Ethan Hawke has been having such a good run of late that it’s easy to forget that the actor/author/sometimes filmmaker, experienced a creative dry spell some four to five years ago, appearing in subpar efforts not worthy of his talent (“Daybreakers” or “Brooklyn’s Finest” anyone?). It therefore must be especially sweet for Hawke that 2014 is shaping up to be one of the best years of his career.
This summer saw the release of what’s arguably his best reviewed film, Richard Linklater’s hit indie drama “Boyhood.” And this fall Hawke debuted his documentary debut “Seymour: An Introduction,” at the Telluride Film Festival to rave responses. The documentary was swiftly acquired by Sundance Selects following its world premiere and is now playing at the New York Film Festival, signaling it as a possible Oscar player in the documentary category.
The talk was freewheeling, covering everything from “Seymour” to Hawke’s time spent making “Dead Poet’s Society.” Yet the highlight (for this writer) came when Hawke summed up the quality he most loves about Linklater’s work. It’s a subject Hawke knows all too well, given he’s collaborated with the Texan filmmaker a whopping eight times (on “Before Sunset,” “Before Sunset,” “Before Midnight,” “Waking Life,” “Tape,” “Fast Food Nation,” “The Newton Boys” and “Boyhood”). Read what he had to say about Linklater’s “school of thought” below:
“When making ‘Before Sunrise’ and Julie [Delpy] kept saying, ‘Maybe we should hire someone else to write some jokes’ — that the movie wasn’t fundamentally very funny. And that it’s going to be incredibly boring. Rick said, ‘I’ve been in a rehearsal room with you for five weeks and I’m not bored. If anybody’s bored, then I’m not making the movie for them… I’ve never been in a plane crash, I’ve never been involved in any government espionage. I’ve never had a machine gun fired at me, yet my life’s been full of trauma. The most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me is actually connecting to another human being.’
“And Rick said, ‘What if we could make a movie about that? What if we didn’t have to hyperbolize life? What if we said, wow, life is amazing enough, we don’t need Woody Allen to write our jokes. It’s funny enough.’
“There’s a scene in ‘Boyhood,’ which is a weird combination of something my son said and something Linklater really believes. The kid says to me, ‘Do elves really exist?’ It’s that moment where you discover that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. I say, ‘No, whales do.’ That’s my line. That’s what I said to my son. ‘What if I told you there was this amazing mammal that lived in the ocean, you could drive a car through his heart and he sang songs and his friends came, wouldn’t you think that’s magical?’ The kid says, ‘Yeah, but are there elves?’
“That’s kind of the base line of Linklater’s feeling about life. Everybody wants it to be something radical and yet they’re missing the fact that it’s radical the fact that we’re here tonight. That’s kind of the Linklater school of thought.”