'Boyhood' Star Ellar Coltrane On The Differences Between Him and His Character in 7 Key Scenes

If you're under 25 especially, to watch Boyhood , Richard Linklater's epic, expansive new film, is to feel like you're watching your life on-screen. Gender, age, generation — it doesn't matter, because it's all there, in vividly detailed, achingly nostalgic glory. Yet for Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood 's star, watching the film is watching his life. Although the movie is fictional, a creation of director Richard Linklater's imagination, much of it is was inspired by the events in the life of his lead actor over the course of the 12-year production.

"It’s all kind of interwoven in that way," Coltrane tells Bustle. "Most of what Mason goes through is very much the story. There’s not many of his experiences that are really familiar to me. But emotionally, and psychologically – I think that’s where my input and comparison to my own life came in. Even if I hadn’t exactly experienced the things that Mason was going through, there was always a place in my life that I could compare it to."

We asked Coltrane to break down seven of Boyhood's key scenes and tell us what's him, what's Mason, and what's something in between (warning: spoilers):

The haircut

When Mason is a pre-teen, his angry, alcoholic stepfather forces him to get a buzzcut, a traumatizing event.

"He [Linklater] had actually asked me to grow my hair out before that so they could shave it off. That was a big moment, I think, that he had planned. Just very traumatic [for Mason], but I was kind of ready to have it cut off by that point [laughs]. It’s pretty hot in Texas."

His First Moment of Disillusion

A few years past his Harry Potter stage, Mason asks his dad if there's any magic in the world and receives a depressing, if expected, response.

"I think my parents never really tried to tell me Santa was real or anything like that. ... I think I’ve always just kind of looked for the magic in real life. I wasn’t really led to believe many things as a kid — my parents were pretty upfront with me from a pretty young age."

Underage Drinking

In middle school, Mason and friends get invited to camp out with older boys at an abandoned house. While there, they gossip about girls, drink beers, and do other typical, inane teenage boy things.

"I think I had a lot of experiences like that around that age, but I think that was something Rick definitely [experienced] — he'd had that scene written from memory or something. He kind of felt it out and made sure that I had experienced something like that, that I had probably drank a beer, but a lot of that is pulled from Rick's childhood, also."

Getting Ridiculed For His Appearance

Jim, Olivia's new, Army vet husband, chastises Mason for his nail polish and earring, not understanding why a teenage boy would choose to look so "feminine."

"Most of that stuff came from me and what I was doing. I think that's probably the biggest part of me that’s on the screen, just physically, a lot of my hairstyles and that kind of thing. Certainly the earrings — I think I called Rick and asked him, when I was getting it pierced, and he just said, like, 'Oh, is that something people your age do?' And then it was in there [laughs]."

The Darkroom Speech

In high school, Mason develops an interest in photography, but is given a tough, no-nonsense speech by his teacher about the importance of work, not just talent.

"I was interested in photography when I was young, and that’s kind of why Mason became interested in that ... and I think I had a similar conversation with my dad. A lot of it’s like that — even if the situation is very different, so much of it goes through, the moments and ways that people try to help you. So much of the movie is men trying to tell Mason what to be and trying to impart some kind of wisdom. It’s a lot of what growing up is."

The Technology Rant

In the car with his girlfriend, Mason rants about how dependent everyone is on technology, especially social media.

"All those philosophical rants were just conversations I had with Rick at some point. ... I’m less long-winded these days, I think [laughs], but yeah, the points he says were my opinions."

Leaving for College

Toward the conclusion of the film, a calm Mason readies to leave for college, while his mother falls apart. Soon, he sets off for school, and Boyhood ends with him settling into his new home, hundreds of miles away from his family and about to begin an entirely new stage of life.

"It’s very strange, the place that I’m in right now, just being in that position of not going to college, but headed on my own. My parents — they got their own stuff going on [laughs], they’re happy. But it’s strange having the movie come to an end right when the project of creating the movie comes to an end. It’s just been such a large part of my life and something that’s just always been there, this obligation. To have it be finished and have it be received the way it has — it’s just been such a whirlwind. So it’s very overwhelming, but ... I don’t know. I’m excited to do new things."

The Soundtrack

Throughout the movie, songs from different years of Mason's childhood — "Yellow" by Coldplay, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley — play in the background, evoking nostalgia and helping the viewer place scenes in time.

"I don’t think I was much help when he [Linklater] was picking the music, just because I’m never really listening to current music. But even still, even though most of those songs weren’t things that I was actively listening to at those times, it’s incredible how they bring back those times. Even if I don’t remember who a song is by, I remember it was there when I was around, it was on the radio or something. It still has that effect on me."

Images: IFC Fims (8)