Not a lot of people have heard of Blaze Foley.
Even fewer had heard of the country musician or his work when he was shot to death aged just 39 on February 1, 1989.
That’s undoubtedly going to change over the coming weeks and months thanks to Blaze, Ethan Hawke’s biopic of Foley, which explores his endlessly creative yet ultimately financially unfulfilled life.
But, for Hawke, that is what exactly drew to Blaze Foley and Blaze, especially because he never had to face the hurdles that his subject encountered.
“A few years ago I made a documentary about an 88-year piano maestro who in a lot of ways is the photo negative to this story,” Hawke recently explained to me over the phone.
“It is another portrait of a person who sacrifices their life to the arts without the superficial accoutrements that happened to me from the time I was 18. I think my whole life I have been really impressed with these people.”
“Because they are stewards of their craft without anyone heaping prizes on them or how they make a living.”
“At 18-years-old I was in ‘Dead Poet’s Society.’ And it kind of changed the trajectory of my life. I have always been interested in what it is like not to have that.”
Rather than tapping into any one period of his own life and career to add and enrich Blaze, Hawke instead insisted that he has and still contends with his own insecurities that were present in the singer.
“I don’t think anybody who is serious about what they do doesn’t have insecurities. Some people’s insecurities manifest as arrogance, some as self-destruction, some get neurotic and go to the shrink. Lots of people struggle with it.”
But while “Blaze” promises to bring Foley’s music and philosophies to a huge new audience it also highlights the various demons that repeatedly got in the way of his success. Which is a battle that Hawke has had to contend with throughout his career.
“I guess the ideal would be to not look at it as a battle, and look at it as a necessary flow. But how to sell yourself and not betray yourself is an age old struggle.”
“There are a lot of artists that are allergic to the necessary pitfalls of self-aggrandizement. The problem is if you’re too allergic to it then you are never going to sell a record.”
“It is a dance between how to make good movies, but if I make a good movie that doesn’t make any money then I don’t get to make anymore movies.”
“If I only make movies that make money then why make them to begin with, if I don’t have anything to say.”
“But if your job is to just make money then you should just go work for Wall Street. Then at least you’re doing what you’re saying you doing.”
“I see that struggle. I see some people handle it beautifully and then I see people smack their head on the ground.”
“Blaze” is released on September 7.