At 51, Ethan Hawke has lived many creative lives. The Dead Poets Society made him a star at 18; at 24, he becomes an icon of Generation X with “Reality Bites”. He was 25 when Before Sunrise launched the iconic romance trilogy that would accompany him for the next 18 years and establish him as the author of Before Sunset and Before Midnight.
He’s been a director for a long time – he directed Chelsea Walls in 2001 – and two decades later his personality lies in being not only an actor but also a creator. Showtime’s Good Lord Bird made Hawke a showrunner in 2020, and in his new HBO Max documentary series The Last Movie Stars, Hawke takes note of the elusive careers and romances of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward — though the theme may be as although himself. .
Hawk prefers to describe his 380-minute production as a standalone film, but the streamer presents it as a six-part series. By any definition, the result is the most touching and sensitive work Hawk has done behind the camera, work that doubles as a reflection on his own complex relationship to fame and creative desire.
Hawk is an amiable New York representative who gets used to his surroundings even when noticed. Recently in the afternoon, when I went to meet him at a restaurant near his home in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, he was already talking to the waiter about legendary 1970s actors. Later, a homeless man Hawk knew from everywhere in the neighborhood passed by and reached into his wallet to hand him a $20 bill. “I got this for you,” he said, and mumbled, “I love this guy. I can’t help it.” The waiter, an aspiring actor, approached the house with two bottles of beer before finishing his shift and left. “I enjoyed that conversation,” Hawke said. “To be continued!”