‘Alright, Alright, Alright’: 30 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Dazed and Confused’ for Its 30th Anniversary
Thirty years ago, one of the most influential, star-making films of the 1990s was released in theaters. And no one cared. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused was a flop at the box office, but as time passed, the critics’ darling kept drawing people in via home video. By the end of the decade, Dazed and Confused would outgrow the “cult” label and be recognized as a bona fide comedy classic.
Three decades later, Dazed and Confused is still held in the highest regard, while its cast and crew have gone on to award and box office success. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, here are 30 facts about the coming-of-age comedy…
‘American Graffiti’ for the ‘70s
After the success of his independent film Slacker, Gramercy Pictures wanted to make Linklater’s next movie, which the filmmaker described as “An American Graffiti for the ’70s.”
Keeping Small Stakes
Linklater said, in the film’s “Making Of” documentary, “I always saw the movie as we’re dropping in on May 28, 1976. It’s the last day of school, and we get to know all these people — both high school people and junior high people going into high school, and we spend one evening with them, and what happens in this one evening is what the story is. There’s no one huge dramatic arc, but there’s a lot of little ones.”
It Wasn’t Meant to Be Nostalgic
Linklater has explained, “I didn’t want it to be this fond look at ‘oh, what a great era — if we could only return to that time.’ This was a shitty time. It’s always a crummy time. If you’re a teenager, it’s tough no matter when and where. It’s always going to be difficult.”
The Led Zeppelin Connection
Dazed and Confused was named after the Led Zeppelin song of the same name.
Jason London’s Character, Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd, Holds the Movie Together
According to Linklater, “The way the script is structured, it kind of centers on Pink; he’s sort of the through guy, which is a really tough part. I’ve said it before: I don’t think Jason gets enough credit for holding the whole movie together. He’s not the guy with all the jazz, all the business, but if you don’t care about him, if you don’t have a feel for him, you’ve really got nothing.”
How Linklater Prepared His Actors
The first thing Linklater did with every actor cast was hand them a mixtape, informing them, “This is what I think your guy would be listening to.”
The Movie Made Matthew McConaughey an Actor
Dazed and Confused was McConaughey’s first movie. He was more interested in becoming a director than an actor back then, but he randomly met casting director Don Phillips in an Austin, Texas bar, and the two hung out for hours. By night’s end, Phillips encouraged him to pick up a script for a movie he was casting called Dazed and Confused.
McConaughey Came Up with ‘Alright, Alright, Alright’
While hosting Saturday Night Live, McConaughey told the story about being asked last minute to do the scene where he’s picking up the redhead. Having to improvise his lines, McConaughey pondered on what his character was all about: “I tell myself, ‘Wooderson’s about four things: he’s about cars, weed, rock ‘n’ roll and chicks.’ I look around where I am. Well, I’m in my ‘70s Chevelle; that’s one. I’ve got Slater riding shotgun, so I’m definitely getting high; that’s two. And we’ve got Ted Nugent playing ‘Stranglehold’ on the eight-track; well, that’s three.’ At this point, I hear over the intercom, ‘Action!’ And I look up across the drive-thru at this redheaded intellectual, and I say to myself, ‘Buddy, you got three out of four. Alright, alright, alright!’”
“Alright, alright, alright!” would be the first words McConaughey ever said on film.
McConaughey Based Wooderson on His Brother
During a Howard Stern interview, McConaughy said of Wooderson, “I know who this guy is. It’s who I thought my middle brother was when I was 11 and he was 17. And it was through the back window of my mom’s car, going to pick him up from school one day because his car was broken down and she’s looking for him outside the school, and he’s not where he’s supposed to be. Well, I see him out the back window, leaning against the wall, knee out, foot up against the wall, smoking a cigarette in the smoking section — he was the coolest.”
An Extremely Stressful Pizza Party
Joey Lauren Adams recalled the casting process for Dazed and Confused being incredibly stressful because, once the roles were narrowed down to a few actors, the producers decided to throw a pizza party where all the finalists for every part would socialize as a handful of different characters. Adams said that while it was supposed to be a fun party, it was the exact opposite.
There Was a Lot of Improvising on Set
“(Linklater) encouraged everyone to write their own stuff, to try their own scenes, which is kind of amazing to me that he gave us all that much freedom,” Ben Affleck recalled in an interview.
Improvisation Was Always Part the Plan
In the ‘Making Of’ documentary, Affleck remembered getting a letter from Linklater saying, “If the finished product of the movie is ‘as written,’ it will be a massive underachievement.”
‘That’s What I’m Talkin’ About’
At some point during pre-production, Linklater realized he needed to include the phrase “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” more throughout the script because “people were always saying that in the ‘70s.” Then, during his first conversation with Rory Cochrane, who was cast as Slater, Cochrane suggested, “I was thinking for my character, no matter what anybody says, I’m going to say, ‘That’s what I’m talkin’ about.’” It ended up being the character’s catchphrase throughout the film.
‘Wipe That Face Off Your Head’
Parker Posey’s line, “Wipe that face off your head, bitch” was improvised. She’d previously heard “Wipe that face off your head” in college when performing a bad translation of a Bertolt Brecht play.
It Was a Tumultuous Set
Linklater butted heads on-set with producer James Jacks, who ultimately had final authority over the film. To illustrate how it felt, Linklater compared himself to the freshmen getting paddled in the movie: “I felt I was being the one paddled and kind of running for my life, yet trying to fit in somewhat and get along.”
The Actors Had a Good Time, Though
Unlike the director and producer, the actors on Dazed and Confused hit it off during production. They all partied in the same hotel each night and did activities together like rafting. Several compared it to summer camp.
Parker Posey and Joey Lauren Adams’ Scene
Posey and Adams bonded so much that they insisted on adding a new scene for the two of them, as their characters didn’t interact in the original script. The scene involved the two of them drinking and talking about their moms in the back of a car. Sadly, the scene was cut for time.
Swing and a Miss
Wiley Wiggins had never touched a baseball before playing Mitch, a freshman who is an excellent Little League pitcher. Linklater tried to play catch with Wiggins on set to teach him some pointers, but Wiggins was so terrible that a stunt double was used when Mitch pitched.
McConaughey’s Key Line
McConaughey said that Wooderson’s line, “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man — I get older, they stay the same age,” provided him with everything he needed to know about the character.
Linklater’s Most Personal Character in the Film
When asked which Dazed and Confused character was most like himself in high school, Linklater responded with Mitch.
The entire film was shot in Austin, Texas.
The Movie Lead to a Lawsuit
Several characters were named after people Linklater knew in high school. Eleven years after the film’s release, Universal was sued by Bobby Wooderson, Richard “Pink” Floyd and Andy Slater, claiming defamation and emotional distress. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
An Expensive Soundtrack
Approximately $1 million was spent on getting the rights to the film’s famous soundtrack, or nearly one-sixth of the film’s budget.
A Lead Balloon from Led Zeppelin
Linklater approached Led Zeppelin about including the song “Rock and Roll” for $100,000. They refused. Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” was the most expensive song, which cost $80,000.
Linklater’s Lack of Music Royalties
Linklater feuded with Universal over the soundtrack, as they wanted to save money by having modern artists re-record the songs from the 1970s. Linklater eventually convinced them to use genuine period songs by surrendering his royalties for soundtrack sales.
A Lot Was Left on the Cutting Room Floor
The first cut of the film was two hours and 45 minutes. The final cut was 95 minutes long.
Universal Studios Didn’t Believe in the Final Product
After the film was cut together, Universal decided not to give it a wide release.
It Was a Box Office Flop
Dazed and Confused, which had nearly a $7 million budget, made only $8 million in theaters. Cole Hauser, who played Benny, recalled, “When it came out, Gramercy released it, and it came and went. It was a weekend, literally. It made no money in the theaters.” Hauser didn’t realize that the movie was becoming a cult classic until years later when he went to a Blockbuster and saw the movie packaged in a box set with Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Becoming a Cult Hit
Posey recognized that it was becoming a cult hit much sooner. The film was released on September 24, 1993, and a month later, Posey attended a Halloween party where she was surprised to find someone dressed as her character.
And Now, a Cultural Icon
Today, the film consistently ranks among the greatest films of the 1990s. Among its many accolades, Quentin Tarantino named it among his Top 10 films, and the Texas Film Hall of Fame gave it the Star of Texas Award.