We know American actor, author, and filmmaker Ethan Green Hawke was born on November 6, 1970. Four Academy Awards and a Tony Award have both nominated him. In addition to three feature films, Hawke has also directed three off-Broadway plays and a documentary. Three books and one graphic novel are among his other works. Before having a breakout performance in the drama Dead Poets Society in 1989, he made his cinematic debut in the 1985 science fiction flick Explorers. Before playing a part in the Generation X drama Reality Bites in 1994, which won him critical acclaim, he had appearances in a number of movies. In Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, which includes Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2008), Hawke co-starred with Julie Delpy (2013).
Following 2012’s Sinister, Ethan Hawke, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill have created another hit in The Black Phone. Hawke’s role in The Black Phone requires him to explore the darkest side of a terrifying situation by playing the antagonist, in contrast to his role in Sinister, when he portrays a guy attempting to protect his family from an evil force. In the 1970s Denver little town of The Black Phone, Hawke plays The Grabber, a guy who kidnaps children. The Grabber’s most recent victim, Finney, played by Mason Thames, may, however, be his match. The scenario first looks hopeless with Finney confined in a soundproof basement, but he soon discovers he can speak with The Grabber’s previous victims via a disconnected phone on the basement floor.
I appreciate intricate world-building and backstories. I frequently feel as though I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge about the factors that lead someone like The Grabber to develop into this kind of character, the specifics of his ritual, the operation of this mystery phone, and other topics. The Black Phone’s ability to withhold information when it is unnecessary is one of its most striking features. Derrickson never comes off as being withholding; rather, he gives just enough to keep things mysterious and increase the fright factor, never letting you forget that this is Finney’s narrative and not The Grabber’s.
However, if you’re the actor portraying The Grabber, you might need a few of those unheard and unseen elements to completely understand the character’s mindset. I recently spoke with Hawke in honour of the June 24 release of The Black Phone, and I asked him whether there were any details or characteristics of the character that we don’t necessarily hear or see on screen, but that we can sense influencing his work. He said as follows:
“I tried to. You try to give yourself a backstory, but like you, one of the things I really liked about the script is it doesn’t have a ton of exposition. The guy is clearly broken, malevolent and terrible, and when you’re doing things like hurting children, I don’t really care about the reason. I, the actor, need to know a reason. What makes him laugh? Why does he do X and not Y? What is it that makes him violent vs. kind, and what does he think is kind? I have to think about what that phone means to me and how this whole thing started, but what I like about the movie is that it doesn’t tell you what they are. You’re experiencing it the way Mason experiences it, which is, he doesn’t know. And even the mask itself, you can’t even see what this guy looks like, so you’re hunting for any piece of information that you can find.”
It turns out that Hawke’s success as The Grabber was greatly aided by the masks, which were created by the legendary special effects makeup artist Tom Savini. He said it as follows:
“Based on my previous experience with Scott on Sinister, I gave him a tremendous amount of trust. I know how obsessive he is and how much smarter he is about this world and this environment than I am. So I didn’t really know and I asked a lot of questions about the mask, and I was confused by the answers, and it wasn’t until I saw them that I knew how to play the part. I found it absolutely fascinating that there were like eight different versions of the mask and we could pick different ones for different scenes. Scott had a logic to it all that was the logic of a mad person. There wasn’t necessarily an exact rhyme or reason, it was just his own broken mechanism trying to communicate in his own broken way. And the mask made him real for me in some strange way. It was like he’s ashamed of himself and that shame is driving him to even more unimaginable crimes. And that duality was confusing in a good way. It had a human logic to it, which is like, ‘Uh, it doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Are you interested in learning more from Hawke about his production of The Black Phone, including the lessons he learned from working with rising talent Mason Thames? Here is the trailer of the Black Phone!