The Eternal Question of Nose-grabbing

One of the weirdest, lingering things about Dazed and Confused, a movie I was in when I was 15 or so, is people’s reactions to one scene where I touch my nose and hair a lot. I probably get at least one letter or instant message about it a week, and it’s over a decade later. From what I remember about shooting it (which isn’t much), I touched my face quite a few times already (it was a nervous habit) and then after editing it looked like I did it twice as many times. Anyway, I got a comment on one of my photos on Flickr that was pretty much the standard comment, and for some reason I actually thought about it a little today, and decided I would post something, in the hopes that the subject would be put to rest.

i was just wondering if u remember this.. the scene in dazed and confused ( i know the entire movie by heart its one of my favs) when there are a hole bunch of ppl standing in front of the emporium and u are talking to the girl who plays sabrina and then jodie comes and shes like o ‘ did i hear my name over here? are you usy talking about me? hey kiddo i heard they got you pretty bad! and i told them to take it easy on you’ and then you are like ‘ god no wonder’ well in that scnene ( i counted) you toched your face like 7 times in a row!! and shook ur head back and forth for like a minute and a half. i was just wondering if you rmember doing that. me n my pal wre laughing for hours and hours cuz u kinda looked retarted lol

And here’s my response:

Last time I checked, 15-year-olds have a tendency to, in fact, often do retarded things… like join a photo-sharing site just to post one semi-literate comment on someone else’s photo.

It’s funny how the mannered, rehearsed performances in hollywood movies have got us so conditioned that when we see someone acting like a normal, nervous kid, that it seems so jarring.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say about the nose touching stuff. I was googling “mitch nose grab dazed” in the hopes of finding a picture of myself in the act of the dreaded nose grab, and instead found a lot of instructions for the Dazed and Confused Drinking Game where you have to take a drink every time it happens, and also this snippit from an interview with Rick Linklater in The Idler:

Idler: I liked Mitch’s nose-grabbing mannerism.

Linklater: Yeah, you don’t see those reality flaws too much in movies. Everything is polished. The three favourites were Mitch, Slater the stoner for a certain crowd, and for the older crowd, Wooderson. When he came aboard, the whole crew just ignited. He was the spark club. I rewrote the ending to include him, he hadn’t been in it originally. In a lot of ways he delivers what some people see as the gist of the movie: “you gotta keep living, L-I-V-I-N.” And Matthew McCaughey the actor has already been in three other movies.

Idler: What about Mitch?

Linklater: Wiley’s off doing a movie with Winona Ryder. He’s very picky. He’s a cynical kid. He’s very smart, computer hacker type. He would never take it too seriously. People are offering him $100,000 to do like dumb summer camp movies but he says, nah, I can’t do that. And he can barely pay his rent. He was perfect, because his initiation into cool had to be very subtle. From being kind of geeky at the beginning, he becomes about two years cooler than his friends by the middle of the film.

That kind of gave me a warm fuzzy, if not for the fact that I probably should have taken the dumb summer camp movies, and also if I had been a little more picky, I probably wouldn’t have done the movie with Winona. It sucked.