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Ethan Hawke is an actor, director, screenwriter and novelist first gained fame playing a prep school student in the 1989 film Dead Poet’s Society.
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Ethan Hawke was cast in Dead Poet’s Society in 1989. He moved to New York City and worked steadily in films from then on. In addition to his movie work, he became an active participant in New York theater and a filmmaker in his own right. In 1996 he published his first novel. He reappeared on the big screen in 1997. After a long absence, he was back onstage in 2001.
Actor, director, screenwriter, novelist. Born November 6, 1970, in Austin, Texas. Hawke's mother was only 17 and his father only 18 when he was born; they divorced four years later and Hawke moved around a good deal with his mother, Leslie, before they settled in New Jersey when he was 10. The adolescent Hawke’s appearance in a Princeton University theater production led to an audition for his feature debut, the teen adventure flop Explorers (1985), with fellow fledgling actor River Phoenix. He began attending Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, but left school when he was cast in Peter Weir's prep-school drama Dead Poet’s Society (1989). Hawke earned acclaim for his role as the timid new student Todd, who finds growing confidence with the support of his classmates (including Robert Sean Leonard) and English teacher (Robin Williams).
Hawke moved to New York City and worked steadily in films from then on, next appearing in the teary film Dad (1989), playing Ted Danson’s son and Jack Lemmon's grandson. Lead roles in White Fang and the lightweight Mystery Date (both 1991) followed, as well as in the more intellectual Waterland, costarring Jeremy Irons, and the World War II drama A Midnight Clear, costarring Gary Sinise (both 1992).
In addition to his movie work, Hawke became an active participant in the New York theater community and a filmmaker in his own right. He made his Off-Broadway debut in Casanova with the New York Shakespeare Festival and in 1993, inspired by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, he started a nonprofit theater company called Malaparte with friends, including fellow actors Leonard, Frank Whaley, Steve Zahn, and Josh Hamilton. Also in 1993, Hawke wrote, directed, and edited a short film, Straight to One, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
His role as the scruffy, philosophical slacker who pines for Winona Ryder in Reality Bites (1994), directed by Ben Stiller and also featuring Janeane Garofalo and Zahn, made Hawke a heartthrob for the so-called Generation X. He expanded his moody romantic lead portfolio in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995), costarring Julie Delpy. Meanwhile, Hawke remained active with Malaparte, making his theatrical directorial debut with the company's production of Wild Dogs! in 1994. He also appeared onstage in Chicago, playing opposite Sinise in the Steppenwolf production of the Sam Shepard play Buried Child.
In 1996, during a two-year hiatus from fillmaking, Hawke published his first novel, The Hottest State, which made him the object of some ridicule by the media despite garnering some positive reviews.
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