Richard Linklater is a filmmaker with a discrete array of skills, but perhaps none is more impressive than his ability to develop new talent. With the August 16 release of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, his twentieth feature, the Austin director is introducing another newcomer to the screen: Emma Nelson, the young actor (she was cast when she was in the eighth grade) who plays Bee, the film’s protagonist. Bee drives the action as she searches for her mother, the titular Bernadette, played by Cate Blanchett. While it’s far too early to tell whether Nelson will become a breakout star, a quick look at some other talents whom Linklater helped before they were big names suggests it’s a definite possibility.
1993’s Dazed and Confused launched a lot of careers, but none is more connected with Linklater than McConaughey’s. His big-screen debut as Wooderson set him on the path to joining Hollywood’s elite; he would win an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.
School of Rock, in 2003, was the first time Linklater worked with a cast primarily of kids, among them the nine-year-old Cosgrove. The hit film led her to parts that included the title role in Nickelodeon’s iCarly.
Her nonspeaking screen time in Dazed is so minimal that she barely made this list. But her small role translated into a huge career, which included an Oscar for 2003’s Cold Mountain. Her star turn in the Judy Garland biopic hits theaters in September.
Got There Early
Playing the love-to-hate-him bully O’Bannion in Dazed helped the future Batman transition from minor child roles to bona fide stardom and Oscar-winning filmmaking (Good Will Hunting and Argo).
Her domination of the nineties indie film world began after Dazed; she reunited with Linklater four years later in SubUrbia before settling into a career that has included roles in everything from hit movies (You’ve Got Mail) to TV (Lost in Space).
Poots had one speaking role, in the hit movie 28 Weeks Later, before Linklater tapped her for 2008’s Me and Orson Welles. Things quickly took off from there with a slew of projects, including Round Rock native Riley Stearns’s The Art of Self-Defense.
Plucked From TV
Glee fans already knew Jenner when Linklater cast him in 2014 as the lead in Everybody Wants Some!! Since then, he’s starred in the 2018 thriller American Animals and teamed with Zellweger for the Netflix noir What/If.
The Austin native became known for Scream Queens before appearing in Everybody Wants Some!! His other recent projects have included Hidden Figures (he played astronaut John Glenn) and Netflix’s Set It Up.
High School Musical star Efron got his first dramatic feature role as the lead in Me and Orson Welles. Most recently he starred as killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile and as McConaughey’s bud in The Beach Bum.
This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Linklater Links.” Subscribe today.