Ethan Hawke takes aim in Assault on Precinct 13
Press conferences are usually quite boring and this one was a real snoozer. Ethan Hawke bombarded by stupid questions. That's the problem with press conferences, every journalist has an agenda and sometimes they're very different. I've mercifully cut out Hawke's opinion of the Asian Tsunami and the artful dodging of personal questions. In reference to Hawke and wife Uma Thurman splitting up last year. I just wish someone had the cojones to say, "You must really be a pimp to dump Uma Thurman for greener pastures". But there was a high point when a fellow web writer asked about the comparison between Denzel Washington and Laurence Fishburne. Hawke replies, "I wonder how Laurence and Denzel would feel to be compared to each other, because they're just both black actors". You have to love that.
Is it a pre-requisite that if a movie has snow, you're going to be in it?
Ethan Hawke: Yeah, I think so. And my fear is that when people like the directors read the script and they see snow, they somehow conjure some image of me and they don't want to cast me. I did Dead Poet's Society which had a bunch of snow scenes, White Fang, Midnight Clear, Alive, Snow Falling on Cedars. I've had a bunch of snow pictures. That's my own particular niche. I don't think anybody else can claim that one.
You didn't get the offer for Sahara?
Ethan Hawke: No, not interested.
During the Taking Lives junket, you said that you might keep doing mainstream police thrillers for a while. Is this still in that vein?
Ethan Hawke: I don't know. When we did that interview, I think I was thinking about doing this movie, right? I didn't know I was going to be doing it, but I was pretty sure that would be how it worked. After Training Day, I was looking for another – I liked that experience of doing that movie, and I was looking for another script that might feel like a ‘70s action movie.
Are you entering the action hero phase in your career?
Ethan Hawke: I don't think about it like that. I'm doing this because it's an opportunity that's never been presented to me before, and I want to do it.
Did you see the John Carpenter movie first?
Ethan Hawke: I've seen the John Carpenter movie when I was like 19 years old, and I haven't seen it since. I don't even remember it that well. I remember that I liked it. And for some reason, I didn't feel inclined to watch it again. My only problem and why I haven't done many action movies before is they tend not to have very many interesting characters. It was fun to be in a cop movie that had all these great characters. And because of these great characters that were drawn, we got a really good cast, and that makes it fun to do. Of course, it's totally different to a Before Sunset experience or doing a play like Hurly Burly. But for me it keeps things different.
Elaborate on the cast. It's a great cast.
Ethan Hawke: It's a great group of actors and I think that … the director was French and his English was … well, it was better than my French but not much. He kind of did a very smart thing. He really wanted to hire a bunch of New York theatre actors to be in the movie, because he knew he wanted people who could bring a lot to it. I've known [John] Leguizamo and Brian Dennehy and [Laurence] Fishburne for a long time. It was a very enjoyable movie to me.
Did John Carpenter stop by the set and did you meet him?
Ethan Hawke: I didn't. He never came by the set. They met before the movie and they showed him a couple of early cuts or at least one early cut. He was incredibly supportive to Jean-Francois [the director] and I think he was psyched that it was getting remade. The original movie is a peculiar film, because a lot of people don't have any idea that it even exists, and then the people that love it are fanatical about it, and feel that it's some kind of sacrilege to even make this movie. So it's just kind of a peculiar thing.
Can you compare working with Denzel vs. working with Fishburne? And how lucky are you to have such beautiful leading actresses to work opposite?
Ethan Hawke: Well, I wonder how Laurence and Denzel would feel about those two, of all of the people that I've worked with, to be compared to each other, because they're just both black actors, but they're both tremendous and both completely different, completely different men. I don't know. I've always wanted to work with Fishburne and I think he's a tremendous actor. That's the great thing about, if you get to be lucky enough to be successful as an actor in movies, is you get to work with a lot of sexy actresses. It's been a great luxury of my life, to get to meet so many interesting women.
Are you writing at the moment?
Ethan Hawke: I've trying to write a third book.
What's it about?
Ethan Hawke: I don't know yet. I really don't. It's like two books I'm trying to write. One of them's going to win. I mean, I don't know yet. I really don't. I know the theme I'm writing about, but I don't have anything to say about it yet. It will probably be years before I'm done with it.
Can you talk a little about Hurly Burly? Why theatre now? Why this particular play? And are you at all nervous?
Ethan Hawke: I'm always nervous, and why theatre? Because always theatre, theatre's been my first love. I find it very difficult to stay a disciplined, focused actor and not do theatre. I try to do one play a year. Sometimes that turns into 18 months. When I was younger I ran a theatre company. It's a great place to push your own learning process without a lot of financial risk. You do a movie, they ask you to do the same thing you've done before. There's a lot of money at risk, there's a lot of producers involved and they want to know that you can do it well. In the theatre, you're given an opportunity to risk as a performer, so that's why theatre. Why Hurly Burly? I felt like doing something really hard, to be honest. I felt like really applying myself. And in a way, this part, I don't know how well any of you remember the play, but it's a giant. It's pushed the walls of my memorization skills. I'm really enjoying that aspect of it. And it's very dark and it's sometimes interesting to play characters that aren't likable. It's an incredible challenge. And that's why to do it.
There are about a dozen Mexican stand-offs in this movie. How would you do in a real one?
Ethan Hawke: [Laughs] Terrible, I'm sure! How many real Mexican stand-offs do you think there've been in the world? I don't know.
Do you think that the trend for Hollywood remakes could have an adverse effect on film history, that people might not go back and see the original Alfie, because they maybe didn't like the remake that much?
Ethan Hawke: I wonder. Well, let's think of … it's never had an adverse effect on fiction, like a bad film of Slaughterhouse Five doesn't negatively affect the legacy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. A good adaptation often enhances a book's reputation – I'm thinking that way. So now, in regards to remakes of other film, I don't know. Cinema's always been self-referential. Another obvious example is all the Shakespeare movies. There can be another one; a good work is still a good work. I don't think that Alfie will affect the [old] Alfie, but maybe it will. Cinema's such a young art form. It's only a hundred years old! Imagine if fiction was only a hundred years old – what they thought about fiction a hundred years in, or painting, or something. Who knows where we'll go with it. The other thing is 200 years from now; they might really like the Jude Law Alfie and really can't stand the other one.
Are you proud about Before Sunrise's success in the year-end Best Of lists? And how would you classify the screenplay, because a lot of people don't seem to know how to place it.
Ethan Hawke: It's definitely an original screenplay. Julie [Delpy] and I created those characters. So to my mind, it's an original screenplay. There was nothing and we wrote it, and it could have been anything happens. It's nice that people remember the movie and that people liked the movie. Vindicated is way too strong. I was so happy to have gotten to made it. I saw the whole thing as such a victory. I never expected it to perform at the box office. It's a movie about two people. So then to be on the critic's list – it's very rewarding, mostly because I think it's very good for the legacy of the film. It gives it a good chance to people who watch it on DVD, people who find it … it's very helpful that journalists keeping it in the kind of collective conscious.
Can you talk about working with Parker Posey in Hurly Burly?
Ethan Hawke: She's one of the most gifted comediennes and it's fun to work with somebody so pretty and smart and funny. I've been a fan of hers for a long time. Suburbia and Waiting for Guffman, she's had a lot of great performances. And in the last year she was in Lanford Wilson's Fifth of July, which is one of the best performances on stage that I've seen in a while. And she's just one of those people that can hit a jag where every breath out of her body is perfect. She's so funny and alive and awake. I'm really enjoying working with her.
Dont't forget to also check out: Assault on Precinct 13