Ethan Hawke: Art is turning into a business form

Actor, writer, director Ethan Hawke was special guest at the American Independent Film Festival that took place in Bucharest this autumn. I had the wonderful opportunity to film the Q&A that followed the screening of the movie Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. But first, let me tell roll back in time to a story that is so old and yet so alive in my mind.


The joy of filming international actors is endless, especially if the actor is one of those few whose work you have been admiring ever since you were in school. I have a very lovely story. When I was 13 I went to and English Camp in Bacau County and Mrs. Leslie Hawke came as a teacher for me and my school mates. We had no idea who she was, but we were anxious to play games with her. I remember it was one of the games: name two of your favourite American actors. And my team said Ethan Hawke and uma Thurman ( the lead actor from Gattaca). Then Leslie Hawke revealed to us that she actually was Ethan’s mother! I remember us kids going insane! There were no cameras and cell phones then, like there are now, but I saved that memory anyway as it very close to my heart.

When you are being directed by somebody you are just working together. You don’t try to think about how great somebody is, you’re just trying to do your job. Sometimes you have frustrations, but we walked on the street and he said: I learnt so much from that commentary. The director would say: I can’t do a million takes! Give it to me! What do you got? He loved to rehearse, but at times he would do just one take, which used to drive the actors crazy. He didn’t suffered fools gladly and he cared a lot about acting. Hunt for the truth, do the scene and move on! (Ethan Hawke)

The truth is to meet a director and see what kind of art they want to make. It’s like playing in a band. You play bass, that’s your thing. Some of the singers what to sing rock n roll and others want to sing the oldies. You can prepare yourself like an athlete to be in shape to be able to do a lot of things. But if you have one way of working… There is no right way at all.  I’ve worked with people whom I thought were complete morons and they made really good movies and I was wrong. I’ve also worked with some talented people and we got lost. We didn’t make anything worth watching. Marlon Brando said a perfect quote about it: You have to spiritually marry your director. You have to some how find what they’re doing and make it better. You have to protect them when they are going in the wrong direction. You have to move with them. (Ethan Hawke)