Things I’ve Learned as a Moviemaker: Ethan Hawke

With more than 30 years at the forefront of American film, the multi-faceted, multi-talented Ethan Hawke is in a unique position to pass on the secrets of his success.

Hawke’s career began at age 14 when he landed his first breakthrough role as Ben Crandall in the Sci-Fi flick, Explorers, alongside then newbie, River Phoenix. Despite the movie’s relative failure as a box-office hit, Hawke soon advanced to bigger, brighter projects like Dead Poets SocietyWhite Fang, and Hamlet. A kind of “Renaissance Man,” Hawke has never limited himself to one kind of artistry. He is an Oscar-nominated actor (Training Day) and screenwriter (Before Sunrise, Before Midnight), music video director (Lisa Loeb’s “Stay”), and novelist.

Hawke’s latest acting endeavor, Boyhood, which chronicles a parent-child relationship over the course of 11 years, reunites him with acclaimed director, Richard Linklater, the mastermind behind the Before trilogy.

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Here are Hawke’s sage and succinct words of advice:

1. Fortune favors the bold. Someday you’ll be dead. Be busy. Be active. nothing’s free. Whatever gives light must endure burning.

2. Luck is the residue of design. All the best directors, producers, actors, musicians, and writers I have worked with have also been the most prepared.

3. There is no such thing as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In 1990 I was told by some very “important” people that passing on White Fang was going to end my career.

4. “You play as you  practice.” My football coach told me that back in New Jersey, and while artists tend to be a less gristly bunch than the West Windsor Wildcats, I’ve found this advice just as appropriate for my life in the arts. There is no point in saving your performance for the “close-up.” Give your all, all the time. In the film Gattaca, Andrew Niccol wrote one of my favorite lines I’ve ever said, “Don’t save anything for the swim home.”

5. You haven’t started writing until you are rewriting. Lot’s of people have this false notion that “real” writers experience some kind of “divine intervention” and just channel the holy muse. Not true for most of us. Inspiration comes to those who court it.

6. Don’t let the bastards bring you down. It’s not up to you whether people “get” your work or not—it’s up to you to do your best. Most people aren’t as smart as you are.

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7. Good leadership is the ability to bring out the best in others, not to have power over them.

8. Sex is in the details. Okay, maybe that’s not true. But the details are still really important.

9. Have a sense of humor. Tolstoy’s work was severely compromised when he started thinking he  was hot shit and you are nowhere near as good as Tolstoy.

10. Listen. As much as you want to be heard and understood, so does everyone else. MM

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