DETAILS: You chose an unknown actor, Christian McKay, to play Orson Welles. Did you get any pushback?
Richard Linklater: Well, yeah. People say, "Who's going to play Orson?" And I say, "You've never heard of him." That's a nonstarter in Hollywood. But think of the magic of seeing Gandhi way back in the day. If that had been Dustin Hoffman, you would have been like, "They darkened his skin! He's doing an accent!" You didn't know who Ben Kingsley was then, though, so it was like hanging out with Gandhi.

DETAILS: Right, but then you cast Zac Efron. How do you think Before Sunrise fans will take that?
Richard Linklater: I've never seen High School Musical, but within 20 seconds of sitting and talking to him, I knew he was perfect. I have rarely met somebody less conflicted about his ability.

DETAILS: As you get older—you're nearly 50—does it get harder to identify with the young people in your movies?
Richard Linklater: I have this incredibly acute emotional memory of every age I've been. Initially, School of Rock was set in the fourth grade. And I said, "No, it's got to be fifth grade. That's the year you start misbehaving."

DETAILS: Let's test your memory, then. What's stuck with you from your time working on oil rigs after you dropped out of college?
Richard Linklater: That the dirtiest were the Zapata rigs that the Bush family used to own. They had the worst food. They'd give you beanie weenies while everyone else was giving you fish or steak. Guess they were funding Junior's run for governor or something.