Linklater supporting Tiede in court the same day. Photograph: Kevin Green/AP
Was he not worried about taking in a convicted murderer? No. I did for a second worry that I was dropping him in on my family, and they hadnt met him. He smiles. Its not every day that, hey, someones going to be living back there, and hes murdered somebody. But if my family of all families cant deal with that And hes been great. Hes an incredibly nice, generous man, who did a horrible thing 20 years ago. He watches our animals. I have a small pet pig and he reads the paper to it every day. Pigs are unique in that way; they like people treating them as equals. Hes just there, helping out in any way he can.
But this month Tiede has been on trial again, with prosecutors arguing that the murder was premeditated and the courts were wrong to reduce his sentence. He could be sent back to jail for life, and Linklaters anxiety is obvious. The week after we meet, he is due to speak in court on Tiedes behalf. Im primarily there to give witness to how well hes been doing these last two years.
How would his girls feel if Tiede were sent back to prison? Oh, it would be devastating to everybody who knows him. It would be horrible. No, it would really shake up a lot of people to see the state of Texas be this cruel and crazy.
For Linklater, Texas is a muse of sorts, representing the best and worst of America. Theres a real openness and friendliness to people. Its not snobby. And the worst? We just executed a mentally retarded person. It can be a pretty unforgiving, Old Testament system.
The very worst of Texas, he says, is represented by creationist Ted Cruz, candidate for the Republican nomination for the presidency. Cruz to me is more scary than Trump. He actually believes what he says. Trump doesnt believe anything hes just a needy narcissist. Cruz is seen as the smart guy, but nobodys asked him: How old is the world? Do you believe in biology? Because he doesnt.
Linklater has been telling his daughters to observe the contest closely, because America might not witness another like it. Ive seen every presidential election since the 1960s, and this is the craziest ever. Its the commodified stupidity of the political dialogue in the US. The divisiveness. Its all attitude and personality, like a reality show.
Linklater is already feeling nostalgic for Obama, and believes well look back at him as a political giant. But, typically, he doesnt talk about policy or achievement; he talks about Obama the dude. We havent tipped our glass to Obama yet, and were going to because there is such vast dignity and intelligence. He never embarrassed our country, not once. Not once. Hes so classy, and his wifes so classy. People give people hell when they screw up, Clinton and stuff, but nobody says: Think how much sex Obama has turned down in his lifetime. The more Linklater talks, the more I feel Im with the guy in the cab, shooting the breeze in Slacker all those years ago.
You think he couldnt be getting a blow job? he continues. Just the discipline and the bigger vision of what hes here for in the world the restraint hes shown. Hes got Michelle, I say. Yeah. Come on, though, hes a guy!
Is he supporting Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for the Democrat nomination? Im kinda liking Bernie. Ive waited for a candidate like Bernie Sanders my whole adult life, so when theres a guy there whos actually professing it, you have to support him. Im a natural socialist.
For now, though, Linklater is more concerned with the fate of another Bernie. A couple of weeks after meeting in LA, we speak again. Linklater has given his evidence for Tiedes defence to no avail. Tiede has been sent back to prison for 99 years or life. Im heartbroken, Linklater says. It wasnt really about truth or justice, it was about getting a win for the prosecution and they definitely won this round. But hopefully the legal process is open to another round and the truth can come out.
Trump, Cruz, Texan bigotry, Bernies reconviction: look, he says, hes aware how bleak the world can be, but despair is not his bag. Hes going to keep campaigning for Tiede, focus on all the positive stuff out there: his girls, the good people, the movies he still wants to make. People talk about how ambitious Bruce Springsteen was, because he had 500 songs in him that he wanted to express. I felt that way, and I still do. Like a musician, Ive still got so many songs in me.
Everybody Wants Some!! goes on general release on 13 May. The Guardian is hosting a special preview screening on 4 May at the Barbican, London EC2, followed by a Q&A with the director.