When we last saw them, Wooderson and Slater and "Pink" Floyd were stoned out of their gourds, driving into the East Texas sunrise in Wooderson's souped-up Chevy Chevelle, off on a sacred quest for Aerosmith tickets and smoking a breakfast joint as the Foghat song "Slow Ride" played and the end credits of "Dazed and Confused" began to roll.
But that was a long time ago, man, and it was just a movie anyway -- a made-up story with actors playing Wooderson, Slater and Floyd. Right now -- 11 years after the movie came out -- the real Wooderson, Slater and Floyd are here, sitting at this long, shiny conference table in a Huntsville law office, looking older and less hairy and a bit peeved. They're explaining why they recently filed suit against their old high school acquaintance Richard Linklater, who made "Dazed and Confused" back in 1993, for "defamation" and "negligent infliction of emotional distress."
Andy Slater, left, Rick Floyd and Bobby Wooderson say the negative attention they still get irks them.
(Mark Matson For The Washington Post)
"Like, for example, the scene that shows me showing somebody how to make a bong in shop class," says Andy Slater, now 45. "I did not do that. I never did that. But they used my name and they show me making a bong in shop class."
Slater pauses for a second, then smiles. "I don't sit around the house making bongs -- dammit."
He laughs. So does Bobby Wooderson, 47. And Richard "Pink" Floyd, 46.
But their lawyers aren't laughing. The lawyers are trying to keep this whole thing very serious.
And it is serious. It's extremely serious. There are important legal principles at stake here -- such as the right to privacy, specifically as it relates to the right to avoid having everybody know what a knucklehead you were back in high school. That's why the lawyers get frustrated when all anybody wants to know about this case is: Did you guys really smoke that much dope back in high school in 1976?
Slater smiles slyly when he answers that question. "Well, I wouldn't say it didn't happen," he says. "But I don't think there was any more here than anywhere else."
"Certainly those things happened at that time," interrupts attorney T. Ernest Freeman, "but that aspect of the movie was really exaggerated, particularly with respect to our clients."
Well, of course. Making bongs in shop class -- that is a tad far-fetched.
"Oh, no, they did that," says Slater. "But it wasn't me."
Dazed and Not Amused
To fully comprehend the subtle legal issues of the case of Wooderson et al. v. Universal Studios Inc. et al., it helps to have seen "Dazed and Confused" six or eight times. Which is no problem because the movie is, like, awesome. It's an "American Graffiti" of the '70s, man.
Written and directed by Linklater, who grew up in Huntsville, it was made on a tiny budget with a cast of unknowns, including future stars Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. Linklater himself was nearly unknown then, having directed only one movie -- "Slacker," a quirky comedy made for less than $30,000.