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‘Everybody Wants Some’ at SXSW is Texas by way of Richard Linklater, and baseball

Sometimes a time and a place just come together. The director Richard Linklater has been making movies centering on, and informed by, the state of Texas for many of the last 25 years.

But few of his films are as dripping in local detail as “Everybody Wants Some,” the director’s semi-autobiographical look at a southeast Texas college baseball team during the first few days of the semester.

FULL COVERAGE: SXSW 2016

And even fewer films have the chance to make their grand debut in a spot so close to where their events take place, represented by so many people from that place.

“All Texans take a step forward,” Linklater said to the cast of more than a dozen. The actors were standing on a podium at the SXSW over the weekend, where a film by a Texas auteur, about Texas life, was making its world premiere at the opening of Texas’ biggest film festival. After Linklater issued his Longhorn call, many of the actors advanced down-stage.

“Everybody Wants Some” — original title” “That’s What I’m Talking About,” after the teammates’ universal shorthand for seconding an opinion — examines the group of jocks and freaks circa 1980 as they lived in a pair of houses off-campus of a fictional Texas university. The film, which Paramount opens next month, is inspired by Linklater’s time on the baseball team at Sam Houston State.

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There’s quiet poet Jake (Blake Jenner), voluble philosopher Finnegan (Glen Powell), volatile flame-thrower Niles (Juston Street), picked-on hayseed Billy (Will Brittain), stoner sage Willoughby (Wyatt Russell) and a host of other colorful types.

And, of course, there’s the Lone Star state, becoming its own piston in the story, with its mix at the time of country, disco and punk scenes. A bar represented each style, and the production shot at the extant local hangout, the Jolly Fox, that Linklater and his teammates hung out in their college days in the town of Huntsville. (The punk club came from a road trip to Austin.)

Local bits of color work their way in via other means, as when teammates wonder whether there were certain exemptions for drinking Lone Star instead of other beer.

Texas is of course baseball central, producing current stars such as Clayton Kershaw. Among Linklater’s old teammates, there’s Glenn Wilson, who hit .292 in his rookie season with the Tigers and went on to a productive major-league career.

Many of said teammates came out to Austin for the screening, a colorful bunch prone to telling stories about unhinged coaches and pranks played on unsuspecting freshmen.

Linklater’s sweet-raunchy blend harks back to his “Dazed and Confused’ era, and not only because of the baseball overlay and a snapshot-of-a-school-moment conceit. (More on the film in the weeks to come.)

Casting, however, wasn’t easy. “It’s a big ensemble so you’re looking for unique people who will really stand out,” Linklater said at the screening, noting that bringing out “the individual characteristics of each guy... is the fun part and the challenge.”

Tyler Hoechlin, a former star ballplayer himself who in the film plays McReynolds, the best hitter on the team, said that wasn’t always easy for the group. “No one wanted to steal the show. Nobody wanted to take the mic,” he said.

So which one of them was actually Linklater? Though Jake, as the more literary freshman, mirrored Linklater’s experience in his first year on the team, the director mixed and matched traits as he went.

“I feel myself scattered through everybody,” he said. And Texas scattered through them too.

@ZeitchikLAT

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