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Assault on Precinct 13 - Ethan Hawke Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Is it a prerequisite that if a movie has snow in it you’re going to be in it?
A.
My theory on that is that when the directors read the script and they see snow they somehow conjure an image of me and cast me. I did Dead Poet’s Society had a bunch of snow scenes, White Fang, Midnight Clear, Alive, Snow Falling on Cedars! That’s my own particular niche, no one else can claim that one.

Q. During the Taking Lives junket, since you got nominated for an Oscar for a mainstream police thriller you said you might just keep doing them for a little while – is this still in that vein?
A.
When we did that interview, I think I was already thinking about this movie, I liked the experience of doing Training Day and afterwards I was looking for another script that might feel similar.

Q. Did you see the John Carpenter movie first? And did you look at Rio Bravo?
A.
I’d seen the John Carpenter movie when I was like 19-years-old, I don’t even remember it that well. I remember that I liked it and for some reason didn’t feel inclined to watch it again. I did watch Rio Bravo.
This movie is aspiring to be some kind of modern western in a way and I like those kind of movies, and my only problem with not having done so many action movies before is that they tend not to have very many interesting characters and when I was growing up they did.
You know Bullitt, Popeye Doyle, even Dirty Harry’s an interesting guy. It was fun to be in a cop movie that had all these great characters and because of that we got a really great cast and, of course, it’s totally different from a Before Sunset experience but for me it keeps things different.

Q. Could you elaborate on the cast?
A.
It’s Fishburne obviously, Jon Leguizamo, Mario Bello, Drea diMatteo, Gabriel Byrne, Brian Dennehy - it’s a great group of actors. The director was French and his English was… well better than my French but not much!
He kind of did a very smart thing, he wanted to hire a bunch of New York theatre actors for the movie because he knew he wanted people who could bring a lot to it and we were all flattered by that and enjoyed working with each other, I’ve known Leguizamo and Brian Dennehy and Fishburne for a long time, so it was a very enjoyable movie to make.

Q. There were rumours that John Carpenter stopped by the set to meet the director, did you meet him at all?
A.
I didn’t. He never came by the set, they met before the movie and they showed him a couple of early cuts, he was incredibly supportive to Jean-Francois and I think he was psyched it was getting remade. That movie, the original is a peculiar film because a lot of people don’t have any idea that it exists and then the people who love it are fanatical about it and think it’s some kind of sacrilege to even make this movie.

Q. Because this is a French director do you see it in any way as a French view of American society?
A.
I think that would be overstepping it. The screenwriter is American and I don’t think that way. I think the movie is a giant anti-authority movie which it was in the 70s and is now, which is what is fun about it.

Q. Both Laurence and Denzel have very strong on-screen presences. Can you compare working with the two of them and also to what do you owe the luck for having such beautiful leading ladies in every movie you’ve done?
A.
They’re both tremendous and both completely different men. I’ve always wanted to work with Fishburne, I think he’s a tremendous actor. That’s the thing if you’re lucky enough to get to be successful in movies you get to work with a lot of sexy actresses. Leguizamo and Maria Bello do such a remarkable job with their roles in the script – they do the most with the least is what I mean. Andrea too. It’s been a great luxury of my life to meet so many interesting women.

Q. Are you writing at the moment?
A.
Trying to write a third book. There are two books I’m trying to write and one of them is going to win. I don’t know yet, I know the theme but I don’t have anything to say about it yet. It’ll probably be years before I’m done with it.

Q. I wanted to ask about Hurley Burley. Why theatre, why now and are you nervous?
A.
I’m always nervous, why theatre? Because always theatre, theatre’s been my first love. I find it very difficult to stay a disciplined actor and not do theatre. I try to do one play a year. Sometimes that turns into 18 months, when I was younger I ran a theatre company, it’s a great place to push your own learning process without a lot of financial risk.
When you do a movie, they ask you to do the same thing you’ve done before because there’s a lot of money at risk and producers involved they want to know you can do it well. In theatre you’re given an opportunity to risk more as a performer so that’s why theatre. That’s why Hurley Burley I felt like doing something really hard to be honest. I felt like really applying myself to this part.

Q. There had to be about a dozen Mexican standoffs in this movie and I wanted to ask how you think you would cope in a real one?
A.
Terrible I’m sure! How many real Mexican standoffs do you think there have been in the world? I don’t know! Usually somebody seems to pull the trigger and the others just run I think.

Q. Do you think that the trend for Hollywood remakes could have an adverse effect on film history, that people might not go back and see the original Alfie, because they saw the new one and didn't like it that much?
A.
It's never had an adverse effect on fiction, like a bad film of Slaughterhouse Five doesn't negatively affect the legacy of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. A good adaptation often enhances a book's reputation. With regards to remakes of other film, I don't know.
Cinema's always been self-referential. Another obvious example is all the Shakespeare movies - there can be another one, it doesn’t really matter, a good work is still a good work.
I don't think that Alfie will affect the Alfie. Cinema's such a young art form. It's only a hundred years old! Imagine if fiction was only a hundred years old – what they thought about fiction a hundred years in, or painting, or something. Who knows where we'll go with it. The other thing is 200 years from now; they might really like the Jude Law Alfie and really can't stand the other one. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t a hit and now it’s a hit.

Q. Do you feel somewhat vindicated that Before Sunset’s now viewed as number 4 for all critics in the country? Do you feel proud about that? And also can you end the debate about whether it’s an adapted or original screenplay because a lot of people can’t figure out where to place it.
A.
It's definitely an original screenplay. The only reason why there would be any confusion is because it’s a sequel. So its characters are based on another screenplay but the irony of that is Julie and I created those characters too. To my mind it’s an original screenplay.
There was nothing and we wrote it, and it could have been anything happens it’s nine years later. It's nice that people remembered the movie and liked the movie. With that movie the word vindicated is way too strong. I was so happy to have gotten to make it. I saw the whole thing as such a victory.
We wanted to make that movie for nine years I felt so happy to have made it. There was no disappointment, I never expected it to perform at the box office, and it’s a movie about two people.
So then to be on the critics’ list is very rewarding, mostly because I think it's very good for the legacy of the film. It gives it a good chance people will be watching it on DVD and people will find it. It's very helpful that journalists are keeping it in the collective conscious.

Q. Have changes in your life brought about changes in your craft?
A.
Yeah, you learn things in life and you apply them to everything. I think when I was 25 I wouldn’t have been interested in making this movie I would have been too preoccupied figuring out who I was. I didn’t want to do anything that was perceived as simply a commercial venture. And my taste has expanded as I’ve grown up. And if I was 22 the part would have been really stupid. The way this is like the 70s action movie is your protagonist does not behave like a hero all the time, he has problems that make it infinitely more interesting, infinitely.
If you’re in the arts, your life is what you work with, that’s why it’s important to read a lot, learn a lot, live a lot. My children affect me… I feel friends of mine say after Training Day there was a change in my work and I chalk a lot of that to development, my daughter, turning 30, all these things affect you.
Last year, that was one of the hardest periods of my life but I’m glad to be through it.

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