Actor and writer discusses career (and Sony hack) at BAFTA retrospective.
Ethan Hawke has said that he is “grateful” for the dialogue roused by the cancellation of The Interview’s release, commenting that censorship “makes writing important”.
In a retrospective of his career at a BAFTA, the Training Day and Before Sunset star said: “Two things are to blame for that censorship: the weakness of Sony and the scumbags who are threatening people. It creates an interesting dialogue for us, so in a way I’m grateful to it.
“The second they censored that movie and the second these terrorists say they’re going to kill somebody: wow, you’ve just made that piece of art important. There’s something awesome about that. Now everybody in the world wants to see that movie, and they will.”
Hawke spoke at length about his body of work with director Richard Linklater. “My career and Rick’s are forever entwined,” he said.
Praising the uniqueness of the concept for Oscar favourite Boyhood, shot over 12 years, he said: “It was a grand experiment, a Herculean effort of patience. There is a lot of love in that movie. Dead Poets Society is a lot like Goodbye Mr Chips, Training Day owes a great debt to French Connection - but Boyhood: I’ve never seen that movie before.”
He also spoke about his and Linklater’s love of naturalism, describing the creation of realistic, novel-like characters as “the goal of my life.”
Linklater should be praised for giving interesting roles to women, he said. “I feel it is really important to note how few opportunities women have in film to really be women, three-dimensional women.
“The one thing about Julie [Delpy] and Patricia [Arquette] is they’re not one thing. Patricia is a lover and a mother, a teacher and a student, a good mother and a bad mother, gorgeous and unappealing. Men, we get that all the time.
“Women are often asked to either be character parts or to be some idealised version. Most of the time they’re asked to be naked or dead. So Rick is a very beautiful filmmaker in that regard. If you think it’s not on purpose, it is.”
The reason behind this was Linklater’s disappointment with the dominance of the “male view” in Dazed and Confused, he said. “He was adamant in both Boyhood and the Before trilogy that the film have a wiser viewpoint than that.”
Hawke also spoke about actors who have affected his career. River Phoenix was “a severely upsetting person,” he said. “I’d always felt like a Charles Dickens character but I wasn’t anywhere close to Dickens the way that River was.
“When he did My Own Private Idaho, I really feel that when people are looking around today about lesbian and gay rights, people forget what a groundbreaker River was. He was a full-blown teen idol, a Justin Bieber teen idol. James Dean has got nothing on that kid.”
He also spoke about his admiration for Philip Seymour Hoffman, saying that after winning the Oscar for Capote he did not “cash in” and “do a Marvel movie” but instead approached “one of his heroes” and used his success to get Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead made.
“That was Phil’s ethos,” he said. “The old school 70s actor. The actor who was going to put real life onscreen, who wasn’t there to look pretty, wasn’t there to be a bigshot and win awards.”
Hawke explained how other actors have helped his career. “Winona [Ryder] got me the part in Reality Bites – the studio never wanted me for that movie. Denzel [Washington] got me that part [in Training Day]. Philip Seymour Hoffman got me the part in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead. I’ve always owed a lot to other actors.
Describing his novel-writing, he said: “I had a real disinterest in celebrity. I was really worried about basing my self worth on other people thinking you’re a bigshot.”
The actor-writer said he is waiting for his children to “grow up a little bit” before he releases his next novel.
Hawke recently finished filming Born to be Blue, a biopic of Chet Baker.