SFTV kicked off the third season of The Hollywood Masters series with a visit from actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke. Hawke sat down with Stephen Galloway, executive features editor at The Hollywood Reporter, to talk about everything from his career in film to his personal beliefs.
On Rules and Storytelling
“As a parent, you’re forced to do something that I’d never really thought about before, which is have rules, and [it’s] funny, ‘cause I always hated rules,” Hawke said. Nevertheless, he does believe that the rule of storytelling is very important; storytelling gives us the ability to make sense of our lives and shows that we are not alone. “And in fact, all of us [have] some deep powerful wounds, some not so. See, but all of us have our own issues, and I believe in the healing restorative power of art and communication. And so that’s probably my rule. But that doesn’t apply to bedtimes. And stuff like that,” he said.
On the Joy of Acting
Working on Dead Poets Society was the first time Hawke felt he truly acted, where he separated himself from the character he was playing. “The absolute joy and beauty of acting lies in the absence of personality, is the fact that you can disappear, the fact that you can wear someone else’s clothes, or speak in a different way than you were taught to, and still you are you,” he said. “I’d never had the experience before of losing my identity. Peter [Weir] was shooting these long takes. And it was really, really beautiful, and so you know, when Robin [Williams] just grabbed me and said, ‘Remember this,’…for me it was extremely meta, you know. Because I’ve been chasing that moment my whole life. You know, I mean that was acting, and I’ve had it only a handful of times since…it’s just this thing that happens where you don’t even remember how it goes. And that’s always the goal, is like getting away from yourself, and feeling yourself in service of a metaphor.”
The American Talent Myth
Hawke expanded upon the American Talent myth, describing it as the idea that talent comes naturally. When Stephen Galloway asked how Hawke achieves naturalism in his acting, Hawke simply said, “Well, rehearsal. That’s the great myth, nobody ever wants to work hard. The idea that we’re born with [it] you know, we’re either Marlon Brando, or you’re not. You’re either Bob Dylan or you’re not. And people want this magic myth, you know…regular ordinary, hard work is not enough for some people. And Lee Strasberg picked up [that] it’s rehearsal and living and embodying your character in a way that you’re actually seeing the world through their perspective.”
Working with Richard Linklater
Hawke has worked on a number of films with his friend, director Richard “Rick” Linklater. “You know, I intuited from Rick this idea of a lack of drama…a lot of movies that I love end up making me feel like shit about my own life. And what I love about Rick’s movies is it makes you want to be in your own life, your life’s more interesting than that. I mean…that’s kind of the prevailing philosophy. Which…people find this so pretentious, and I don’t know why I don’t, but I don’t find it pretentious, but I know other people do, but that’s what Chekhov was going after. And the reason why I, why Rick and I, I, my whole life as an actor, have been aspiring. I love that idea of putting real life on screen. And that, and the enemy to putting real life on screen is plot. ‘Cause our life doesn’t have a plot, we’re living our life right now, but this day has no plot, it has no beginning, middle and end.”
Hawke went into detail about the creation of Boyhood, which was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. “Rick always viewed the movie as a memory. It was already a memory in his mind, like what do you remember about your childhood, is it college moments? It’s never the big moments, never the first beer or losing your virginity, all that stuff. He had this line; he’s like when that stuff happens you feel like almost an extra in a movie of your life. Like but the real stuff was just hanging out with your friends, or being on a swing, or you know where you just try to [pause] one of them being I remember saying to Rick, ‘You know one of the most-I remember the first moment I realized that there were no elves.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, we got to get that in the movie. Right, I love that moment.’ And the whole thing just evolved. It was a long decade-plus dialog about childhood and growing up and it was so fun. I’m so sad it’s over.”
Read the entire transcript of Ethan Hawke’s Hollywood Masters interview: click here.
The Hollywood Masters interview series examines the careers of Oscar-winning filmmakers, major artists and successful executives, with The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Galloway and presented by LMU School of Film and Television.