Actor Ethan Hawke shares his artistic
talents with U.Va.
by Stephanie Gross
Hawke read from his new book, Ash Wednesday, and answered
By Jane Ford
crowd was not the star-struck giggling teenagers who visit the
many Web shrines dedicated to Ethan Hawke. Ranging from college
students to retirees, they gathered at two events at the University
on July 29 to learn about the latest artistic projects of the
Academy Award-nominated actor, director and writer.
afternoon screening of Hawkes directorial debut, Chelsea
Walls, attracted a sold-out audience of movie devotees interested
in the making of the experiential film about the famed New York
Chelsea Hotel, where many artists found refuge and inspiration.
the question-and-answer session following the screening, the unassuming
and seemingly at ease Hawke characterized the Chelsea Hotel as
a metaphor for the creative life. Some of the residents
Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac and Arthur Miller
are immortalized in bronze plaques on the building. Others never
achieved their dreams of renown.
poetic, esoteric movie, influenced by the filmmakers of the Beat
generation and shot in digital format, allowed Hawke to explore
a quilt-like assembly of characters and situations in a slice-of-life
format that has no story line. Each scenario is set in a
different decade, said Hawke. And they have their
own color. But all are happening at the same time.
Herskowitz, director of the Virginia
Film Festival, said, I admire Hawke for taking such
a risky approach with his first film. The festivals
Virginia Film Festival Society sponsored the screening.
known for his character portrayals on the other side of the camera,
Hawke catapulted to fame and teen heartthrob status with his role
in Dead Poets Society. His credentials as a serious
actor have grown over the years, culminating in an Oscar nomination
for Training Day.
is also serious about writing. His visit concluded with an evening
reading from his just-released second novel, Ash Wednesday, to
a crowd of almost 200 in the McIntire Amphitheater. Sponsored
by the University of Virginia Bookstore, the University Programs
Council and WMRA Radio, Hawkes dramatic reading of the books
first chapter conveyed his ability not only to create a scene
alive with visual detail but also to capture the inner feelings
of the storys protagonist.
the reading, one fan asked if Hawke used his own life as material
for his novels. The protagonists fear and feelings of inadequacy
came directly from his own feelings as he approached parenthood
for the first time, said Hawke.
He added that fear plays a big part in his acting. Even getting
up in front of the audience to read filled him with fear, he said.
But he feels it is the attempt that has value and his belief in
the importance of art.
asked about the difficulty of juggling careers, Hawke said they
were all about storytelling, sharing and communicating.
the light began to fade from the sky, a line of fans, books in
hand, stretched three-quarters of the way around the balustrade
at the back of the amphitheater. Some were already reading chapter
two as they waited to have their few moments, one-on-one, with
Hawke as he signed their book.