Richard Linklater’s last film to appear at Deadline’s The Contenders event was three years ago with Boyhood, which was filmed over the course of 12 years and went to be a major player during awards season. He returned last month year for our 7th annual kickoff event at the DGA Theater, and in front of a packed audience of AMPAS and key guild members explained why his latest movie actually took almost as long as the shooting of Boyhood just to land in front of a camera.

As part of the Amazon Studios presentation, Linklater told me he first wanted to make Last Flag Flying around the time of 2005 or 2006, but timing just didn’t seem right. So with co-writer Daryl Ponicsan he restructured the script and finally got it right as a bridge between two wars — when three Vietnam vets (Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne) take off on a road trip 30 years later to bury Carell’s Marine son, who has been killed on duty in the Iraq War.

Linklater talks about the unique comic tone for such a serious storyline, in particular one scene in which Carell laughs uncontrollably while travelling with his boy’s coffin. He also talks about the trepidation he had in showing this film to military veterans, hoping they would understand the film’s true nature.

Check out our conversation above.