CULTURE

Ethan Hawke Is Having His Mid-Life Crisis On-screen

“When Dead Poets Society comes out and you’re 18, it doesn’t leave you very far to go,” says The Magnificent Seven actor.


Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Ethan Hawke has been an indie film icon ever since 1989’s Dead Poets Society, which was filmed when he was all of 18. Since then, he’s gone to star in enough cult landmarks to ensure his stature among several generations of cinema-goers, whether their formative emotional investment is in Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, Before Sunrise, or Boyhood, an Oscar-nominated film 12 years in the making. Along the way, he’s written and directed his own projects, as well as numerous collaborations with his longtime friend, the director Richard Linklater. Tireless as ever, Hawke is still showing his range in 2016: as the famed jazz musician Chet Baker in the recent biopic Born to Be Blue, and as a gunslinging cowboy in the upcoming blockbuster shoot’em up The Magnificent Seven. For our Royals portfolio, we paired Hawke with another Texan actor, Tye Sheridan, who is still 19 but might go on to eclipse Hawke eventually, having already worked with Terrence Malick, Jeff Nichols, and David Gordon Green to great acclaim.

How did Born to Be Blue come about? It came about in a very mysterious way in that about 15 years earlier, Richard Linklater and I were going to make a movie about Chet Baker. I’d been workshopping it, we were working on the script and we’d go to jazz clubs. I was reading all about Chet. We kept thinking we were going to make the movie, but we never did; we couldn’t get the money together and the ship sailed. It was a day in the life of Chet Baker the day before he tries heroine, so it’s really early Chet. When we started developing it, I was already 28. I was already too old when we started it, and by 32, you know, I’d just grown too old for it. And so a decade and change went by, and all of the sudden I got handed this script of Chet in his 40’s. There’s a whole aspect to that moment in a person’s life, you know, in the middle years where the straight way is lost, you know? It’s a lot more interesting as a performer, actually. The story of somebody’s rise to stardom is pretty much always the same story, but the middle years are always very different.

That character seemed to be overwhelming. The movie is very intense. Was it hard for you to shake it, or was it easy to just go in and out of it? It certainly was not easy, and it certainly was not usual. I remember I got the number of somebody who had played with Chet. I spent like an hour and a half talking to this guy. When you have an opportunity to do a jazz film, there’re so many ways to go wrong, and when music means a lot to you and that world means a lot to you, it’s a scary thing to bite off because if you fall on your ass, it will be so embarrassing and disrespectful to something you believe in.

And I think biopics are really hard. Well, they’re really hard. You know, biopics in general are an opportunity for an actor to give a really showy performance in an otherwise forgettable film. That’s often what happens, because the subject matter is always really interesting, but usually they bite off more than they can chew. And there was something in the DNA of Born to Be Blue that I was excited by. When it opens, I’m playing Chet Baker playing himself, because Chet Baker is acting in a movie about his own life, and that little unraveling dispels the whole biopic in general. I love that because biopics are all fake. It is completely fake. Even documentaries are fake. I interviewed friends of Chet’s who would talk about Bruce Weber’s glorious film [1988’s Let’s Get Lost] and say, “Oh, you know, that wasn’t really Chet. Chet was acting for Bruce.” And I’m not saying that’s even true, but friends of his had that opinion.

There are many truths, and everybody knows that. One of the things I liked about our movie is that we weren’t trying to tell you the truth; we were trying to deal in the legend of Chet Baker and kind of riff on that legend the same way a jazz musician might riff on a song. There’re lots of different Chet Baker movies you could make — that was the genius of that movie I’m Not There. It was like 15 biopics of [Bob] Dylan, and they were all with a different actor. That was a cool way to go about trying to find the essence of somebody.

And anyone who’s an artist in that way, whether it’s you or Chet Baker, has a bit of a chameleon in them. Yeah. For me, I wasn’t interested in doing an imitation of Chet Baker. I was more interested in trying to find out what it is about this story that speaks to me so that I could personalize it. Imitation is one thing, but what I was interested in is getting into the experience of a real prodigy in his mid-life crisis. It was something that I could relate to. You don’t know it when it happens, but when Dead Poets Society comes out and you’re 18, it doesn’t leave you very far to go. There are immense places to go inside, obviously, to grow and develop and be better, but as far as the external perception of success…

We all like to feel like every year of our life we’re growing better and stronger and improving. That’s why people care about money, like, “Last year, I had $1,000 in the bank and this year I have $3,000 and that proves that I’m doing well.” It gives us some kind of math to hold onto whether or not we’re growing. And one of the problems in the arts is that, you know, Chet Baker auditioned for Charlie Parker, and right in the heart of the bebop revolution, he’s this white cat playing with the greatest saxophonist ever at that moment. It doesn’t get any better than that, which is strange when you’re only 24, 25. It creates a possibility for a very confusing mid-life; are you constantly going to try to repeat the same success? It leaves you a long way to fall. And so I was very interested in personalizing that.

Do you feel lucky that you met Rick [Linklater] when you did? In terms of growing and progressing, you and Rick are sort of teammates. I feel incredibly lucky to have Richard Linklater as a friend, and I do know that when I think back on River Phoenix and some people of my generation who have now been passed a long time, and I think back when people ask me how I am still here, I really do think about my friendships and the friendships within my generation. It’s wonderful to have mentors, but your peers are who you compete with, who you’re kind of vying with, who you’re sparking off ideas about what’s happening right now. And they know you and they can challenge you, and I feel that in a lot of ways friendships have really been an inspiration in my life.

I’m very romantic about the idea of creating art, and the fact that you and Rick have created so many amazing things together is just a beautiful thing. It’s very rare. If you look at Scorsese and De Niro even, they don’t do it anymore. That was a beautiful, romantic relationship, and now it doesn’t exist. You guys still exist, you’re still intertwined. I mean I felt a little sad that I recently went to see a Rick Linklater movie and you weren’t in it. It was weird. I was in it secretly. And then, you know, in Everybody Wants Some! I got a couple lines in there.

Let’s talk about your Western, The Magnificent Seven. Getting to remake The Magnificent Seven this year was kind of like a boyhood fantasy. And to get to do it with Denzel Washington…

Training Day is one of my favorite Ethan Hawke performances. Well, thanks. I love that movie, and to work with [director] Antoine Fuqua and Denzel again… but this time we’re out in the 104 degree heat, riding horses, guns blazing. It’s a lot of fun, and it really does scratch an itch in me. It’s the kind of movie I’ve wanted to make my whole life.

Did you know how to ride a horse? I learned to ride a horse working for Linklater actually, on [1998’s] The Newton Boys. Vincent D’Onofrio and I were both in Newton Boys and now we’re both in The Magnificent Seven. We got to reprise our horseback riding days.

The Newton Boys was supposed to be your mainstream Rick Linklater movie. Yeah, that’s what everybody — Rick never thought that, but people wanted that movie to be mainstream. But in a lot of ways The Newton Boys is just a [Robert] Altman comedy. The movie is so gentle and quiet. Everybody was pushing it like it was going to be Rick making a Hollywood movie, and really he was just taking Hollywood money to make a Richard Linklater film.

Now you’re on a horse again, many years later. Yeah, this is very different. If Newton Boys was an Altman comedy, then Mag Seven is full blown [Sam] Peckinpah. Antoine loves Westerns so much that they all kind of fused inside of him. There are aspects of Butch and Sundance in the movie, there are aspects of Mag Seven, there are aspects of The Wild Bunch, there are aspects of John Ford. But unlike most modern Westerns, it’s not tongue-in-cheek. It’s a real cowboy movie — it just isn’t boring. People say they love Westerns but the truth is they’re all a little boring. This one is so much fun.

When you’re making a movie like Magnificent Seven, does it put you in a different headspace when you’re on a horse with a gun in the West? It’s a lot different than playing jazz in a little club, yeah. One of the nice things for me about getting older has been the opportunity to do more character work, and take my acting to a different place. Vocally, with Chet, I did the whole thing in a different octave. I’d never done anything like that before, and the whole body language of that world is different. And in Mag Seven I’m playing a New Orleans ex-Rebel soldier and I have a whole different vocal thing happening, and it’s fun to start to play with things that I call third-person work. Like, I grew a big beard. My whole life I’ve been really just trying to make everything as personal as possible and trying to blur the line between performer and character. I like performances where you can’t see the person working at all, and it just seems like, “Well that’s just them obviously.”

The 2016 Royals: Priyanka Chopra, Cindy Crawford, Chris Evans, Kanye West and More

Priyanka Chopra wears Burberry XO Barneys New York dress. Beauty: Burberry.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wears Carolina Herrera dress; Pomellato earrings. Beauty: Nars.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Irina Shayk wears Prada dress, harness, corset, belt, charm, agenda, tights, and shoes; Bulgari ring. Beauty: L’Oréal Paris.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Halle Berry wears Versace gown; Pasquale Bruni ring. Beauty: Revlon.

Hair by Castillo; by Aaron de Mey
 at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY; Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Elle Fanning wears Gucci gown; Bulgari earrings; Dior Fine Jewelry rings; Marc Jacobs shoes. Beauty: Gucci.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Jodie Foster wears Giorgio Armani dress; Harry Winston earrings; Mish New York cuff. Beauty: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kanye West wears Yeezy Season 3 hoodie and pants. Grooming: Clinique.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps. Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Chris Evans wears Berluti tuxedo; Simon Miller shirt; Tiffany & Co. watch. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kit Harington wears Hermès suit; Vince hoodie; Boss T-shirt. Grooming: Aramis.

Grooming for Harington by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Ethan Hawke wears Louis Vuitton coat; Simon Miller T-shirt; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers; Church’s shoes. Grooming: Dior Homme.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Rami Malek wears No. 21 sweater; Prada pants, socks, and shoes. Grooming: Chanel.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

New Royalty: Television “When I was a teenager, I was a tomboy and had scars on my legs. But then I taught myself to take care of my body and my hair. It takes time, but if I can do it, anybody can. Today, my legs sell 12 or 15 products in my part of the world.”

Alexander McQueen jacket and dress; La Perla bra and shorts; Harry Winston ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “I don’t approach my work from a gender point of view. If people are talented, be they men or women or transgender, I’m into it. I want to play ball, and I want to play hard. And if you can do that with me, then we’re going to get along great.”

Oscar de la Renta dress; La Perla bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “In the 6th grade, I played the supporting lead in a play called “Crazy Camp.” I ended up dating one of the more popular girls as a result. The second the play was over, she dumped me. So, at a young age, I learned the power of getting a good role.”

Melet Mercantile T-shirt; Rag & Bone Standard Issue jeans.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “In Doctor Strange, I play Baron Karl Mordo, the first person to introduce Dr. Stephen Strange into a mystical, weird, and wonderful world. Mordo can transport between dimensions, and I studied quantum physics to understand the science behind his powers. Personally, I would rather be able to make myself invisible.”

Burberry jacket and trousers; Prada sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Model “I hadn’t planned to be a model, but I went to beauty school and was discovered there. My big break was in 2007: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Being Russian, I never imagined my career would involve swimsuits—I was raised with snow, and warm coats sounded a bit better to me. A swimsuit model has to stay in shape all the time. I love food, even though people think models don’t eat.”

Miu Miu dress, stole, and stockings; ring from Stephen Russell, New York.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Model “I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and I didn’t even know that modeling was a real job. My dad thought that ‘model’ was a nice word for prostitute. I did, however, have Calvin Klein jeans, and I knew about Brooke Shields and Seventeen magazine. That was my introduction to fashion.”

Stella McCartney dress; Curriculum Vitae bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Fashion “I have eight older sisters, so I started thinking about fashion when I was very young. I would customize clothes on my best girlfriend—­putting together a man’s shirt with a Victorian dress. And, being a classic Leo, I would always give my opinion to my sisters. I would watch them put on makeup, and I’d tell them what I thought, which wasn’t always welcome. Of course, now they all wear my clothes. They are obsessed.”

Tisci’s own Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Fashion “I didn’t mind putting my name on underwear. Jockey had its name on the waistband, so why shouldn’t I? My daughter, Marci, said in an interview that it was strange to have sex with men who had my name on their underwear. I told her, ‘That’s not funny.’ But it is funny—just not when it’s your daughter.”

Klein’s own clothing.

Hair by Thom Priano for R+Co at Garren New York; Makeup by Régine Thorre; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “The costume for Supergirl is cute, but it’s difficult to put on. It’s not a one-person job: There’s a bodice on top of which muscles are added, because ain’t no way that I am that muscular. And the cape is its own special thing. The costume lives under lock and key. If I wanted to wear it for Halloween, I’d have to stage a mission to steal it.”

Valentino dress; Tiffany & Co. necklace.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “I loved being Catwoman. I was a gymnast growing up, so I got to use all of those skills for the role. I hated cats going into it, but I learned about the psychology of them—and I came out of that movie a die-hard cat lover.”

Alexandre Vauthier dress.

Hair by Castillo; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “On Game of Thrones, there were a couple of weeks when it looked like I was going to die. I thought, Maybe this is it. Then I found out I wasn’t going to die, so I had to keep this massive secret from everybody. I did tell my parents, though: ‘All right, Mom and Dad, you’re in on this now.’ They then went about lying to everyone. They relished it, I think. They’re quite dramatic, my parents.”

Derek Rose pajama set.

Grooming by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Television “I am a troublemaker, for sure. I have a pretty cool scene coming up in Mr. Robot, and I’ve already talked to my makeup artist about bringing something that is not going to go over too well with the costume department: blood. A lot of blood. Our costumes are one-of-a-kind, so I could get into a lot of trouble. But you’ve got to take some risks in life.”

Prada pants, socks, and shoes.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Renaissance Woman “My parents always encouraged us to do what we believed in. There’s a funny interview from when I was 5 or 6 years old: My dad is interviewing me, and my mom walks in and says, ‘You are Wonder Woman.’ That’s one of my most vivid childhood memories.”

Chanel Haute Couture dress; Cartier bracelet; Chanel flats.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Woman “I don’t think I’m particularly brave. I’m confident in my opinions about making films, but there are tons of things that I’m really just a child about. For instance, I have a fear of picking up the phone and asking someone, ‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’ Little things that other people learned in Adolescence 101 have always scared me.”

Saint Laurent jacket and trousers; Boss turtleneck; (right hand) Repossi ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Independent Film “I was 10 years old, going to a small public school in Palestine, Texas, when casting directors came through and asked kids to audition for a movie. The film was The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. They saw around 10,000 kids, and I ended up getting the role. I’m 19 now, and I have been acting ever since.”

Prada jacket and pants.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle; Lighting technician: Lars Beaulieu; digital technician: Johnny Vicari; photography assistants: Felix Kim, Javier Villegas; fashion assistants: Ryann Foulke, Dena Giannini, Sam Walker, Anastasya Kolomytseva Anita Lau; hair assistants: Adlena Dignam, jennifer kim, dale delaporte; makeup assistants: Tayler Treadwell, Mariko Hirano, Robert Reyes, Takahiro Okada; set design assistants: Theo Volpatti, Ryan Stenger, Valentin Haemmerle, Matt Solis; special thanks to Highline Stages and Spring Studios, New York.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Independent Film “I did Born to Be Blue, the story of Chet Baker’s midlife crisis, because it was something I could relate to. I was 18 when Dead Poets Society came out, and that success didn’t leave me far to go. We all like to feel that we’re growing better and stronger and improving every year of our lives, but when you peak at a young age, you have a long way to fall.”

Jil Sander sweater; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Man “To me, Will Ferrell is royalty. He is one of my personal gods. I would like Will Ferrell to play me in The Kanye West Story. Can you make that happen?”

Yeezy Season 3 sweatshirt; Hoorsenbuhs necklace.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Society “Growing up, we lived in the Waldorf Towers. My classmates used to call my sister, Paris, and me the Eloises of the Waldorf. If there were events in the ballroom, we were always sneaking in and spying on people. We did everything but order room service. Room service was off-limits.”

Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini cape and dress; Nili Lotan dress (underneath); Chopard earrings; Harry Winston necklace; Chanel Fine Jewelry rings; Wolford tights; Miu Miu pumps.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Society “I have always loved fashion and was lucky enough to live through the era of great couture designers. In the early ’80s, Azzedine Alaïa took a piece of jersey and draped it on me. He then took chalk and marked out the dress on my body. When I received the finished dress, it was stitched where he had placed the chalk marks. It fit like a glove then. Now it fits more like Spanx.”

RR 331 by Ralph Rucci coat and top; earrings from Stephen Russell, New York; Munnu the Gem Palace bangles; Perrin Paris gloves.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful
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