Earlier this year, we spoke with Ethan Hawke for Apple TV+ entertainment, “Raymond and Ray” co-starring Ewan McGregor and directed Rodrigo Garcia. It’s a humanistic meditation on sisterhood, family, grief, and trying to come to terms with that parent you had big problems with now that they’re gone (read our review).
But now that the year is almost over and we’ve revealed it The list of the best documentaries of 2022—which featured Hawke’s Paul Newman and Joan Woodward doc series, “The Last Movie Stars” at #1—now would be as good a time as any to release the second half of this interview where Hawke discusses this great documentary and more (read our review). Hawke has had a pretty exciting and eclectic year when you think about it. He directed the aforementioned acclaimed doc series for HBO Maxhe returned to his roots for a quiet little indie drama (“Raymond & Ray”), and also starred in his first Miracle series, “Knight of the Moon.” He was almost working with “First Reformation” filmmaker Paul Schrader again, but this project collapsed. But we’re condensing all of that into this second half of our discussion, which recaps Hawke’s banner year.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about “The Last Movie Stars” Looking back on it, how, how, how do you feel about it? It was such a fascinating, really awesome documentary. I loved it.
Well, thanks for saying that. I mean, I guess it’s my love letter to my profession.
Yes this is true; warmth and affection shine through.
You know, after doing this for almost 30 years, it was a project that occupied my soul for almost three years working on it. And because it’s a big responsibility to be in charge of telling the story of two people you really admire. And you realize very quickly that you can’t tell an individual story well without telling the story of their community. You know, you don’t really understand who they are if you don’t understand the actors’ studio. if you don’t understand Sidney Poitier; if you don’t understand 70’s filmmaking; if you don’t understand… you know what I mean? You cant understand “The Color of Money“without understanding”The Hustler.” And we all exist in relation to each other. And then, as performers, you exist in relation to your audience. What is the public interested in and what is happening in America? And these 50 years? So I found the challenge of making the documentary epic. It was just huge.
Yeah, I was going to say the huge context you put around their lives—the context of the times they lived in and how they fit into it, the civil rights movement, etc.—I guess that’s why they initially began as a film became a six-part docu-series.
Yes. I mean, I started doing it in two hours. This is what I was hired to do [laughs]. I wanted to do this. I always saw it like a movie. I sent a five-hour cut of the film to my filmmaker friend Richard Linklater, and I said, “What three hours should I cut out of that?” And he called me and said, “I think it’s a little short.”
Correctly? He says, “I want to know more about it. I want to know more about it.” And so we’re talking, and all of a sudden, I realized that the environment we live in right now, the way movies are made, really allows for that larger canvas. I mean, if I made this movie in 1993 or something, it would have to be a hundred minutes long or something. And then you have to decide if you’re going to just do a greatest hits album or focus on one record. You know, I could have done the whole doc on Newman and Woodward in the 1950s, or I could have done it all on the 1990s and the Newman’s Own series. But what I love about them is that it’s the totality of their lives that makes them so interesting. It’s, it’s not like—there is some people or issues you can really focus on, say 1972, or whatever, when it all came together for them. But that doesn’t work for Paul and Joanne. It is their longevity that made them so powerful. So the movie had to reflect that in some way. And I’m grateful that we live in a time where people are interested in feature-length documentaries.
More from this interview on the next page.
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