemed fun and innocent at the time, but given the subsequent tragedies with young people and guns, it now makes me uncomfortable to remember.

Rory Cochrane: Cole might have bought a .357. I can’t confirm whether or not he shot it out the window.

Cole Hauser: First of all, you can’t buy a .357 in the state of Texas. And I definitely didn’t shoot it out the window. That’s just nuts.

Rory Cochrane: We went shooting on magic mushrooms. Which was not a great idea. Some of the girls were just waving the guns around, and we were supposed to be in lanes.

Cole Hauser: I wasn’t on mushrooms. Rory might’ve been. He’s pretty good about doing that stuff and you not knowing that he’s on it. He’s not one of those guys dancing around in the tulips, speaking to the sky.

Nicky Katt: He was probably on mushrooms. I was not. But that probably explains why Rory discharged a firearm into the roof of the place. He was like, “Hey, how do I …” Boom! And it went off right over his head.

Rory Cochrane: Nobody got hurt, thankfully.

Nicky Katt: In hindsight, it’s incredible that nobody drove off a cliff or anything. We were pretty off the leash.

This excerpt was adapted from the book ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT by Melissa Maerz. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Maerz. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

‘We Basically Smoked Austin Out’