Patricia Arquette attends the "Boyhood" New York premiere at the...

Patricia Arquette attends the "Boyhood" New York premiere at the Museum of Modern Art on July 7, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris

Patricia Arquette has had a successful career in film ("True Romance," "Ed Wood," "Lost Highway") and TV ("Medium," "Boardwalk Empire"). But she'd never before been cast in anything like writer-director Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," shot over a 12-year period. The critically acclaimed film, which follows a boy (played by Ellar Coltrane) from age 6 to 18, features Arquette and Ethan Hawke as divorced parents. Lewis Beale spoke with the 46-year-old actress, who also will be starring this fall in a newest iteration of the "CSI" franchise.

What did you think when you heard about this quite offbeat project?

I thought, yes, please want me for this part. I wanted it because I had a son who was 12, and had seen how fast his childhood had gone. I thought we're humans, we're organic, it goes very quickly. I couldn't imagine how hard it must have been to get financing, and it wasn't the craziest commitment, time-wise, for me.

Speaking of the time commitment, how did that work out over the years? Was there a specific time you shot every year or what?

Linklater would make a bull's-eye of a certain time period. Every time I'd get a job, I'd call them first, and say, "When are you guys thinking of shooting this year?" You can't contractually oblige someone for longer than seven years, so it was kind of done on the honor system. The longest was 15 months in between shoots. It was usually three days of shooting, but it was a lot of work; every year, you had to get a new production staff.

What kind of input did you have into the story line?

The first time I talked to Linklater, he gave me the outline of the film, and those always stayed the same; and a few months before we shot, he'd tell us a scene, and we'd talk about it. I'd say something like, "My daughter said this to me," and he said, "Let's put that in." He would type it all up. We put everything out there, but he chose what went where. You had to have a real openness about this project, and for me that was kind of exciting. There were times I wasn't sure how to play it.

You play a single mom raising her son, and while the film was shooting, you were raising children of your own. How did that affect the story and your performance?

It affected it a lot; I understood this bond mothers have with their children. Also, I was a single mother with my son , and I turned down my first great part to have him. I knew what it was like to be a single mom and struggle. With my daughter , I saw things going even faster -- just life, the older I get, the faster it goes. Your whole perception of time changes.

What do you think Linklater wanted to say with this project?

I don't know if he had an agenda, but what I took away from it was these little moments of life are how we define ourselves and each other, how we bond together. At the end of this movie, I felt close to everybody I love. I missed my mom more, my dad more. This is a film about human beings, and we don't have a lot of those movies.

You come from an acting family. Your father, Lewis, and grandfather, Cliff, were actors. And your siblings Rosanna, David, Alexis and Richmond have all become actors. Was that expected of you?

No, my parents struggled a lot to raise five kids on an acting salary. I think my mom and dad were a little disappointed when I told them I wanted to act. But we did grow up doing improvisation, and my dad was always talking about acting.

Any advice he gave you about the business?

My dad said you work your butt off, you do your best job, and then you leave it there. There will be a lot of rejection, but don't take it personally.

You were also raised on a hippie commune at one point. What was that like?

It was so formative for me. It wasn't a free-sex kind of commune; they were all products of the '40s, and they talked about comparative religion, race relations. There were a lot of families, a lot of spiritual conversations. I learned about Islam from my dad, who converted to Islam in Virginia in the '70s. My parents were very spiritual people, they were very connected. They fought about many things, but religion wasn't one of them.

You will be starring in a new "CSI" series, "CSI: Cyber," this fall. What's it about?

It's all cyber-related crimes. We have brought this technology in, and we don't always understand how it works. I like working in network TV, because it's basically free entertainment for people, it's for the masses.

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