Have y’all heard this one?
An Austin guy walks into a bar (Hole in the Wall, to be exact) and runs into an old friend, filmmaker Richard Linklater. Linklater just so happens to be hanging out with one of his friends, actor Ethan Hawke. Over a game of pool, Linklater and Hawke tell said Austin guy about their next film collaboration. It sounds really cool, so the Austin guy says, “Hey, somebody’s gotta play the ‘wacky uncle’! Why not me?”
And that’s how Bill Wise scored a role in Boyhood, one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2014.
Full disclosure: I’ve known Wise for years. We worked together back in the day, so it was a nice surprise to see him in the film. Y’all might recognize him from other Linklater projects like Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, and Waking Life. His 20-plus years in acting is studded with roles in film and television, voice-over work, and commercial jobs. He’s also an award-winning writer and producer, and can be spied around town playing with his band, The Gay Sportscasters.
Wise settled in Austin in the late 80’s, after an assignment to write about SXSW exposed him to the city’s charms. Since then, he’s been picking up acting jobs while raising a family and exploring opportunities in his adopted hometown. Steady acting work has been hit or miss, but he doesn’t think moving to New York or Los Angeles would make his career more satisfying. “In Austin, you get to diversify your creative outlets,” he noted.
As Boyhood’s 12 years of production unfolded, Wise wondered if the role he half-jokingly suggested would ever materialize. He waited a decade before even rehearsing with the film’s stars.
Wise said he enjoys working with Linklater because the director trusts his actors to deliver great material on the fly. Wise added that his scenes as “Uncle Stevie” were shot in a day, without a traditional script. “Rick had a basic outline with certain beats and moments, but the actors were afforded a lot of leeway,” he explained.
Though he considers Linklater his favorite director, Wise isn’t content to sit around waiting for a call from his friend. He’s got several projects in the works, including leading roles in the films, Krisha, and Pangea. He’s also very enthusiastic about Master Class, a web comedy where he plays the role of a C-list acting coach. Produced in association with Chateau Godot Productions, he’s hopeful a successful Indiegogo campaign will help finish the series.
Boyhood is the biggest thing Wise has done so far. The film has racked up a table full of awards, and is a favorite to pocket more, including some coveted Oscars. “I knew Boyhood was going to be unique and something special, but I was hardly prepared to be a part of cinematic history,” he mused. “Having cachet with Rick has opened other doors.” Wise is eager to go through as many of them as he can.
Here’s a video of Wise as “Tom ‘Tomcat’ Perkins” in Master Class:
Featured photo: Production still from From the Gut, by Jay Hollingsworth.