Ethan Hawke Talks Aging On Film For ‘Boyhood’

There’s something to be said about the passage of time. For actor Ethan Hawke his current film Boyhood leaves behind the notion of vanity for a family portrait unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Hawke plays a father just trying to get his footing with his small children after separating from their mother played by Patricia Arquette. The actress portrays a struggling single mother who resembles a real person rather than a harping presence, as she’s miserably failing upwards in love while trying to provide a strong family unit for her children, Mason Jr. and Samantha.

It sounds like just any other story, and that’s kind of the point, except for the fact that the child actors Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater, as well as Hollywood stars Hawke and Arquette age on screen before the audience’s eyes. We’re not talking about aging up children into mature actors or using unconvincing makeup on Arquette and Hawke.

What director Richard Linklater accomplishes in Boyhood sounds simple enough, but financially and creatively it was the most daunting task any director or actor could take on. He gathered his cast over the course of 12 years and filmed them as they aged into their lives as the characters. From 2002 until 2013, the audience sees their collective experience of aging through the ebbs and flows of Mason’s relationships with every member of his family. Skipping the monumental firsts save for going away to college, Linklater and his cast have accomplished the unthinkable, to tell a unique narrative in real time.

Actors, especially those in their 40s, are usually more concerned with finding their youth and recapturing that essence on screen, for Hawke and Arquette it was about surrendering to the grace of aging on screen for the sake of Boyhood.

The Inquisitr’s Niki Cruz attended the press day of Boyhood. Here’s what Ethan Hawke had to say about being a part of yet another unique Linklater film.

Boyhood Ethan Hawke

The Inquisitr: How has this film changed the way you think about cinema, and what cinema should and could be?

Ethan Hawke: It’s interesting that the movie does get a lot of power from our pre-conditioned experiences at the cinema that something big or horrible is going to happen. We think we couldn’t just be watching some people drive to this university if there isn’t going to be a car wreck.

But that’s how I feel about a lot of my life; a lot of my life is wasted worrying. The movie actually captures the feeling of, well, they’re spending the night camping and building the house. But how do any of us survive those nights? But there’s something about how the story works, not just in its relationship to its own storytelling. Storytelling doesn’t live in its own vacuum; it’s in response to other things.

The Inquisitr: What was the experience of meeting every year for 12 years to film the movie? Did you have any doubts about making this type of movie?

Hawke: I think I can say that we collectively grew to love it more and more. At first, it felt like a fun experiment, and then it turned into something we all loved so much.

But the plot has grown into something the audience unfortunately needs. But what’s funny about plot is that over time, you don’t even remember it. Rick has forgoed with this movie all the unnecessary plot points. Our lives don’t have plots, but he felt the narrative does, and this movie skirts around that. Structure often doesn’t have lines to it, while plots often do.

Richard Linklater's Boyhood

The Inquisitr: While the film is called ‘Boyhood,’ it also really looks inside the heads of you and Patricia’s characters. How was that experience?

Hawke: I’m happy the film shows Patricia’s character as a mother and a lover. I’m so proud to be a part of a movie that respects her character the way this film does. This type of woman is so true in real life, but I don’t see it in many movies. Women are usually one of these personalities, or are in the background who just gives some encouragement to other characters. But this character is so three dimensional, which is so exciting.

But besides being good, she also does stupid things. She’s a good mother, but doesn’t always make the right decision. We’re used to people in movies being one thing all the time.

The Inquisitr: How was it observing the other actors in the film?

Hawke: The most beautiful thing for me about making this movie was watching Ellar become this creative entity. It’s Ellar’s performance, creativity and passion that elevate the film. The structure worked, but it required a certain level of inspiration. Watching Ellar survive adolescence allowed the movie to not just be Rick’s expression, but also his. That was happening in the movie and on the set. Ellar’s not Mason, as they’re different people, but there’s a similar development.

Patricia and I discovered the arts young, and much has been said about how transformative and healing that can be. But you can also be creative in various ways, including athletics, if you find a passion for it. You can express your personality in baseball the same way as in the arts. I can wish for two things for my kids-great friends and a passion for something.

The Inquisitr: Was it difficult to get back into character when you would meet again?

Hawke: There’s a lot of noise about the structure of the movie. But the truth was, we had a very good director. Going back to the scientists, they usually have their breakthrough ideas when they’re young. So it was interesting that Rick was in his 40s when we started this, but his style of filmmaking hasn’t changed much. If he had done this movie when he was 26, the way he had to work with Ellar, which was different from the way he worked with me and Patricia, would have been different. I’ve worked with Richard eight times now, and I’ve seen he has learned how to speak to people the way they need to be spoken to.

Boyhood is currently out in theaters now.

[Images via IFC]