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Interview: Ethan Hawke can finally talk about 'Boyhood'

"Boyhood" star Ethan Hawke talks about having to keep quiet about the film's 12 year making, and how director Richard Linklater likes to show minutiae.

Ethan Hawke spent 12 years making Richard Linklater's other big film experiment, "Boyhood." Credit: Getty Images Ethan Hawke spent 12 years making Richard Linklater's other big film experiment, "Boyhood."
Credit: Getty Images

Ethan Hawke has been waiting a long, long time to talk about his new film, "Boyhood." Directed by regular collaborator Richard Linklater, the film was made a month at a time over the course of 12 years to chronicle the development of a boy (Ellar Coltrane) from ages 5 to 18 and his divorced parents (Hawke and Patricia Arquette).

When was it OK to start talking openly about this project?

You know, it's strange because the way the Internet has exploded through the course of making the movie, that became a kind of dialogue. Last year when Rick and I were doing the release of "Before Midnight," people really started asking us a lot about it for the first time. And for a long time, even if it would be on IMDb or something, it didn't really make people's radar. It was hard for people to even understand what we were up to, and we certainly didn't want to talk too much about it before it was real. The truth is we really tried not to talk about it, but sometimes it was impossible. I would get too excited and I have a blabbermouth anyway.

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Keeping a level of filmmaking consistency over 12 years seems rather daunting.

It's an overused word, but Rick really had a vision. Most movies are sprints and just require an immediate kind of discipline, but this movie required real patience. Rarely in film do you have that kind of gestation process. Rick was kind of born a fully developed filmmaker. I mean, "Dazed and Confused" was his second film and it's an incredibly well-made film. He hasn't changed much, so I don't think it was hard for him to maintain a continuity of style and approach over 12 years. It's just who he is.

Ethan Hawke (with Lorelai Linklater and the back of Ellar Coltran'es head) plays a "cool dad" in "Boyhood." Credit: IFC Films Ethan Hawke (with Lorelai Linklater and the back of Ellar Coltran'es head) plays a "cool dad" in "Boyhood."
Credit: IFC Films

At this point, how much of your life has been spent being directed by Richard Linklater?

[Laughs] It's funny, you know, I've made eight films with Rick, so I've spent a large chunk of my life on film sets with him. And if you add up all the promotion and all the rehearsal, it starts to be a huge chunk of my life. And I just can't think of any better way to spend it. I don't know how to say these things so they don't come out the wrong way, but Linklater has a specific kind of ethos to his films that I'm really happy to be a part of. So many movies, even if they're really entertaining and exciting and thrilling and everything, they leave you kind of feeling badly about your own life — like why you're not a superhero or why you don't ever get to meet blue aliens. Even being on the Titanic seems exciting! And our lives seem so full of so much minutiae and seem so much less than your average CIA narrative. But Rick seems to be satisfied with life as it is, and he doesn't feel the need to hyperbolize life. He thinks it's pretty dramatic and beautiful and exciting as it is. For me, that's kind of revolutionary.

It's odd that we don't see a lot of weekend dads in movies, despite how normal it is.

Yeah, it's funny how common the situation is and how rarely we see it reflected in stories, you know? We see very dramatic portraits of terrible parents or stereotypical good parents, but you don't really see them both at the same time very often — you know, parents struggling to be good parents and failing sometimes and succeeding other times, much like our own parents and much like ourselves. I don't know, it feels like a privilege.

There's a moment in the film, sometime around 2005 or 2006, when you discuss the idea of making new "Star Wars" films. How did you know?

The timing of it's fantastic, but there's certain things we all had a hunch about. I had a hunch they'd milk that thing to death.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
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