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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After 12 years of filming "Boyhood" and a year promoting it, director Richard Linklater is finding it hard to fathom saying goodbye to a project that he calls deeply personal in its reflections of the modern American family.
"This film and the way we shot it for so long, I don't think it even feels like it's over, and it won't maybe until we quit all being together," Linklater told Reuters.
Up for six Oscars on Feb. 22 and a front runner for the best picture top prize, "Boyhood" has been lauded for doing what has never before been done in cinema - filming the story of a boy as he grows into a man, using the same cast over 12 years.
Released in theaters last July, "Boyhood" captures the coming-of-age of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to 18, as he and his sister are raised by their single mother (Patricia Arquette) and see their father (Ethan Hawke) on occasion.
"I think 'Boyhood' hits a lot of people as it's similar to the way they grew up, so many people have families that aren't by-the-textbook perfect," said Linklater, the writer-director of films including "Dazed and Confused" in 1993 and "Before Sunrise" trilogy between 1995 and 2013.
"It does say a lot about the ever-changing family unit and the notion of family."
"Boyhood" has so far made $44 million worldwide after being made for a budget of $4 million, according to movie tracker BoxOfficeMojo.com. Both Arquette and Hawke are nominated in the Oscars' best supporting acting categories while Linklater is up for best director and screenplay.
"Boyhood" won three categories at Britain's BAFTA awards including best film earlier this month, and also received the coveted Golden Globe for best drama in January.
"You can't make a film like this and expect it to be so widely embraced," Linklater said. "We feel very fortunate that audiences and critics have appreciated what went into it and what it's about."
The film has put its distributor, AMC Networks-owned IFC Films, in the spotlight for taking a chance on Linklater's arduous project.
"It's been a banner year for us," said Jonathan Sehring, "Boyhood" producer and president of IFC Films and Sundance Selects, which has an additional two Oscar nominations in the best actress and foreign language film categories.
Oscars talk for "Boyhood" began right after the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year, where critics raved about the story, Sehring told Reuters.
Working with Academy Award strategists, Sehring decided to release the film in July rather than fall, when a lot of award contenders hit the big screen, in order to allow "Boyhood" to grow through positive reviews and filmmakers' guild screenings.
The success of "Boyhood" has also sparked an interest in IFC Films' production arm, which financed Linklater's film but closed around 2006 as the studio put its focus into distribution.
"We're exploring whether or not to get back into the production business," Sehring said.
"AMC Networks is working with great storytellers, be it something like 'Breaking Bad' or 'Mad Men' or 'Walking Dead,' so will we get back into it? We're looking at it seriously."
Editing by Clelia Oziel