Back in August, Ethan Hawke gave a very interesting interview to Elle Mag about monogamy, marriage and sex. The gist of the interview was that Ethan has a more “fluid” idea of what constitutes “trust” and “fidelity” within a committed relationship, and he almost (!) admitted that he cheated on Uma Thurman during their marriage (which everyone thinks he did, so maybe he should just admit and own it). Ethan’s summary point seemed to be: “The bottom line is our species is not monogamous. Go talk to a doctor.” As in, it’s his biological necessity to screw around. Doctors have enabled him, that’s how he knows! Well, Ethan has a new interview with Mr. Porter, and he returns to his favorite subject, monogamy and how it has outlived its usefulness. You can read the full Mr. Porter piece here, and here are some highlights:
He grew up in Texas: “[I was] like any young kid wanting attention”. His parents divorced when he was young. “My mother moved around, so every year I was the new kid at school. There was a certain amount of alienation, but you learn to move within a space, to be the person or character others want you to be.”
Every young person…“thinks they’re incredibly unique in their alienation or loneliness. But in a lot of ways I was really average.”
Stage work: The stage is Mr Hawke’s first love, “not because I prefer theatre to movies but because it’s a so much more disciplined art form. You’ve got to be a total moron to be terrible in a movie, there are so many people helping you. On stage it’s easy to be terrible: you have to control your body, breath and temper.” The reason British actors win so many awards, he says, is because they’re so well trained. The older actors Mr Hawke admires include Ms Vanessa Redgrave – “the Bob Dylan of actors” as he calls her – “who haven’t gotten lost to the trappings of vanity the profession lavishes on you.”
His ‘90s heartthrob status: “I never defined myself as that. If you invest a lot in that it’s broken the mind of more than one actor. I wanted to look like Harry Dean Stanton. I always felt my boyish looks prevented me from being considered for serious roles.” Did he have lots of sex as a young star? He smiles. “It was like shooting slingshots or riding a skateboard and doing crazy jumps. I feel very lucky that when I was 23 I was really 23.”
Why did he and Uma Thurman split? “We tried to be as optimistic as we could be: we all want to believe in love and the possibility of love. The older you get, the more you realise how powerful love is. You understand the right ways for emotion to lead your life and the dangerous ways. I don’t regret marrying early. Gattaca was a great moment in my life and a great moment in Uma Thurman’s life and we fell madly in love and wanted to do all that.”
Monogamy & fidelity: “People have such a childish view of monogamy and fidelity. ‘He’s cheated so he’s bad, she’s cheated so she’s bad’, as opposed to a recognition that our species is not monogamous. To act all indignant, that your world has been rocked because your lover wasn’t faithful to you, is a little bit like acting rocked that your hair went grey.”
Is he monogamous? “I am, but in Before Midnight there is the threat of sexual attraction to others and maintaining your sexual identity with your partner over a long period of time. Human beings are sexual beings.” Mr Hawke adds, emphatically, “My relationship with my present wife is thrilling to me and I’m committed to it. But neither she nor I know what shape the future will come in. Sexual fidelity can’t be the whole thing you hang your relationship on. If you really love somebody you want them to grow, but you don’t get to define how that happens. They do.”
Aging: “Turning 40 was super hard, I had always seen myself as ‘the kid’: I started a theatre company at 23, published my first book at 25. I went from being a really old young person to a really young old person. When you’re 35, 36, you’re still trying to be 28, flirting like crazy, staying out late. Now I’m turning my eye to the benefits of ageing. However, anybody who says vanity is not part of life is not telling the truth,” he adds. Indeed, the actor has always been told he has the teeth of an Englishman. “I know that’s not a compliment. When I was younger I was told they gave me character, but now I have character so…,” he laughs. “Ageing is awkward, but you have to let it happen. Flowers bloom, then they dry, but even then they have a kind of beauty.”
During the interview, Ethan admits that Maya (his oldest kid) read his Elle interview and “begged” him to consider her feelings when discussing his first marriage and Uma. I think that’s what we have now – in the Elle interview in August, Ethan was being candid and off-the-cuff, and now he’s trying to be more circumspect. I would also suspect that Ethan’s current wife, Ryan Shawhughes, had some stuff to say about the way he made their marriage sound in the Elle interview. Thus, he’s emphasizing how he’s faithful to her (RIGHT NOW) but that it could totally change at any moment because he’s totally human, okay? Like, it’s not even under his control. This sort of mystifies me: “If you really love somebody you want them to grow, but you don’t get to define how that happens. They do.” So, “growing as a human being” = banging other people? So confused.
Photos courtesy of Mr. Porter.