Back in September at the Toronto Film Festival, I went into Raymond and Ray (which will be streaming on Apple on Friday) knowing literally nothing about the plot. I assumed it was a cross-country buddy comedy of sorts starring Ethan Hawke and Ewen McGregor. Turns out, instead, it’s about a father dying and two half-brothers with the same name having to deal with the fallout. This is a plot that, strangely, I can relate with because after my father died in 2017, a few months later I found out, yes, I have an older half-brother with the same name that I’d previously not known about.
Poor Ethan Hawke. The publicists, understandably, were very interested in me talking to someone from this movie, all things considered. I didn’t know if he had a heads-up or not, like, “Hey, this one is going to be a little different.” From what I gather, he did not. But maybe that was all for the best. He did seem quite shocked when I told him about all this. And the thing about Ethan Hawke, he’s kind of an emotional guy and wears his heart on his sleeve. And he seemed genuinely curious about all of this and had quite a bit to say about it all, including a story about something he witnessed as a young actor that he’s never forgot. (I’m just imagining if this were like, say, Tommy Lee Jones instead. “Get over it! I don’t care!”) Anyway, in the end, this was all, strangely, cathartic.
But, first, we talk about The Grabber again from The Black Phone, a movie that made a lot of money. But, even still, I can’t get on board with The Grabber’s behavior.
Last time we spoke it was about The Grabber. My opinion has not changed. That guy, he crossed way too many lines for me. I can’t be on board with him.
Well, good for you. I agree with you.
The Black Phone did really well, by the way.
Yeah, no kidding.
People loved it.
Isn’t it funny?
Does that surprise you when a thing like that takes off?
Yeah, it’s endlessly fascinating. There are certain films you make that you really believe in. You take a movie like Gattaca. I loved making that movie, and I loved that script, and I was very aware that the people I was working with on every department were at really high level. And I really thought we were making a great movie. And it comes out and nobody cares. And then 25 years later people are still asking you about it.
Then there are other movies that you think nobody’s going to notice or care about and they blow up and audiences relate to them in a different way. And it’s always so unpredictable to me. And it’s fascinating. Performers lives, it’s all about how what you do intersects with what the kind of zeitgeist is interested in at that moment. And I’ve always believed in Scott Derrickson, that script was amazing. And I remember when I read it, I thought this could be a monster hit. I mean, it was just so entertaining. And it’s strange. It’s very rare that I would say it’s a horror movie with a heart of gold. I mean, the kids’ performances are so beautiful. And their brother and sister relationship at the heart of that movie is so good that I thought it had a chance of being really unique inside that genre. But at the same time, that’s exactly the kind of thing, sometimes you do something unique and that’s why people don’t like it. The Lord giveth and taketh away.
You need to stop dying at the end of these very successful movies you make.
I think that’s why I like them.
Because you don’t have to do another one?
I don’t have to do the sequel. Yeah.
I have a feeling we’re going to learn The Grabber has a twin brother and is up to no good.
Well, also, we’ve created the possibility for ghosts. So maybe just because The Grabber’s dead doesn’t mean he has to be gone.
So, Raymond and Ray… I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival just as a thing I knew nothing about. I thought it was about two buddies on a road trip. I had no idea it was about two half-brothers with the same name who meet after their dad dies. I mention this because after my dad died, in 2018 I learned I have a half-brother with the same name that I never knew about. I’m the target audience.
And I believe he goes by Michael and I go by Mike. So this movie really fucked with me. Let me put it that way.
Yeah, I bet. I bet. I mean, that’s crazy.
A difference is we have not met. He doesn’t seem very interested in meeting me. So you two in this movie have a much better relationship than I have with my half brother with the same name.
Sorry to dump this all on you.
No, I mean, I’m really glad you did. It goes to show you, all of our lives, we think, with our own family dynamics, that the pain and hurt of our life is so unique to us. And then the more you read, the more you realize that a lot of the things that we’re feeling most deeply are shared feelings that other people have out in the world and that they actually can relate. You know what I mean?
I don’t exactly know what I’m trying to say, but I’m sure had you heard more about the movie before you went to see it that you wouldn’t have gone?
I wouldn’t have gone, no. It’s funny, after I saw it I made a sarcastic tweet about how two half-brothers with the same name was too unbelievable. I heard from the publicist who thought I didn’t like the movie and I had to explain. I think at first she thought I was kidding.
You should write the sequel called Michael and Mike. Isn’t that fascinating?
Fascinating is a good way to put it.
And who knows, we don’t know how life works. Fifteen years could go by and you guys might end up really close or you might never meet.
I’m betting on the latter.
Well, it’s amazing to me how complicated fathers are. Like, how the hell did your dad could keep that from you?
I know. Unlike in this movie, my dad and him had no relationship. The best way it was described to me, when I first found out about all this in 2018, my friend told me, “To you, this is like a Wes Anderson movie. It’s whimsical. And you reach out and call him. To him this is a David Lynch movie. This past he’s trying to not think about and all of a sudden some dude with the same name calls up and goes, hey, I’m your brother.”
It’s funny how everything is point of view, isn’t it? I mean, I often say that to my kids when some situation presents itself. It’s like, think about this like it was a movie. Are you the good guy in this movie or are you the bad guy? And how do you think this movie will end?
Yeah, I might be the bad guy.
You’re John Candy and he’s Steve Martin.
Yeah, I didn’t know if you were going to get a heads up about this particular interview with me or not, so all of this, the movie, is kind of like therapy. I really don’t like to talk about it much anymore.
Well, I mean, I’m sorry to say this, but I also think that’s the point of drama is to make us think about things that we don’t have a forum to talk about in other ways.
I mean, you go see something like Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and your mom’s not a morphine addict, and blah blah. But when you get into the details of family intimacy, invariably, I mean you have a huge thing to relate to, but invariably you find uncovered truths that force you to think about things. That’s the value of drama, because thinking about things in general is good.
Yeah, one thing that this movie made me think about, I’m told my half-brother’s mom named him after my dad without my dad’s input. You’ll be shocked to learn my dad’s name was also Mike. And I feel like I was named this as an eff-you to that whole situation. Because my mom wanted to name me Jeff. I could have gone with Jeff. Jeff’s a good name.
You’re reminding me of… I was once in the middle of nowhere. I mean, I’m talking, I’m at a diner in the middle of nowhere. And I’m working with another actor who shall remain nameless, but he’s kind of minor-ly well known. I mean, he’s a middle-aged actor.
Can you tell me who it is?
Let me tell you the story. And the guy’s sitting there and in walks this 19-year-old. You know, the bell rings in the diner when the door opens?
Like a movie.
Like a movie. And he looks like a younger version of the guy I’m sitting with. And this young man walks up to my friend and says, “Hey, do you know Melissa, ba da ba?” And my friend just looks at him, thinks about this woman’s name, and then after about 10 seconds he just says, “Are you my son?” And the guy says, “Yeah, nice to meet you.” And he just read in the paper that this actor was in town and just decided to come meet his father. And mysteriously, the young man didn’t want anything, or he just wanted to say hi and he left and he didn’t even give him his number.
What was that like for you? That had to be a very strange situation.
Yeah, because I was young at the time.
Were you like maybe this is how Hollywood works?
No, it was so not Hollywood, because of where we were. And it was more like what you’re talking about. It was fascinating and human and really complicated. The older father. He just asked a lot of questions about the mom, and how they were doing, and what their life was like, and how was he. And it was like a Chekhov short story or something. It was just, both people were full of so many feelings that they didn’t know how to process.
I just got a note from the publicist, “please do not print this person’s name.” I don’t even know it since you didn’t say it. So I can’t do it.
If we ever meet in person, or not recording on Zoom, I’ll tell you, but it’s not the interesting part of the story.
No, I get it.
You know what I mean?
Unless you’re like “and that man was Vladimir Putin.”
Oh yeah. “And that man was Darth Vader.”
Well, you’re right, I would not have seen this movie if I knew the subject matter, but I am glad I saw it. It was cathartic. At least you know it did hit home for one person out there, and that was me.
All right, well, I can’t wait to meet again, and thanks for being so open and talking about it.
But I’m still not on board with The Grabber. That guy is way over the line.
‘Raymond and Ray’ begins streaming via Apple TV+ this weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.