Ethan Hawke Biography

Film Actor, Actor(1970–)
Ethan Hawke is an actor, director, screenwriter and novelist who first gained fame playing a prep school student in the 1989 film 'Dead Poet’s Society.'

Synopsis

Born on November 6, 1970, in Texas, 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 scene and is a filmmaker in his own right. He published his first novel in 1996 and reappeared on the big screen in 1997 with Gattaca. He later starred in the critically acclaimed film Training Day (2001) with Denzel Washington, earning his first Oscar nomination. He would received further Academy Award nominations for adapted screenplay for the films Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). And Hawke's role as a parent in 2014's acclaimed Boyhood earned the actor his fourth Oscar nod. In 2016 he starred as legendary trumpeter Chet Baker in the biopic Born to Blue.

Early Acting Career

Ethan Green Hawke was born on November 6, 1970, in Austin, Texas. Hawke's mother was only 17 and his father only 18 when he was born. The couple 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. In 1988 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 and his English teacher, played by Robin Williams.

Film and Theater Work in the 1990s

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. He also worked in the more intellectual Waterland, co-starring Jeremy Irons, and the World War II drama A Midnight Clear, co-starring 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 1991, inspired by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, he started the nonprofit theater company Malaparte with friends, subsequently appearing in numerous of the group's productions. In 1993, Hawke wrote, directed and edited a short film, Straight to One, which was 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 Steven 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), co-starring 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 Gary Sinise in the Steppenwolf production of the Sam Shepard play Buried Child.

Hiatus and Comeback

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. Hawke withstood the criticism and would go on to publish a second novel, Ash Wednesday, in 2002.

A newly buff Hawke reappeared on the big screen in the 1997 sci-fi thriller Gattaca, in which he infiltrates a society of genetically perfect humans by assuming another man's identity. His co-stars in the film—Hawke's biggest-budget, most mainstream effort to that date—included Jude Law and Uma Thurman, with whom Hawke began a romance that led to marriage in May 1998.

In 1998, Hawke co-starred with up-and-coming actress Gwyneth Paltrow in a modern-day remake of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, which received mixed reviews. The same year, he reunited with Linklater for the director's biopic about the famed Texas bank-robbing brothers The Newton Boys, co-starring Matthew McConaughey. In 1999, he played the lead role—a journalist in love with the Japanese wife of a man accused of murder—in the film version of the prize-winning novel Snow Falling on Cedars; he also appeared in Joe the King, the directorial debut of his friend Frank Whaley.

Recent Work

Hawke next took on the classic troubled young man role in a contemporary version of Hamlet (2000), set in New York City, with a cast that included Sam Shepard, Kyle McLachlan, Julia Stiles and Steve Zahn. He appeared in two more Linklater films the following year: the innovative Waking Life, in which the actors, including Hawke and Julie Delpy, were filmed in live action and then digitally animated; and Tape, a film about a love triangle of Hawke, his Dead Poets co-star and friend Robert Sean Leonard, and wife Uma Thurman.

Hawke's biggest film of 2001 was the fast-paced action-drama hit Training Day, in which he played a rookie cop who is paired with (and schooled by) a corrupt older partner, played with fierce intensity by Denzel Washington. Washington attracted most of the attention for the film, which was deemed mediocre by many critics, but Hawke earned his share of recognition as well, including his first Academy Award nomination, for best supporting actor. Washington won as Oscar for the film in the best actor category.

After a long absence, Hawke was back onstage in New York City in 2001, starring in the Manhattan premiere of Sam Shepard's play The Late Henry Moss. In 2002, he appeared in Frank Whaley's The Jimmy Show, screened at Sundance, and makes his own feature directorial debut with Chelsea Walls, based on the Dylan Thomas poem "Under Milkwood." In 2014 Hawke  earned an Oscar nomination for Before Midnight (2013) in the category of best adapted screenplay. He shared the nomination with actress, screenwriter and co-star Julie Delpy. That same year, he also co-starred in the acclaimed drama Boyhood, earning Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nominations. In 2016 Hawke appeared as troubled jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in the biopic Born to Be Blue.

Personal Life

Hawke and Uma Thurman divorced in 2005 following seven years of marriage. The couple have two children, daughter Maya and son Roan. The separation came after rumors that Hawke had an affair with their nanny. In 2008, he married the woman that he had the alleged affair with, Ryan Shawhughes. The couple also have two children, Clementine and Indiana.

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