Actor and director Ethan Hawke, who has starred in dozens of films from small to large and recently appeared as Arthur Harrow in Marvel’s Moon Knight series on Disney+, eloquently answered what he sees as the difference between so-called high and low art when it comes to film.
Podcaster and journalist Kevin Brackett tweeted a snippet of an interview with Hawke with the caption, “Going to reply to every stupid discourse about superhero movies with this video from Ethan Hawke.” The minute-long clip contains insight from Hawke on the current state of film, starting on a positive note. “I love superhero movies,” Hawke begins. “I like every kind of movie. I don’t think there’s a difference between high art and low art. There are movies that people put their heart into, and there are movies that people try to cash in on. And the movies that I like are the ones that people put their heart into. And you can feel it in a superhero movie, or you can feel it in a horror movie, or you can feel it in some arthouse movie.”
The star of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy goes on, naming specific superhero films he enjoys. “I was making the joke that if Logan and Dark Knight and Doctor Strange are great art films, what is Fanny & Alexander? Nothing, is the problem.” When someone off-camera remarks that the award-winning 1982 period drama from famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman wouldn’t be playing in theatres if released today, Hawke responds, “It wouldn’t be, and that’s my point. And those are my favorite superhero movies: Doctor Strange, Logan, Dark Knight. Those are great films, but they’re not the only thing there is.”
Finishing up, Hawke challenges the way film is perceived by audiences today. “…Young people grow up today thinking that’s all there is,” he continues in the clip. “And our country turns everything into a competition. They want to tell you ‘what’s its score on Rotten Tomatoes, how much box office did it make.’ And when I was growing up those things didn’t exist and you could just absorb a movie for how it meant to you. There’s no game to win. That’s not what art is.”
Hawke’s film career has run the gamut from cult hits such as the 1994 romantic comedy Reality Bites to critical and box office successes such as Training Day in 2001. He also starred in big-budget sci-fi films like Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s rom-com novel Juliet, Naked. He has also been nominated for Academy Awards for both his acting and writing and made his feature film debut as a director with the 2018 biopic Blaze, which chronicles the life of country musician Blaze Foley.
More recently, his casting as Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight had a huge impact on the direction of the character. According to series creator and head writer Jeremy Slater, Harrow was initially supposed to be an older man who “was very much someone looking at their own mortality, reaching the end of the road, being terrified of that, and desperate to do anything to capture it. The second Oscar [Issac] came to everyone and said, ‘Look, I think I can get Ethan Hawke in this.’ We quickly abandoned the idea of an older Harrow because when you get a chance to get Ethan Hawke, you take it.”
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