Ethan Hawke is, for a lack of a better term, a straight shooter. He's not the type of actor who, when discussing the new film he's promoting, makes it sound like something it's not. In our recent interview, Hawke, now 42, described the Warner Bros. thriller "Getaway" as a "popcorn movie." As someone who does interviews for a living, I like interviewing Ethan Hawke.
Hawke, if you've been paying attention, is having a nice year. In fact, between the critically acclaimed "Before Midnight" (below, Hawke theorizes about where the franchise can go from here) and the financial success of "The Purge" (a film that cost $3 million to produce and earned $83 million worldwide), it might be Hawke's best year yet. He hopes to continue that momentum with "Getaway." The film stars Hawke a former race car driver who is blackmailed into performing a series of vehicular infractions across the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. (Selena Gomez and Jon Voight co-star in "Getaway," which features one of the most exciting single shots of the year.)
All of that, of course, might just be a warmup for what's next: "Boyhood," a movie that takes place over the course of 11 years, which Hawke has been filming with frequent collaborator Richard Linklater since way back in 2002. Ahead, Hawke discusses that film, "Getaway" and how his first film, the flop "Explorers," made it all possible.
Last time we spoke we had a nice discussion about the Lisa Loeb "Stay" video that you directed.
Oh, yeah. It's funny, I showed my daughter that video the other day on YouTube. It's so funny, there it is! I was like, "Wow, you just get it right there."
When that song was popular you'd have to wait for MTV to play it.
Now you can just play it and watch it over and over again, until you're sick of it.
Your daughter didn't get sick of it, right?
It's a great video.
I like it.
I feel this is the year of Ethan Hawke.
You've had a nice year.
Between "Before Midnight" and "The Purge," it's a big year.
It is. It feels in some ways -- and my life has always felt this way -- there's certain chapters, you know? There was the "Dead Poets Society" chapter. Like, for five years I was the guy from "Dead Poets Society." And then started the whole Gen X period.
Did you like being the guy from "Dead Poets Society"?
[Pauses] I didn't like or not like it. I was incredibly insecure about getting any kind of notoriety. As a young person it's scary, because it's kind of defining you. And you don't feel that you're definable yet. I don't even know who I am and I'm reading in the paper that I'm this kind of person. I didn't know I was that kind of person.
Do you think that attitude is the reason that, now, as a guy in his 40s, you turned out relatively normal? As opposed to other people who became famous at a young age?
Yeah. I think I've been very fortunate that nothing happened too fast. And I never took it extremely seriously. The irony for me is that I think the best thing that ever happened to me -- as far as a life in the arts is concerned -- is the failure of "Explorers." I was 14 years old and this movie was supposed to be huge.
It was rushed, wasn't it?
Yeah, it was rushed.
Because they really wanted a summer release.
Yeah. And they thought it was going to be huge. They spent a fortune on it and it was a giant fiscal and critical failure.
But people like it now.
I know! Isn't that funny? But what it did was prepare me to not believe the hype. I so believed the hype on that. It was going to be the next "E.T" and my whole life would change. And nothing changed. So, I've always had a healthy kind of disdain for anything where people are trying to hype you up. To answer your first question about this year, -- this has been its own weird, unique year, but for me, it's 20 years in the making. My relationship with Richard Linklater has been one we've been working on and building -- and it's nice that people are relating to "Before Midnight" the way they are, but we're just doing our thing and it's working out.
And "The Purge," Jason Blum and I started our own theater company in 1992 and he and I have been talking about how to thread the needle in Hollywood. You know, we go see movies and say, "They spent $90 million on that piece of shit? What the hell?" I've always been a proponent of I'd much rather make 10 films for $3 million than one film for $30 million. A good idea, make 10 of them and I guarantee that four of them will work.
"Before Midnight" was my favorite of the three movies.
A lot of people feel that way. Which is remarkable because people were angry at us when we made a second one, thinking, Oh, you're going to ruin "Before Sunrise."
But now you have so much goodwill, I don't think many people would be against the idea of these happening every eight or nine years.
Yeah. I think we'd need to be allowed now to have one that is maybe a little less -- well, we could maybe go in a digression. I don't know what it would be. But, it also may be over. They actually work really well as a trilogy.
To be honest, part of me wants another one and part of me doesn't.
That's how I feel. I feel the first two, to me, really ended on this huge open-aired thing. And this one is a little bit like that, but there's a resolution to this. Even her line about a space-time continuum -- you know, the implication in this movie is that we're all floating through fucking space and we're all going to keep floating through time. This is what we're doing. And we could keep showing it to you, but it's, in a way, you just saw it.
I'd love a fourth, but if Jar Jar Binks showed up or something ...
I know. And I have a slight fear, too, because there's something I love about -- "Before Sunrise" opens with a 40-year-old couple fighting on a train. And then you come slowly on us. So, if you watch all three of them, it feels quite full circle. So, by the end, we're the 40-year-old couple fighting on the train. So, in a way, I feel like if we make a fourth, we have to start from scratch. And try to do another trilogy. With Jesse and Celine, but you could start like an "After" series -- you could do "After Dark," or whatever. You know what I mean? Now we're starting a new thing.
I must admit, it was hard to come up with questions for your new movie, "Getaway." You are in a car for most of this movie.
There's nothing to say about it. What's appealing about the movie -- if something is appealing about the movie -- is its utter simplicity. It's so straightforward. It is what it is. It's designed to be a popcorn movie.
Did you now have any empathy for David Hasselhoff? Acting while driving a car?
[Laughs] I'd kill myself. Yeah. It reminded me a lot of "Tape." I was doing "Tape" in a car -- with people shooting at me.
This movie could probably not be made if the car had an automatic transmission.
[Laughs] You've got to have the "gzzzzzzzzzz!" Come on. That's why I had to have the cool hand tattoo, so that the shots would be a little bit more "mmmmmvvvvvvvvv!"
There's a pretty incredible shot near the end. The first person, one-shot car-chase scene.
That's a great shot, right? That's the best. I love that shot. And what's capable now with these GoPros and stuff is kind of exciting. I'll be really curious to see what happens to the action genre, because I bet it's going to get more and more deeply immersed in realism. Like, that shot, the sun is coming up -- that car is really driving really fast. There's no CG.
Blowing through intersections with cars traveling through them.
Boom, they're really running red lights. And I think more and more action movies are going to to be able -- the quality of these tiny cameras are getting so high. Did you see "Bellflower"?
That was very interesting. They managed to make that movie fantastic looking -- a lot of it while fucking with it in post. Making half the frame out of focus -- you can do it on your goddamned iPhone ... the kind of movie that I was successful making in the '90s aren't really being made anymore.
"Reality Bites" probably doesn't get made today.
"Gattaca" doesn't get made today.
And I can't remember the last time I saw a true romantic comedy in a movie theater. It's been at least two years.
Even longer for me. "Hamlet" wouldn't come out today. No way. So I had to start working in genre films to stay relevant and try to tell politically interesting stories using the genre. I feel like it's the '50s. Like, I had to make some Roger Corman drive-in movies to keep the indie spirit alive. That's where independent cinema is living right now.
"Boyhood" sounds amazing.
I finished it yesterday.
Will that come out next year?
I'm in the second to last episode. They are doing one more in November. It will be at Sundance or Cannes or Berlin or something next year.
Is that the most interesting thing you've ever been in?
Yeah. It's the most truly original, revolutionary thing I've ever been a part of.
On the first day of shooting, back in 2002, did you ever think, We are never going to keep doing this?
If it wasn't Rick [Linklater], I would have thought that. I had already known Rick for 10 years at that point. I had already made four or five movies with him ... and this is about growing up and the little moments that define our identity that aren't about your bar mitzvah or your first time you had sex. There are these signposts that are supposed to be meaningful -- prom, or something -- that aren't really meaningful. The movie is going to be -- I don't know what people are going to make out of it -- but I do know it's the damned most original thing I've ever been a part of.
In 2002 when it started, the parents are going though a divorce and it opens with the mom -- and you don't see me. And then I come for a weekend visit the next year. The first scene I did was with a 7-year-old boy ... and I take this 7-year-old boy bowling -- and I'm chain smoking in a bowling alley, which was legal then. And I finished yesterday and I'm 42 years old -- I was 33 when I did my first scene -- he's 19. He's a grown man! He's got crazy ear rings and he's taller than me and he's intimidating. Just acting in the movie felt like nothing I've ever done.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.