Hawke Flying High On Life!
an emily blunt interview
guy's one of those multifunctional men, a Swiss army knife of
people. He also happens to exude a smooth ready to pounce energy
that is, frankly, refreshing.
Ethan's 100% alive and has decided to grab his world by the cahounas.
No one thing is all things for this Cuteyassnarus Rex.
He's going to try different things, experiment with careers, and
be artistical to the tenth power.
the opening of his first long length directorial debut, Chelsea
Walls, Ethan sat and chatted about DV production, getting
it all made and working with Uma.
Hawke's got an eye for picking work that won't pigeon hole him,
and his directorial debut is no different then his acting choices.
His goal, ultimately, seems to be wanting to take DV to a different
level, make a film of beauty combining friends, experiences and
sacrifice long hard hours behind the lens to get there. No short
cuts with a short cut medium for him!
may notice the theme of Chelsea Walls is reminiscent of Dylan
Thomas' Under Milkwood, which ironically was written at the Chelsea
Hotel. Here Hawke's film also touches into the private lives of
people, and paints a montage portrait. As the scruffy handsome
cutey said, "Our idea was to do Under Milkwood Bohemian Manhattan"
Enough babble on with the Hawke:
So you're just over the whole Academy Award high huh?
Yeah, I had the flu for two weeks had to purge. I had a social
hang over. You can't get that much attention and not feel sick
to your stomach at some point.
Are you hoping that Training Day's glory
at the show will bring people to Chelsea Walls?
Yeah, sure, I have to admit I don't have the highest aspirations
that Chelsea Walls is going to top the box office do you know
what I mean? You don't really make a movie like this
your primary agenda
it's helpful. Getting the press, getting
that kind of venue. I really loved making the movie.
I'm really proud of it so, you go out and hawk Warner Brothers'
stuff so why not go hawk your own? I think it undoubtedly helped.
[An unspoken question came to mind: How much hawk can one hawk
if you're name is Hawke, Hawke?]
Why the choice of Chelsea Walls for your directorial debut?
Well there's some skepticism about whether it was a good
choice [laughter]!! You know for me in many ways this movie was
an extension of a theater group we all had together. And something
that when I got married and had a family I didn't have that in
my life anymore. I wanted to do something really experimental
I had seen celebration I felt like digital cinema
was the wave of the future I felt like God you make a story, a
movie for so little money that you have so little obligation to
your financiers to be
you can make a specialized movie for
a certain group of people. I just don't think that was possible
in the same way a few years ago. So I always
this play this young woman had written about the Chelsea hotel
and I was her you should send this out to certain vendors
could make this a great movie
It's out to lunch and neat!
And when Celebration came out she [author Nicole Burdette] called
me up and said "Still wanna do that? We can probably afford
to do it now." So I said lets do it
we decided on a
whim like that. Really I just looked at the whole thing as an
experiment I had no idea
I think it's really a success for
the movie that it's finding its way out at all.
me he was a real natural choice
I've known the writer Nicole
Burdette for a long time. I always kind of felt she
had this really special unique voice. My brain works so associatively,
some people's brains work a narrative way you know a beginning,
middle and an end. I'm a little A.D.D. like that. I'm doing a
tapestry. It sounds a little weird but to me the movie's a collective
consciousness movie. We all think we're these creative artistic
people, I'm an individual that needs to be heard and yet we're
really kind of a collective. There's people desperate to be heard,
but, wont take the time to listen.
You're really a Swiss army knife of people! Is there anything
you don't do?
I like THAT! A Swiss army knife of people! That's
cool! I don't
I try not to do crack
away from crack! [laughter] Yeah, because I started acting so
young I think I gave myself permission to try other things and
it's hard. I try not to be precious about it. I try
to do other things that use the advantages I've been given, the
success I've gotten to experience and have to get to have an interesting
How about the casting?
Part of how you cast a movie like this, when Nicole [Burdette]
conceived the play it would have no reoccurring characters you
know? It would literally be a collage, a bunch of people. And
I was like okay that is less interesting to me you have
to have some kind of threads through this piece. I would
speak about the movie and it was going to be a jazz movie. The
movie was kind of jazzed the way we would riff with this one person
and then another person would take over. It wasn't leading the
way that jazz was structured, but in a different kind of way.
That was our idea! So we thought we've gotta have some actual
jazz in the movie! So maybe we should get, if he was alive-we
could get Miles Davis and something to play this little part.
She [Burdette] had written this little part . A little hustler
musician thing. Frank Whaley, one of the actors, actually said
you should really go hear Little Jimmy who was playing that night
went over and to see little Jimmy is to love Little Jimmy.
So I asked him to be in the movie and we conceived this whole
thing of the bar and Uma could be work in the bar
lots of different ideas of how to weave the hotel's life together,
little Jimmy is just one of them.
Little Jimmy insisted on singing the song he does in the movie
was perfect. But, I knew the rights to that song would
be more than the budget of the film! I kept saying, "Little
Jimmy it would be so great to hear you sing one of the
ones that you wrote! Everybody's Somebody's Fool maybe?
I have an in with you... He's like "yeah, you know in the
Chelsea I wanna sing Yellow Sky" Also Wilco the band that
did the score, Jeff Tweedy did the whole score. I had him do the
whole score, and it was one of the few songs they both
then Yoko [Ono] gave us the rights for free! [laughter]
Yoko's off the bad list! [laughter] She agreed cause she loves
Little Jimmy. It had nothing to do with me or the movie. She said
anything Little Jimmy wants.. . She said anything that would help
Little Jimmy! She'd heard Little Jimmy's cover of that song thought
it was magic and said he should have it.
Very cool. I loved the subtle use of color.
Yeah! Each storyline has its own color. There's a blue
room, a yellow a red room, Kristoferson's room is void of any
primary colors. That's a total rip off of Alphonso Cuarón
when he did Great Expectations he inundated the whole movie with
green. It's a totally far-out thing to do. And when you're doing
people think you're a little nuts because they'll say, "
I have a great idea I'll wear this hat" and you're like "Is
it red??? Cause everything in this room has to be red!" And
they're like "that's going to be weird." And it's not
weird you don't even really notice
your eye doesn't really
notice. But, it gives the image some continuity and the truth
of the matter is with DV you have to work extra hard to make it
deliberate and provocative so blue room and Uma's room is all
gold and hippied out, each one of these had a timeless feel. Kristofferson's
room is kind of set in the sixties
weird feeling the way
the Chelsea Hotel is. So he doesn't have any of the primary colors.
Then the Uma's is the seventies the whole hippie vibe with the
yellow, and then the eighties is the invention of the steady cam
and it's all floaty around like that. Then the nineties is all
red and hand held, available light. So, I tried to give the movie
that kind of continuity. I don't think I would have the guts to
do DV if I hadn't met Richard Linklater [indie writer/director
great - Tape, Waking Life, Slackers].
really wanted the movie to be color inundated. Did you see Buena
Vista Social club? That's what really turned me on to doing this
color inundation thing, not only the Alphonso film. That movie
was so beautiful. Celebration was great, but it didn't
look great. Buena Vista social club looked great! It looked like
a watercolor! Cuba
they walked into a room and everything
would be green. The colors were kind of blurring outside on the
water! I thought it was really beautiful. This guy who photographed
the movie, Tom Richman and I. We weren't going to apologize for
DV we were gonna make it dv and try and get what was beautiful
about it. We thought if we did this inindation of color it would
it would feel like it was painterly
feel like a watercolor. And I think it comes off.
Finally, gotta ask, how was it to work with Uma [Thurman -his
She was the one person who didn't take me seriously as a director
you know. It's just the way it goes. I was like
"Okay we really have to get this shot of you walking out
of the hotel right at sunset!" blah, blah
hmm, let's do that one tomorrow
" "We're doing
the shot at sunset
" and she'd say " no, um I really,
um, nah, Mia's tired " [their daughter] I'd inevitably I'd
say yep "okay, tomorrow
we'll do the sunset shot tomorrow!"
Doing a movie like this is a giant negotiations of schedules.
Okay Little Jimmy's in town on the 11th. Kris only has a week
to do his thing. Steve's starting his movie and has x days, so
Uma was really the one I abused. Okay Kris is gone, Bob's gone
lets shoot your stuff [laughter] of course it's now four in the
morning and I'd say "okay, I'm ready for you lets' shoot
your stuff! " [laughter] She's there you know?
the thing about Uma that separates her from our generation of
actors is she's worked with some of the best people working in
Quentin Tarantino, Gus Van Zant, Terry Gilliam, James
Ivory and Phillip Kaufman. She's worked with so many filmmakers.
She's been about of that whole aesthetic of cinema. You separate
yourself form the whole
this town is so oriented towards
Did she give you direction?
[laughter] No, she didn't. She's very nice actually, of course.
Why I bring that up is that she has a very high bar of what a
set is suppose to feel like
And what kind of creativity
is supposed to go on. Ultimately I'm so grateful for her to be
in the movie she really helps in so many ways!
is he sweet or what? Obviously the man is filled with joy right
his first directing job is out and being seen, he just
had an Academy Award nomination, a new son to add to the beautiful
daughter and wife family set! But, after speaking with him and
the way he enthused about his friends-that he has worked with
for years (prefame and on) I felt this guy's genuine. Ethan's
a genuine talent, human, and creator. If you dig art-house films
check out Chelsea Walls. If you are into action packed films that
give you an actual plot with neat closure
skip it, rent Training