Ethan Hawke: Paul Schrader inspired me not to leave Hollywood

Taxi Driver and Raging Bull ignited Hawke’s “adult relationship with film” following his role in Dead Poets Society.

A holy trinity of movies ushered in Ethan Hawke’s “adult relationship” with Hollywood decades ago.

Oscar-nominated Hawke announced he would be retiring from acting after Explorers and Dead Poets Society, but that Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, as well as Five Easy Pieces changed his thoughts in 1989.

“That’s when my adult relationship with film really began,” Hawke told Sharp magazine of how his life was changing at the age of 19. “I saw how high the bar could be – and I really wanted to be a part of it.”

The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery actor added that he was “slowly falling more and more in love with movies.”

Hawke returned to college after filming Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society, and it was years after the film’s success before Hawke realized “what a master Peter was at the job.”

“He showed me what filmmaking can be,” Hawke said. “It took me a long time to have that experience again, where I felt so held and a part of something bigger than myself. On the surface, this film completely changed my life and gave me the belief that I could do it at a high level.”

Hawke noted that his “all confused time ended with Richard Linklater,” the author with whom Hawke has made seven films.

“Before Sunrise was my first experience since Dead Poets Society where I really saw and really felt what it’s like to be a filmmaker,” Hawke said. “Working with someone of my own generation was even more exciting because you didn’t have to bow before the altar of adulthood. We tried to make our own art; it was extremely liberating.”

He called his films with Linklater “obituary” in reference to his career, which is rooted in the “theme” of Father Time.

More than three decades after seeing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, Hawke collaborated with Schrader on First Reformed. The film was Schrader’s first Academy nomination; However, Hawke was snubbed in the Best Actor category.

“I just got off the phone with Ethan Hawke and said, ‘Ethan, you won. You may not have been nominated, but you won,” Schrader told the Los Angeles Times in 2019.

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Lindsay Lowe

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