Ethan Hawke Couldn't Stop Crying When He First Shot with River Phoenix
"Most of the time, when you photograph sex, you cheapen it," says the actor, who tells Lynn Hirschberg about his love for Patti Smith and first-ever movie with River Phoenix at 14.
Released on 9/15/2016
You know, the story of somebody's rise to stardom
is pretty much always the same story,
but the middle years are always very different.
That's how Born to Be Blue came to be.
Felt like I was being offered the sequel
to a film I never made.
What I was interested in is getting into the experience
of a real prodigy in his mid-life crisis.
Send me something that I can relate to.
One of those weird things about, you don't know it when
it happens but when Dead Poet's Society comes out
and you're 18 it doesn't leave you very far to go.
It creates a possibility for a very confusing
mid-life because are you constantly gonna try
to repeat the same success?
It leaves you a long way to fall.
Yeah, there's a quality to Chet Baker's great performances
that I really thought a lot about.
Which is that sometimes you watch him and you're not sure
he's gonna live through the song.
And I remember I felt that way watching
My Own Private Idaho.
I remember watching River and thinking,
I just, I worried for him.
There was such a brilliant light but it seemed so delicate.
Yeah, River was my first scene partner.
I did my first movie with River when I was 14.
And I remember my first day of shooting,
back then they really had to use a lot more light
and can't believe I sound so, oh back then, like,
but it's true, they really did use a lot more light.
And I couldn't stop crying,
my eyes would just watering and watering.
I remember I was so, I really wanted to be an actor,
and I thought, I'm not gonna be able to do this.
But after a couple of days, I got it.
River was a serious young artist, even at 14.
He already knew more than I did.
He'd done it before.
Like, we're doing this movie about kids building their
own spaceship and he's trying to talk about what's
in his character's pockets and you kinda knew
right away that he was special.
The first time I remember crying at a movie
was The Killing Fields.
That movie just wrecked me.
At the end, when they find each other,
and you know you kinda hear Imagine on the radio
in the hospital, so beautiful.
I can't get ever get over Last Tango in Paris.
That movie is so profound to me,
and it's one of the few movies that really is
genuinely erotic and has something to say.
It doesn't cheapen sex.
Most of the time when you photograph sex, you cheapen it.
And so it's very, it seems like an easy thing to do,
you know, 'cause just people kissing is sexy,
but it quickly becomes cheap.
So, Patti Smith is royal to me, you know.
She's like Baudelaire, if Baudelaire coulda lived
a long time and done it right, you know.