Richard Linklater Pleads That You Don’t Call ‘Last Flag Flying’ a Sequel

Last Flag Flying

The term maverick filmmaker gets tossed around a lot without much meaning, but Richard Linklater is truly a maverick filmmaker. Linklater is a director not bound by genre, able to weave in and out various genres with ease, nor is apprehensive to push the boundaries of the art form as he’s done with Waking Life or Boyhood. Sometimes Richard Linklater makes movies where you just want to hang out with the characters, and he’s done that with his latest film Last Flag Flying. The story of three Vietnam veterans reuniting for the funeral for one of their children is not only one of the best films of the year led by strong performances by Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne, but Linklater’s adaptation of Darryl Ponicsan’s novel is funny, somber, and contemplative about service, duty, wars, and those scars that linger even when they’re not seen. After talking with Richard Linklater about Last Flag Flying, I’ve come to the conclusion that Linklater excels at making hangout movies because he’s someone you’d just want to hangout with – thoughtful, witty, and laidback in his demeanor.

Last Flag Flying was published as a sequel to Darryl Ponican’s novel The Last Detail, which was famously made into a film by Hal Ashby starring Jack Nicholson in 1973. Word has spread, as it did with Linklater’s last film Everybody Wants Some!!, that film would be dubbed a “spiritual sequel.” When I asked Linklater about the term, he just shook his head and sighed. “No. There’s no such thing. It’s such a goofy term. It’s kind of an accidental term,” the Oscar nominated director said of the labeling of his movies.

“This isn’t a sequel. This is no more a sequel than Silence of the Lambs is a sequel,” Linklater said referencing the fact that Hannibal Lecter had appeared on screen before Anthony Hopkins’ iconic performance in Michael Mann’s Manhunter. “Think about it. It’s the same thing. You got a different cast. It’s the next book, but it’s not – you can’t have a sequel if you don’t have the same cast.”

Once the film started screening and the connection was made to its source material, there was nothing that Linklater or his crew could do to tamp down the sequel chatter. “That got on us before – we didn’t get ahead of it. When people got wind of the movie, other people ran stories and things. We didn’t. No one from the production ever called it a sequel or a spiritual sequel,” he said.

Richard Linklater has been trying to bring Last Flag Flying to the screen for over a decade, having been unable to secure financing in 2005. When I asked the filmmaker if the divisive political climate at the time, defined by “You’re either with us or against us,” prevented the film from getting made the director was straightforward, “Yeah. So much so that people wouldn’t want to have seen it. The dialogue in the culture – it was such an open wound – I think that creates such an urgency that no one would’ve been able to see the movie. You know, you’re so tweaked out about the war.”

Time may not have healed all wounds, but Linklater believes that it’s allowed audiences to become more introspective about the Iraq War. “I think that’s what allowed it to get made now and not then. I think we’ve got more a distance. People are ready to analyze the Iraq War the way we’ve been analyzing Vietnam for such a long time. It takes a while. When it’s unfolding in front of you it’s not the time for historical analysis,” he said.

What makes Last Flag Flying so special is the tonal balance that Linklater strikes between the film’s ample humor and its more tragic elements that deal with loss. “It’s a tonal challenge within a minefield. I guess the politics of it are, you know – all movies are tonal challenges but this was comic-tragic. I’ve made black comedies before and that’s its own little tonal challenge and fun, but I think that’s my point of view of life – it’s tragic but really funny, too,” Linklater said. “Take the comedy where you can get it, and I think the comedy serves a really specific purpose for somebody like Sal who is technically hurting; he’s PTSD, self-medicating but I think for him life it’s fun to be the life of the party or have overt fun, and he’s going to make everything fun. Mueller calls him on it. ‘You’re going to make it fun, aren’t you?’ Remember, his son is dead. It’s there but I think those two can exist, comedy and tragedy right on top of each other. Humor is healing. If you think of the worst physical conditions you’ve been in, if you’re not just alone and with other people you make jokes about it. You have some shitty job where everybody’s miserable, you make jokes about it. You have fun with other people. That’s the way you rise above your crappy circumstances. People tell funny stories at funerals. It’s a healing, reasserting humanity.”

Adding an extra layer to Last Flag Flying is a moral quandary that presents itself repeatedly over the course of the film is a question as to when omission can lead to healing.  “It’s about truth, isn’t it? What is truth? What’s a moral lie?” the director blatantly stating the questions raised in the film. “Truth is a blunt instrument. You see our culture go through it just over and over. We kind of cycle through, you know, just origins stories. When I grew up, Christopher Columbus was this great guy. There’s a new story to be told that unveils new elements of history. Okay, maybe not so good. It’s always up for play. It is truth? Or were they hiding the truth then? Some stories just become a myth that we all buy into. Organizations, governments, we need these kind of untruths to rally around. I think taking a country to war typically needs, at least since World War II, has needed a lot of untruth to wrap it into a simple story.”

“Look at the origin of both those wars and there are pretty profound lies that allowed both those wars to happen,” Linklater continued. “Without that you don’t have anything to rally around – weapons of mass destruction, mushroom clouds, and Gulf of Tonkin, and communist aggression. These are big exaggerations, more than specific lies. The leader is often – ‘It’s too nuanced for the moron masses to understand. I’m just gonna give ‘em a lie to move our agenda forward that they’ll all buy into. Do you want to get blown up? No? Then we’re gonna have to go to war.’ So here we are all are.”

Linklater does find it troubling when private citizens are held to a higher standard than those who make the calls for war. “I don’t like it when everybody else is being questioned. ‘Are you for the war or against the war? Oh, not for the war then you’re unpatriotic.’ They get away with that every time,” he said.

“If people will allow [patriotism] be reduced to something – a football player taking a knee, which is a reverential thing to do in the first place – is unpatriotic and doesn’t like their country. Wow. Where does that come from? There’s not one guy on the sidelines who doesn’t like his country and appreciate the opportunities they’ve gotten from this country, that doesn’t mean they’re not supposed to care about our countries ideals and question equal protection under the law, some very fundamental tenants of what we think our country stands for. A little less easy judgement about peoples patriotism or their love of the flag, love of the military, and a little more analysis of what might be bother the fellow citizen maybe you could learn something and learn their point of view,” he continued.

Even trickier than the tone of Last Flag Flying is the manner with which the film deals with the larger political aspects that loom over the events of the film, wading in a political subject without ever become a divisive or preachy polemic. “It’s a bit of a minefield. As a storyteller, I’m just trying to represent the points of view of my characters. They’re a little all over the map,” Linklater explained.

“Clearly, they have a big wide range of feelings,” he elaborated. “I can’t tell you who they would vote for. I know Mueller wouldn’t have voted for Trump in the last election, but Sal might have. Sal might’ve just for a nice little fuck you vote. Trump offered that to people. Who knows? I don’t particularly know them in that way. It’s a little all over the map. I didn’t want it to be too speechifying. I didn’t want it to be a polemic in that way. I wanted to show their lives from their points of view. You know, it doesn’t matter what I think of these wars.”

Capturing the tone and comradery of military men wasn’t as difficult for Linklater. He just followed the lead of the of the book’s author and co-writer of the screenplay Darryl Ponicsan. “A lot of that is in Daryl’s book. He’s a Navy guy. He did his hitches,” the director said. “Being around military guys, it’s a rapport. They’re very funny and edgy. I wanted to represent that, and how much they complain and bitch, like anybody trapped in any kind of hierarchy. The military is that. I just don’t buy these kind of false heroics – ‘Oh, I have a heroic subject, so I’m going to treat it so.’ They don’t. They make a lot of noise. They’ve earned the right.”

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

No Responses

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Trip to Spain
Now on Blu-ray: Another Delicious and Delightful Journey with ‘The Trip to Spain’

Who could’ve guessed in 2010 that an improvisational comedy with Steve...

Wormwood
With ‘Wormwood’ Errol Morris Once Again Redefines Documentary Filmmaking

What is truth? Is there such a thing when dealing with...

Last Jedi Press Conference
How Does ‘The Last Jedi’ Differ From ‘The Force Awakens? Rian Johnson and the Cast Explain

A little over a week ago, at an undisclosed location in...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Laser League
These Lasers Cut Straight to the Chase – Laser League Impressions

Don’t blink for a second or you’ll be destroyed by a...

A Way Out
A Way Out is a Game That Truly Understands Co-Op Gaming

EA and Hazelight announce a Friends Pass Free Trial for co-op...

Jupiter and Mars
[PSX] Explore the Technicolor Apocalypse with Jupiter and Mars

I know it’s wrong, but Jupiter and Mars kind of makes me...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

9.5/10
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

viz media
Viz Media Digital Manga Update for November

TLDR Viz Media announced its digital manga update for November will...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Dexcharge Power Bank Review
The Power to Catch Them All – Dexcharge Power Bank Review

GGTR Game Series Power Banks ensure you have the power, and...

Manga Spice Cafe Box Review
A Taste of Summer in Japan – Manga Spice Cafe Box Review

Get a taste of summer in Japan with the specially curated...

Manga Spice Cafe
A Little Taste of Japan in a Box – Manga Spice Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered what Japanese People snack on while they...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
AXS TV Closes NJPW’s ‘G1 Climax 27’ With Four Episodes From The Final Weekend Beginning Friday Oct. 13

Los Angeles, CA (Oct. 11, 2017) – “Rainmakers” and “High Fly...

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Rocky Romero has created an auction to raise money for UNIDOS por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

I’m The costume was worn by Rocky during the final Roppongi...

Douglas Lima Defends his Bellator Welterweight Title Against Rory MacDonald at the Forum on 1/20

LOS ANGELES – One year removed from its previous event at...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

batman ninja
Is That Racist? – Batman Ninja Trailer

Nope, this is not a joke. Set to release on DVD...

Cultural Junkdrawer ‘Avengers Infinity War’: Analysis, Conjecture and Outright Lies

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Analysis Conjecture Outright lies   A nearly second...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...