Ethan Hawke picked up his third nomination to date this morning and his second nomination from the writers branch for co-penning the screenplay for Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight.” It’s a special mention for the actor because he, Linklater and his co-star and co-writer Julie Delpy were chalked up nearly a decade ago for the very same nomination for “Before Sunset.”
Interestingly enough, a year before production began on that 2004 mid-section to what has come to be one of the most unique trilogies in cinema, Hawke and Linklater kicked off a whole other experiment that will finally be unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival Sunday night. “Boyhood,” filmed over the course of 12 years, will tell a story of childhood and growing up, the years ticking by as Linklater and his team revisited the story consistently throughout that span of time, ending up with what will be another unique glimpse at the drama and minutiae of everyday life, the very purview of Linklater throughout his career.
Hawke hopped on the phone this morning to react to his Oscar nomination and to tell us what we can expect from “Boyhood” when it premieres this weekend. Check out the back and forth below.
HitFix: Hey man.
Ethan Hawke: Hey, Kris, how are you?
Good to talk to you.
Yeah, you, too. And thanks for that nice article you wrote.
It was a lot of fun to put that one together and focus so much on the writing, which is what you were recognized for today, so congratulations.
Thanks. I appreciate that.
Do you consider yourself a writer?
Um, I wonder if – what an interesting question. Because I write a lot. I’ve written novels and I write all the time. I’ve been acting since I was 13, so my identity is kind of rooted in that. But I do. I guess the real answer is that I do. The funny thing is that people always think that these things are so different, but I think there are a great many actors who love writing and are great writers. Because so much of acting is about sharing writing. But anyway, yeah. I’m always hesitant to say it, but yeah, I guess I do.
It’s interesting because it’s such a thing to kind of identify with. I remember when “Before Sunset” got the nomination nearly 10 years ago, I thought it was great that the three of you were credited as writers. How did that happen?
It happened on the first movie. What happened on the first movie is Rick and Kim Krizan had written a rough draft of a screenplay, something Rick wanted to use as a jumping off point. What he was really aiming to do was make a movie using the two actors and make a film about a connection between two people, which we knew would be incredibly hard to do, if we knew that’s what the movie was going to be about. It’s like, what’s that connection. So what we did is for about four or five weeks in Vienna when we were 24 years old, Julie and I, we chatted with Rick in a room and we re-wrote his script. And it was incredibly fun and exciting. Rick really empowered us and he really believed in us as filmmakers. He wanted this to be a movie that, when it was done, we felt like it was all our film. Lots of people are encouraging and ask you to be a part of something, but they never ask you to have vision. Rick was asking us to actually have vision and contribute. So when the first movie was over, we were uncredited because – it never really came up. The script was a pre-existing script and that made sense. But after it was over, Julie and I were really encouraged. Julie went off and wrote her own movies and I wrote a book. We both felt really excited by writing and the possibilities of it, and believed in ourselves in a new way. Then Rick asked us to contribute on ‘Waking Life’ and we came in and all wrote our scene in “Waking Life.” We talked about the themes and where Jesse and Celine would be if they were in a dream. At the end of that we all went out to dinner and said, ‘You know what? We should all write a movie together. The three of us.’ And we did.
This year is marked by being so dense with quality. It’s been one of the great film years I’ve had the pleasure of covering.
To have a film like “Before Midnight” survive the Sundance grind and an early-year release in May and still be top of mind for critics awards and now an Oscar nomination, to avoid the boring question of “How does it feel to be nominated,” how does it feel to be nominated in that context, in the context of such a great year?
You said how I would answer that. That’s exactly how I would answer it. It is only more difficult now than when I first started to make a personal film to have it released and have it find an audience and connect with people. It’s very out of fashion and it’s a testament to what a remarkable year this has been, a resurgence of so many movies you can point to that are the kind of movies that are why I wanted to get into filmmaking. It’s been a great year. For me, this has been an 18 year experiment that has its resolution in “Before Midnight.” So for Rick and I and Julie to get invited to this big party to end this year and to end this experiment for us, how could it not make me happy?
Well I have to tell you, I wasn’t too concerned about missing Sundance this year until you guys decided to drop “Boyhood” up there. I’m so stoked to see that movie.
[Laughs] Dude, I’ve got to tell you, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.
I imagine so. I mean, talk about an experiment.
The thing about the “Before” series is it happened slowly over these years. It happened to us, in a way. We didn’t set out with “Before Sunrise” and say, “Let’s do an exploration of male-female love over a 20-year period.” But with the 12-year [project] we did. It’s about growing up. It’s about childhood. We started “Boyhood” a year before we started “Before Sunset.” So I’ve been working on this movie – it’s just been so interesting and do all this work that nobody’s seen. I mean, the first scene in the movie, I’m 32 years old. I look great, man! At the beginning of the movie? I look great!
Yeah, that’s got to be weird to have all this stuff sitting around that no one’s seen.
Yeah. It’s awesome. And we’re gonna unveil it on Sunday night. I can’t wait.
Have you seen it yet?
Yeah. I’m like one of two people who have seen it.
What can we expect out of it?
I don’t want to over-hype it but I feel like I’m friends with somebody who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That’s what I feel like. I feel like my friend, Richard Linklater, did something really, really special. I don’t know what the world will make out of it, but it’s as unique to him as “Slacker” was. Who else in the world would have made “Slacker,” or “Waking Life,” for that matter? Or, to be honest, the “Before” series? These movies are just so Rick. I don’t think another filmmaker would be interested in these subject matters.
I remember when I saw “Dazed and Confused,” I didn’t know Rick, and there’s a little moment in the movie where he makes a big deal of – there’s a baseball game, and he films them all saying “good game” to each other afterwards.
I love that scene! It’s just so true.
It’s this little moment where you just see all these kids being taught insincerity! [Laughs]
It’s so kind of amazing, and the 12-year project is an epic about minutiae. Nobody else would make the movie. I feel really excited. The central performance of the movie is a young man named Ellar [Coltrane] who just does a tremendous job. I’m real excited to show it to people, but again, I don’t want expectations to be too high. It’s a little movie. It was made on a micro-budget. We made it on a shoestring all of these years. In a lot of ways it’s the smallest epic ever made. If you can’t tell, I’m excited about it.
Well look, man, too late on being hyped up. In my circles, anyway, people are just frothing at the mouth for this one. We can’t wait.
Well, it won’t disappoint. If you’re interested, it won’t disappoint.
Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater will receive the Louis XIII Genius Award at tonight’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.