Why Moon Knight star Ethan Hawke was 'apprehensive' about doing a superhero project
Let the Ethan Hawke villain era commence!
This summer, the four-time Oscar nominee plays the masked child kidnapper "The Grabber" in Blumhouse's The Black Phone, but first up, he's making his Marvel debut as the top-secret big bad in the highly-anticipated Disney+ series Moon Knight.
"I've always had this theory that when you teach an audience how to see the demon inside you, they don't unsee it for the rest of your career," Hawke tells EW of his past reluctance to go dark. "Jack Nicholson can be playing an accountant and you're still waiting for him to explode like he did in The Shining. It changes your relationship to a performer, so I've always been nervous about it. But I realized I'm on the other side of 50 and it's time to put a new tool in the tool kit. Villains might be my future."
At least this year it will be. Long missing from Hawke's diverse résumé was an appearance in the superhero world, but it turns out all it took to seal the deal was fellow Brooklynite Oscar Isaac running into him at a coffee shop and asking.
"The comic book world meant a lot to me when I was younger," Hawke says. "I was always a little apprehensive; there's a certain kind of actor that really excels in that universe, and I'm still not sure I'm one of them. But then Oscar asked me, and I really respect him. And I knew that if he went in, he was going to go all in, and it's fun to do any genre with people who are all in. Mohamed Diab, I really like his films, he's a special director. So it just became about the project, and it wasn't an intellectual decision at all; it was like, 'Oh, let's do something cool with these guys.' And the more I learned about the Moon Knight, the more turned on I got, because it's so much better than trying to create something that the audience already has a big agenda with. Like, if you do Batman or Superman or Hulk, any of these famous ones, the fans have so many preconceived things that they want from it. It's like playing Hamlet. Ninety percent of people there have an opinion about how Hamlet should be played. I love doing Shakespeare in front of student audiences because they don't have a big agenda. They didn't see how much better Patrick Stewart did it than you. They're just accepting of how you did it. And with Moon Knight, we get to create a world and a character. The fan in me always enjoys the first movie. I love learning about how the hell Captain America came to be — those are my favorite parts of the story."
While specifics of Hawke's character are still unconfirmed, he shares with EW that psychiatrist Carl Jung and infamous cult leader David Koresh were among the inspirations for his performance. "Your gut leads you," he explains. "The uber-rich villain mastermind isn't interesting to me. I love the ones who believe that they're a good person and that's why they have to kill you. That, I find really terrifying."
And terrifyingly hilarious is the fact that Moon Knight unites the stars of the last two movies from First Reformed and The Card Counter filmmaker/Martin Scorsese collaborator/Facebook blogger Paul Schrader.
"The cinema universe is laughing in the sky about that," cracks Hawke.
Moon Knight premieres March 30 on Disney+.
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