INTERVIEW: Ethan Hawke talks ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Predestination’

boyhood-ethan-hawke1-600x421There’s really no other way to put it…Ethan Hawke is on one hell of a ride right now. He’s been pretty consistent his whole career, rarely appearing in anything that really made you wonder about his choices, but now he’s just on another planet. Basically, beginning in 2013 when Before Midnight blew most of us away, through all of last year when we got to witness Boyhood (as well as us lucky few who saw the document Seymour: An Introduction that he directed), Hawke has really become a steady part of the awards season conversation. As such, it was a pleasure to get to speak to him again, this time about his nifty new genre film Predestination, which is going to make Sarah Snook a star, I believe. We touched a bit on Before Midnight and Boyhood as well, though at times we just talked about life and how years bring perspective (along with the one prior conversation we’ve had, which oddly enough took place in a bathroom…I didn’t include that here though). It’s a good chat, and the highlights I picked out can be seen below. Predestination is out this week (my review can be found here) and is well worth seeing!

On the run of critical favorite films he’s been on and the moment he’s currently having

Ethan Hawke – You know, that’s the goal man, to have people like it. Sometimes it doesn’t happen! It’s always the same goal though. It’s strange actually, and kind of funny. You spend your life in the arts, you can go in and out of fashion. I remember, I’ve always kind of felt that at least if you stay consistent, if you do come back around again you won’t look like an idiot because you weren’t chasing the fashion. The rules are always changing. I remember I got to do a movie with Sidney Lumet before he died, with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). Sidney was going to shoot the movie on digital video and Phil and I were adamant that it be shot on film, because we really wanted to have that old school “Sidney Lumet” look to it. Sidney walks up to us and says “you just want it to look cool and vintage. Don’t worry about that, time will go by and do that. I’ve always made every movie as frugally as I could, whatever was the most cost efficient way to achieve the goal. That’s what I always did, and believe me, in 20 years this movie will look cool and vintage just like Dog Day Afternoon.”

How the passage of time changes how work is perceived

EH – It’s so true! You know, you think about which movies really last through time, it’s rarely the films that win Best Picture, you know what I mean? Oftentimes, like if you go to the Film Forum or revival houses and the movie that are really showing are often genre movies. Genre movies that had a depth to them and were usually ignored in the moment, though sometimes a movie that wins Best Picture or whatever. I mean, Gone with the Wind is still great! You just, I’ve made movies…I remember when I made Gattaca, we couldn’t buy a good review for that movie, and now 15 years later or whatever and it’s the movie most often that people want to talk to me about.

On how Predestination might launch Sarah Snook to star status

EH – Oh, if I could wish one thing, it would be that. I remember doing Gattaca and it was Jude Law’s first mainstream movie. I remember thinking that Jude was special and had something to offer. I felt that way working with Sarah. Her performance is just off the rails and if this was in some little indie darling movie about a (mild spoilers) transgendered person, she would get all kinds of accolades. But instead it’s just a little genre movie. Her work is phenomenal. That’s where the Spierig Brothers show their intelligence too, casting her and pushing her through the system. You know there was a great pull to star cast that, but if they did, you’d just be watching the person act, you wouldn’t be in the story.

The uniqueness of a Richard Linklater art film being in the Best Picture hunt

EH – I don’t think so either! I mean, even last year with Before Midnight, we couldn’t have gotten better reviews. That movie was as well reviewed as 12 Years a Slave, but we were never even in the dialogue. At a certain level, I thought that just when I thought it was impossible for anything to slip through the corporate vortex, somehow Boyhood happened. Somehow people related to that movie. It surprised Rick and I as much as anybody. Who would have ever thought? It’s amazing! You don’t make something like Boyhood or the Before trilogy or Dazed and Confused or Waking Life in order to make hits. I remember vividly walking out of the theater after seeing Slacker wondering who the hell that guy was? And then making Before Sunrise, not that the filmmakers were in common, but I felt like for the first time I was meeting the sort of filmmaker that I’d read about. Fassbinder, Godard, Rohmer, you know, Truffaut. All those people you read about in the history of cinema who were just forward thinking.

On if he plans to direct a narrative feature again in the future

EH – You know, I want to try again. The documentary has been good for my confidence. For me, I do so much professional acting that if I want to direct, I need it to be something that I care so much about. It’s hard to have that passion for something that people want to invest money in. You know, one of my ideas is something that no investor would leap to. So, recently I’ve been trying to dedicate myself to a screenplay I’m working on that I want to direct. I’ve been trying to force myself to try and get the screenplay to a higher level. Maybe it was the experience of Boyhood, but I’ve been learning to be more patient, realizing that you don’t get many at bats in this life. You want to be ready before you get your swing. The world is not that forgiving a place!

There you have the best bits of my really enjoyable chat with Hawke. Be sure to check out Predestination this weekend and of course Boyhood if you somehow haven’t gotten around to that one yet.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!