Ethan Hawke scored his fourth Oscar nomination today for IFC Films’ Boyhood, and his second as supporting actor after 2001’s Training Day. What makes Hawke’s turn in Boyhood sublime is the fact he had to play the character across 12 years on and off; the divorced father of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who grows from 5 to 18 years old.
How did Hawke jump in and out of character? “When [Best Director nominee Richard Linklater] approached me with this idea, I had a clear idea of what we were trying to do,” Hawke said today after the film picked up six nominations, including for Best Picture. “I had an image in my head of remembering my dad when I was in the sixth grade through my high school graduation; the way he had grown. If I could create a portrait of a grown man over a time period, then that was my job.”
Every time Hawke stepped back into the role, whether “it was three months later, nine or even 13 months later,” he wouldn’t review previous footage to see where he left off. Rather, “Rick and I would talk about it throughout a (production) day…You never have time on a movie. It’s always a sprint. I always knew where were going.”
The actor tipped his hat to Cathleen Sutherland, Boyhood’s Oscar-nominated producer, as the film’s unsung hero. “It was a logistical nightmare for more than a decade,” he said of Sutherland’s tall task to figure out every actor’s schedule in the film.
With his fourth time at the Oscars (his other two noms were in 2004 and 2013 for the co-adapted screenplays of Before Sunset and Before Midnight, respectively), Hawke’s mantra has been “to never lose perspective that it’s one victory lap. There’s this (industry) notion to seduce you into the Oscars being a big competition, but there’s so much great work being done. Awards are the industry’s way of advertising itself. If we didn’t have awards, then producers would have no agenda. The only agenda would be to make money and awards create a counter-agenda of something substantive. They’re important for indie cinema. It’s how independent movies make it through the corporate maelstrom. They’re important, they keep us all fighting and it makes independent cinema part of the popular culture.
“When I was growing up, there were all sorts of indie films, but as ad budgets go up, it’s harder to cut through the noise. A film like Boyhood is an extremely radical piece of filmmaking that has worked for audiences.”