Ethan Hawke On Finally Working With Ewan McGregor & The Deep Humanism Of Director Rodrigo Garcia [Interview]
Jan 29, 2023
You can bury family, but you can’t bury the past. Your father, whom you hated, dies. His final wish, which seems like some perverse joke from the great beyond, is that you and your half-brother not only attend the funeral but are the two men who actually dig the grave. Oh yeah, this father also named your Raymond and then had a son with another woman and named him Raymond, leaving you to be known as Raymond and Ray to distinguish yourselves from one another, seemingly yet another cruel joke your unknowable father inexplicably gave you at birth.
This is the story of “Raymond & Ray,” Rodrigo Garcia’s new Apple TV+ movie that premieres today on the streaming service (Friday, October 21). Starring the inspired pairing of Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor, as the brothers estranged from their father, “Raymond & Ray” follows the pair, still living in the shadow of their terrible dad, as they take a road trip to bury their father. Sam Shepard-esque, funny, moving, melancholy, and full of baggage and bitterness, even between each other. Together, they process who they’ve become as men, both because of their father and despite him.
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A soulful little drama and two-hander directed and written by the deeply humanist Garcia (who led McGregor previously in “Last Days in the Desert”), “Raymond and Ray” has anger, pain, folly, and more, but also hopeful notes of reinvention, acceptance, love and maybe some strange last lesson about forgiveness passed down beyond the grave.
The film also start Maribel Verdú, Sophie Okonedo, Todd Louiso, Tom Bower, Oscar Nuñez, and Vondie Curtis Hall.
Hawke and McGregor are terrific in the film, an easygoing, tender nature between them. We recently spoke to Hawke over zoom to discuss the film, his relationship with Garcia—which actually goes way back to the early days of his career—finally working with Ewan McGregor after all these years, and just his overall philosophy of life, artistically, professionally and humanly.
“Raymond and Ray” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, is available in select theaters, and today, it streams on Apple TV+. Here’s my chat with Hawke.
I’m curious how you got involved in this. But even reading the basics, you and Ewan McGregor playing half-brothers that discover their father’s final wish, the man they both hated, is for both of them to actually dig his grave—like I don’t need to know who’s directing it. I’m already in.[Laughs] Yeah, I like simple human movies. I always have. I grew up watching them. It’s kind of what made me want to be an actor. There’s a particular fun acting in a big swashbuckling adventure or some plot-heavy drama or something. But my favorite things are always simple and human.
It was fascinating how it came about. Right before the pandemic, Rodrigo and I were jurors in Sundance together, which was a really interesting moment because when you’re on a film festival jury, your whole life stops for about ten days. You sit with a group of people and watch 18 movies in a week or so. And so I’d sit next to Rodrigo and chat with him about watching all these different kinds of films, and all the movies we saw were incredible. But they provoked all these interesting conversations, and I got intimate with how Rodrigo thinks about film, what he likes and doesn’t like, and what he values and performance. And I love the way he thinks. He’s an enjoyable person to talk to and think about life and art with.
And we were on our way to the airport, and he said, “Look, I’ve been waiting for this to be over. I have this script. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or anything, so I will email it to you from the plane.” And I said, ‘Oh, sure.” And he’s like, “No problem if you don’t want to do it or anything.” I’m like, “Well, what is it?” And he told. That it’s two half-brothers burying their father, and I immediately said, “Oh, I think I’ll love that.” And then he said, “Ewan McGregor’s attached.” So, I never do this—but I was so excited about what that might be because I’ve been a fan of Rodrigo’s for so long, and I love the idea of getting to do a two-hander with Ewan— so I read it on the plane, I read it on the flight from Utah to New York, and when I landed, I texted him, I was like, “I’m in, Let’s do this movie.” And then, it became a question of finding a time when Ewan and I were both available.
It’s interesting because when it was first announced, it was like, ‘oh, Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor as brothers, perfect.’ But then I had to stop and check, and I realized that you and Ewan had never worked together.No, never.
Which seems kind of crazy that actors of your ilk, who seem to have a lot of the same acting interests, human stuff, indie films, etc., wouldn’t have crossed paths by now.Yeah. It’s funny. It feels like a blessing now that it happened here. This was the right project to do together. It surely wouldn’t have worked if we’d worked together too many times before or doing something [in our youth] to get famous. It was perfect that we got this opportunity.
I mean, I had met him through Jude Law. When Jude got the part in “Gattaca,” that was his big break, and they were great friends, the two of them back then. And so, he was hanging around during the shooting of “Gattaca,” and we all hung out, and I, and, you know, followed Ewan’s career with “Trainspotting” and everything. So I knew it would happen, but I thought it would’ve happened 25 years ago, but finally.
More from this interview on the second page.
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