The Black Phone’s Ethan Hawke: 'Playing villains could be a new chapter'
"Maybe I'll become the Christopher Lee of my generation!"
Until recently, Ethan Hawke was not the sort of actor you'd generally associate with villainous roles – but 2022 has seen the Before Sunrise star play not one but two major antagonists.
Earlier in the year, he starred as cult leader Arthur Harrow in Marvel's Moon Knight, and now he's playing an even darker character in Scott Derrickson's chilling new horror flick The Black Phone – a masked child kidnapper known only as The Grabber.
Despite Derrickson's claims that he initially didn't think Hawke would agree to take on the role, the star revealed in an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com that he didn't need too much convincing – and suggested it could even mark the start of a new phase in his career.
"I think if you stay at this job long enough, you have to keep changing," he explained. "And as you age, different parts come your way. I went through a period of the young ingenue parts and then you start playing a dad and maybe then you start playing villains.
"This was my first villain, really, and so it feels like a start of a new chapter. Maybe I'll become the Christopher Lee of my generation or something, or Vincent Price!"
He added: "I really put it off and put it off. But I'd had a great experience working on Sinister with Scott, and I felt really safe with him because he understands this genre, about how to make a scary movie and how to build one – and I just wanted to do a good job.
"And I wasn't sure how to because I'd never done this kind of mask work, and I didn't know what it would be. But I knew that vocally, you know, there's the great Bob Dylan line that if anybody is wearing a mask you know they're telling you the truth, and anybody who's not wearing a mask you know they're lying – it's a kind of Zen koan.
"But I knew that once you take away the face, body language and voice become absolutely essential, and it has a different kind of power to it. So mostly, I just trusted Scott and I just tried to throw myself at him."
Given just how despicable The Grabber is, you might wonder how Hawke was able to find a way into the character – how he was able to approach him from an empathetic view.
And he admitted that this proved to be more of a challenge than for most of the roles he's played in the past.
"Normally throughout my career, I would say I see myself as my character's lawyer," he explained. "I kind of look at it from their point of view and justify their actions from their point of view. But this person's just flat out broken, I don't think he has a meaningful point of view. I think he's damaged goods and kind of starts to represent this mysterious force for evil.
"And so I tried to see him like that – a really wounded animal doesn't need to make sense, they're just trying to stay alive. And they can be vicious for no reason. And so I tried to look at it like that, almost like a broken switchboard too, just wires not crossing and not connecting, sparks flying for no reason that you know of."
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