“What’s moving to me about the story is that at the start it’s this guy who just wants someone to pick up after him,” says Ethan Hawke of his cantankerous Everett character in Maudie, which also stars Sally Hawkins as legendary real-life folk artist Maud Lewis. “And through the positivity of the way that she sees the world, she shape-changes him. And by the end of their lives, he’s feeding her, he’s cleaning after her, he’s championing her art, he’s caring for her, and he’s in many ways her maid.”

Championing the Sony Pictures Classics film, the four-time Oscar-nominated Hawke was speaking onstage at the DGA this month at Deadline’s seventh annual The Contenders awards-season event. Based on the often-anguished life of the Nova Scotia-based painter and her husband, the film directed by Aisling Wash from Sherry White’s script made its world debut at Telluride last year. It later was released in Canada and the U.S this year.

“She is this person who has every right in the world to be unhappy,” Hawke told me at The Contenders about the impoverished and arthritis-riddled Maud. But he adds, “all this joy explodes from her painting.” The paintings that became so well known they were purchased by then-Vice President Richard Nixon and many more before she passed away in 1970.

Click on the video above to see our conversation.