“My wife was sitting at the kitchen table and just sobbing and sobbing,” Ethan Hawke said at Deadline’s The Contenders event Saturday in Los Angeles. “She handed me this script and said, ‘You have to do this movie.'”
The Before Sunrise actor was discussing his new movie Maudie with Deadline’s Dominic Patten. The Aisling Walsh-directed Sony Pictures Classics project tells the true love story between artist Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) and Hawke’s Everett Lewis – a man who hires Lewis as his housekeeper before falling for her.
“My character just wants a maid — you know, like a lot of men,” Hawke said. As a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, Lewis “has every reason in the world to be unhappy,” he said. “She loves to paint, and all this joy explodes from her painting.”
Of working with Hawkins, Hawke said, “There’s a few times in my life where I’ve had a really great scene partner — a scene partner who brings you into their imagination. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was this way. Sally is that strong, in that the seismic power of her imagination is extremely intense.”
Another Sony Pictures Classics offering at The Contenders was Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, the Paul McGuigan-directed true story of actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). The film depicts Grahame’s later years when she falls in love with a younger man (Jamie Bell). Speaking with Deadline’s moderator Joe Utichi, Bell described the film as “a beautiful, unexpected May-to-December romance.”
When Bell first read the script, he was very surprised to learn it was a true story. “I thought it was a bizarre piece of fiction,” he said. “Barbara Broccoli – she knew Peter Turner and Gloria Grahame when they were together – this is a passion project she’s been wanting to make for 20 years, and she had Annette already.”
Bell met with Turner many times. When playing a real person, he said, “You want to talk to them as much as you can, and get to know as much about them and their experiences as you can.” Turner handled seeing his story told very well, Bell said. “The most gracious thing he did, I think, was to step away and allow me and Annette authorship of his life. He’s a lovely man; I can see why someone from Hollywood who’d had that life would fall in love with him. He’s a very pure person. He says yes to any and all experience.”
Call Me by Your Name from Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) explores the relationship between an American exchange student (Armie Hammer) and a teenage Italian boy (Timothée Chalamet). “What we’re looking for,” Guadagnino told moderator Pete Hammond, “is telling the story about how these two boys meet each other without any obstacles, really being truthful to how they feel about each other.”
Hammer had not read the book before seeing the script, but, he said, “My wife called it one of the sexiest books she’s ever read.”
Asked if he’d offered the younger Chalamet any advice, Hammer said, “Timothée is such a phenomenally talented actor, I was asking him for advice. It felt more like I had an amazing dance partner to get through this with.”
Chalamet said the chemistry between Hammer and himself was down to, “the luck of the universe, in that there was a natural bond between the two of us.” To build a sense of the relationship, the pair spent time in the Italian location prior to the shoot. “We hung out all the time and rode bikes around and tried to immerse ourselves in the tone of the town,” he said.