'Act Of Faith': Ethan Hawke Talks 'Boyhood' And Its 12-Year Shoot The actor may have spent the past 12 years filming Boyhood, but does he remember what life was like back in 2002 when he started filming? We'll test his knowledge in an Ask Me Another Challenge.
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'Act Of Faith': Ethan Hawke Talks 'Boyhood' And Its 12-Year Shoot

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'Act Of Faith': Ethan Hawke Talks 'Boyhood' And Its 12-Year Shoot

'Act Of Faith': Ethan Hawke Talks 'Boyhood' And Its 12-Year Shoot

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Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR and WNYC's hour of trivia, puzzles and word games. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and please welcome our very important puzzler. He's an actor whose roles span everything from Shakespeare to slacker comedies to art house dramas. It's Ethan Hawke.


ETHAN HAWKE: Thanks for having me.

EISENBERG: Welcome. You have done so many different movies over the years and lots of, I mean, cross genres. When you're walking down the street and you have the obsessive fan run up to you, what do they yell out to you? What is the number one?

HAWKE: You know, it depends on what they look like, you know. I mean, there's a certain type of woman where it's kind of clear by the look in her eyes that the "Reality Bites" poster was on her college wall.


HAWKE: Right. Like then, there's the dude that's really into training days like yo, Jake. You know, there's that guy. Then, there's the kind of geeked-out "Gattaca" fan, you know.


HAWKE: This is my crowd. All right - very good.

EISENBERG: You are loyal to directors. You find a director that - I mean, Richard Linklater you've work with.

HAWKE: Eight times.

EISENBERG: Eight times. But also Antoine Fuqua.

HAWKE: Yeah, "Training Day" and "Brooklyn's Finest" with Antoine and...

EISENBERG: Andrew Niccol.

HAWKE: I did "Gattaca," "Lord Of War" and a new film called "Good Kill" that's coming out next year.

EISENBERG: So what is it about these directors that you go this is my ideal working relationship?

HAWKE: Well, to answer honestly, it's that - usually when you finish collaboration with somebody, it takes about that time to feel comfortable to start. I always feel like right at the end, I'm like god, I wish we started now. Trust is the biggest thing in any kind of creative endeavor, you know. And particularly to be honest with you, actors - my peer group has a bed reputation, and a lot of directors are burned and fried and really mistrustful, that your primary objective is to make their movie better and not to serve yourself. There's a great Marlon Brando quote in his younger days, were said that, you know his job was to spiritually marry his director. So that's really always my goal is kind of just figure out what this story is they want to tell and help them tell it.


HAWKE: Cool, right?



HAWKE: So when people figure that out I get another job.

EISENBERG: Right, so a project that, you know, is a huge hit - "Boyhood" - that you...


HAWKE: Thank you.

EISENBERG: That you worked with Richard Linklater. And it's a film that took 12 years to film.

HAWKE: That's true.

EISENBERG: And I have read that you are shocked by its commercial success.

HAWKE: Yeah, completely. I mean, I always thought it was cool. I don't mean to - I'm blown away by Linklater, right? You know, I mean, we did "Before Sunrise." And this is a movie that when it came out, about 15 people went to see, right? And it's only slowly gathered its - people being interested in it. And the same was true of "Waking Life." And other projects that I've worked with Linklater, I was completely confident in their artistic merit. I'm not - there's no false humility about that. I thought the movies were great. But - and when he asked me 12 years ago hey, I have this cool idea. Why don't we cast this, like, 6-year-old boy, and we'll get together a couple of days a year and we'll make a movie about growing up? I'm like all right, that sounds cool I guess.

EISENBERG: That was his pitch?

HAWKE: Yeah, basically. I mean, it was a little bit more interesting than that, you know? But I was like who are we going to cast? You know, what do you mean? Like, are we really going to do this and are other people going to keep showing up? Because you get into the legality of it, you know, you can't sign people up for a contract. You know, you can't make the kid be in the movie. The whole thing was an act of faith. You know, it's illegal to make someone work on - sign a contract for more than seven years, right? So we never had any deals. It was just do you want to get on together on Wednesday and keep doing this project? And I really - it was so strange. And we would work hard on it.

EISENBERG: Like a lucrative book club.


HAWKE: Well, it wasn't really very lucrative.

EISENBERG: Right, right.

HAWKE: I mean, it was like...

EISENBERG: That's right.

HAWKE: ...Every other book club. And - and at first, it just seemed like an experiment. You know, it was this really interesting thing. And then slowly, once you pass the 6,7 year mark, it started to be this thing that meant a lot to all of us. And I didn't know that other people would be interested because you make these things and you make them for people. I mean, that is the idea. When you hit the bell right, right? - it means something personal to the person. It's not something you plan to do...


HAWKE: ...Or something. And that really seems to be happening with this movie in a way that is really the most exciting here. And it's weird, right at a moment, you know, here I am about to turn 44 and it's really the time where I feel like it's time for me to get a real job I hate like everybody else. And now this - the biggest harebrained scheme of my life has gone well. And I just - I want it to serve as like a kind of call to anybody with a harebrained scheme that it can work out, you know, just go for it.

EISENBERG: Do you think right now because of that people are like, we're going to do the same thing but it's going to take place over 25 years. Do you think, like, that it's going to start?


HAWKE: You know, go for it, I guess.

EISENBERG: Yeah, why not, right?

EISENBERG: How as an actor do you approach figuring out your character development for a character that you haven't met yet? A 12-year - I mean...

HAWKE: You know, I mean, that's a really interesting question because that's the - when Linklater approached me with this idea, I actually did have the thought that I don't think any actor has been offered this opportunity before. I want you to create a character over 12 years. And also, even more interestingly, not just a character but really he was asking me to do a portrait of fatherhood at this moment in my life when my son was just born, my daughter was about four and fatherhood was the biggest thing in my life. I mean, the thing that really makes the most noise and the thing I was thinking about. And when I think about fatherhood, I wasn't thinking about myself as a father. I was thinking of my dad...


HAWKE: ...You know? And how my dad had changed from the man that I know now versus the man that I really remember when I was five or six. Because we - it's obvious when young people are maturing, but once you hit, you know, your early 20s, how you are maturing or not maturing is not so self-evident because things that are a failure could be the things that are making you grow the most things and things that could be perceived as success could be the things that are making you fail the most. So the maturation process as an adult is really mysterious, even more mysterious than for kids. And so I knew the movie, you know, the heart of the movie was going to be this young boy...


HAWKE: ...But that Patricia Arquette and I's characters could operate as this kind of spine to the movie.

EISENBERG: And when you watch the movie and you saw yourself from 12 years ago, was it an odd feeling?

HAWKE: Well, when the movie starts I was like man, I still look really good.


HAWKE: And then the movie progressed, I was like oh damn, you know? I start that - for all those out in Hollywood, they really only watch the first five - ten minutes of a movie anyway, so I'm going to get a lot of work.

EISENBERG: Well, we have a great game for you, which I promise will not be nerve-racking at all. So are you ready to take an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

HAWKE: Sure.

EISENBERG: Ethan Hawke, by the way. Give him a round of applause.


EISENBERG: Going to bring up Jonathan Coulton and John Chaneski.

JOHN CHANESKI: I've got to call my dad.


EISENBERG: So you started filming "Boyhood" 12 years ago, which, to me, is like 48 bang trims ago. That's how I look at it.

HAWKE: That's how you judge it? Yeah.

EISENBERG: But we weren't going to ask you about questions that span been over those 12 years because that's too intense. So this quiz is just about things that happened the year you started filming, which was 2002. And if you get enough questions right, Edward Ray (ph) of Gainesville, Florida, is going to win an ASK ME ANOTHER prize.

HAWKE: So I'm doing this for Ed?

EISENBERG: You're doing this for Ed.


EISENBERG: He's in Gainesville.

HAWKE: All right.

EISENBERG: He's going to get an anagram T-shirt. That is our best prize.

HAWKE: OK. This is exciting.


EISENBERG: OK, trivia from 2002.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Brazil won the FIFA World Cup again, which was held for the first time on the continent of Asia. The games were played in what two Asian nations?

HAWKE: Oh jeez. What two Asian nations? And like, now if I said, like, Denmark and Sweden, I'd look really stupid, right?

COULTON: Right, don't say Denmark and Sweden.

EISENBERG: There are Asians in Denmark and Sweden that would go well...

HAWKE: Korea and - you're trying to give me signals - and...


HAWKE: Korea and Japan?

COULTON: Yeah, South Korea and Japan, that's right.


COULTON: You just pretended for that to be hard, right? You were just pretending that was difficult for you?

EISENBERG: He's an actor.

COULTON: He's an actor, I know.

EISENBERG: On June 29 2002, this man was the acting president of the United States for more than two hours while George W. Bush was put under anesthesia for a colonoscopy.


HAWKE: Is that true?


HAWKE: Really?

EISENBERG: Yeah. Imagine the doctor's dilemma.

HAWKE: That's kind of terrifying, and weirdly exciting. I don't know. Dick Cheney?

EISENBERG: Yeah, exactly.

HAWKE: Darth Vader himself.



COULTON: The 2002 Grammy for album of the year went to a soundtrack. And we're looking for the film that that soundtrack was for. And it featured this song.

(Singing) I am a man of constant sorrow. I've seen trouble all my days. I bid farewell to old Kentucky, the place where I was born and raised.

HAWKE: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

COULTON: That's right.


EISENBERG: Back in 2002 when he was single.


HAWKE: Very briefly.

EISENBERG: Very briefly, right. This novel by Yann Martel about a boy in a lifeboat with an assortment of zoo animals won the Man Booker Prize.

HAWKE: "Life Of Pi?"

EISENBERG: Yeah, "Life Of Pi."


HAWKE: It doesn't seem that long ago...


HAWKE: ...To me.

EISENBERG: I know, it's so bizarre, right?

HAWKE: Yeah, yeah.

COULTON: You know, so many of these I feel like maybe you weren't paying attention when you were shooting the movie.


COULTON: Discussing the hit 2002 reality show featuring him and his family, what aging heavy-metal rocker said, I think MTV should consider using subtitles. Half the time even I can't understand what the curse word I'm talking about.

HAWKE: Was that Ozzy?

COULTON: It sure is.

HAWKE: You know, it's funny, I was shooting a movie last year. And I went to the gym in the hotel and Ozzy was in there.


HAWKE: It was just me and Ozzy in the gym. You know, when you see Ozzy on the elliptical...


HAWKE: I don't know. I kept wanting to bite the head off a bat or something.

EISENBERG: You're strangely, like, competing with the Ozzy Osborne in the gym?

HAWKE: I didn't compete. Yeah, I just watched.

EISENBERG: Very pale. I bet he's very pale. All right, this is - this is your last question. What city's tourism agency tried to drum up business by introducing the ad slogan what happens here stays here.

HAWKE: Baby, where we're going to go next week. Going to get ourselves some dollar bills and go to Vegas, aren't we?

EISENBERG: Yeah, exactly.

COULTON: All right.

EISENBERG: I am personally pleased that we have that recorded.


EISENBERG: Congratulations.


EISENBERG: Ethan, you nailed it.


HAWKE: I got really nervous there. Now I feel, like, all right

EISENBERG: Yeah, Edward Gainesville...

HAWKE: ...because you could look really stupid, you know? I mean, you could - well, anyway never mind.

EISENBERG: Yeah, no. We've had...

HAWKE: You looked at me like you did look really stupid.

EISENBERG: No, no, no. No, we have had - yeah, some people have not done so well. Let's hear it for our VIP, Ethan Hawke.

HAWKE: Thank you guys.


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