NPR Story
4:39 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

The Summer Of Ethan Hawke

It’s been a great summer for actor Ethan Hawke.

Before Midnight,” the third installment in the series of films he made with actress Julie Delpy and filmmaker Richard Linklater, opened to wide critical acclaim, giving him undeniable indie credentials. (See trailers for all three films below.)

He also had had a number one hit at the box office with the horror film “The Purge.”

“If that little magic happens again, there will be a fourth movie. If it doesn’t, we’ll be done.”

But he’s not resting anytime soon; the thriller “Getaway” opens in late August, and this fall, he’ll be tackling Shakespeare, playing “Macbeth” at Lincoln Center.

On the ‘Before’ trilogy

In an interview with Here & Now, Hawke reflected on how his character in “Before Sunrise” (1995), “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” has, at times, mirrored his own life.

“It’s a unique experience to watch yourself age,” Hawke said. “I’m also watching myself learn. That’s what’s so strange about it.”

The latest installment leaves the possibly of continuing the film series, which is the product of close collaboration between Linklatter, Deply and Hawke.

“If we all agree on where we imagine them to be, and we all want to write about the same subjects,” Hawke said. “That’s what’s so mysterious about the second and third films — we all saw them in the same place and wanted to write on the same themes. If that little magic happens again, there will be a fourth movie. If it doesn’t, we’ll be done.”

On ‘The Purge’

Hawke’s “The Purge” began as a small project among friends, and became a box office hit.

“What’s awesome about ‘The Purge’ is we made that film for 3 million bucks — it’s a little movie. A movie like ‘World War Z’ is a giant event of a movie. What’s kind of thrilling to me about the subversive nature of ‘The Purge’ is that it’s a movie that’s just based on ideas. It’s the ideas that are commercial about it. To have it do well is … fun.”

“There’s a reason why all the great actors throughout time have tried to do these parts. It’s cause they make you better.”

Hawke feels that horror movies like “The Purge” have roots in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, a play that’s steeped in blood and murder.

From ‘The Purge’ to Shakespeare

“Macbeth” has centuries of superstition behind it. Actors often don’t call it by name; they refer to it as “The Scottish Play.”

Hawke will be playing the title role in “Macbeth” at Lincoln Center in New York this fall. He tells Here & Now the play “is the first horror movie. It aspires to be as thrilling as ‘The Purge.’”

He hopes the production will be “entertaining, and on top of it have the beauty of that poetry.”

So why is Hawke taking on one of Shakespeare’s biggest roles?

“I think it’s important to scale these walls. You spend time with the most brilliant minds of humanity — Shakespeare, Chekov — there’s a reason why all the great actors throughout time have tried to do these parts. It’s cause they make you better. You know, Alec Guinness, when he came time to play Obi-Wan Kenobi, the reason he could pull it off with such gravitas is because he tackled all these parts. My hope is that somehow by walking down these parts, a little will rub off on me. And it’s also just fun — if you do a Shakespeare play well, it’s kind of thrilling.”

Before Midnight trailer (2013)
Before Sunset trailer (2004)
Before Sunrise trailer (1995)

Guest

  • Ethan Hawke, actor and director. His latest films are “Before Midnight” and “The Purge.”
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