Hawke of Ages

By Tyler Daswick, Relevant

Ethan Hawke is preoccupied with three questions: why we’re born, what we’re doing here and why we have to die. They’re eternal, essential ideas. And in his latest film, the acclaimed First Reformed, Hawke is grappling with each of them. He plays a priest in an existential crisis. … Critics are calling Reformed, directed by Raging Bull and Taxi Driver’s Paul Schrader, one of the year’s best movies— and Hawke shoulders almost the entire thing. As his strain becomes evident, the viewer is forced to ask the same questions as the character. There’s a lot behind Hawke’s performance: the actor’s own formative church upbringing, a deep-rooted artistic philosophy and a lifetime of occupying other people’s minds.

Hawke take-aways:

  • “Faith is a supple and moving thing, because you see a lot of adults with different points of view,” Hawke says. “A lot of people turn off when you talk about religion because they think they’re about to be preached to or told they’re lost. My family never really did that. I grew up with a lot of different people who had very supple minds, and it made talking about why we’re born and why we’re here and why we have to die a lot more of an exciting conversation. I was raised in a dialogue of faith. I’ve always been trying to figure out how to integrate that aspect of my life into my creative life.”
  • “One of the great things about going to church is you see yourself as a member of a community,” he says. “I think it gave me a great framework to survive the pitfalls of early celebrity. It teaches a fundamental humility. One of the problems of making it in the arts is how it fans the flames of your ego. It’s really easy for young people to lose context. You need a sense of humilit to keep learning and keep growing.”
  • “The spiritual life is hard to dramatize,” he says. “Issues of faith have been omnipresent in my waking life, and yet, very few of my movies are spiritual in context. Film isn’t oriented toward what makes us alive. It loves girls taking their tops off. It loves guys pulling out guns. It loves Camaros. Things that we are desirous of — alcohol, sex, love, power, money — make a tremendous amount of noise, but in silence, we often hear a more gentle voice inside ourselves.”
  • “When art is good, it’s connected to what I would call a spiritual life. At its best, art has always made me feel the way I wish church did. It makes you feel like you don’t have to be ashamed. It makes you feel like you’re not alone.”

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