Ethan Hawke Interview For ‘Sinister’
‘Sinister’ is a frightening new horror/thriller from the producer of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ films and the writer-director of ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’ Scott Derrickson. A true crime novelist (Ethan Hawke) struggling to find his next big story, moves his family into a house where the horrific murder of an entire family took place. But after finding a box of home videos in which other families are also brutally murdered, his investigation leads him to a supernatural entity that may be placing his own family in harm’s way. While ‘Sinister’ is out now in the UK, it’s set for release in the US on October 12th.
What was it about this story and this character of Ellison that drew you to ‘Sinister’?
Ethan Hawke: Just its complexity. The character of Ellison is, in any genre of film, a really complex character. And in particular this genre, inside the horror genre, a lot of times in genre films you’re asked to play cardboard cut-outs of people – even in a comedy, not just horror. This guy Ellison was really interesting to me, he was not a good person or a bad person, he was a really complex person. Those are the most fun to play. Also, the script works in regards to telling a good story. It has whit to it, which I like. All good genre movies I think should operate, if it’s a horror movie, first of all it should be scary – its got to be really scary (laughs). And at their best, there should be an underlying metaphor to them, and this one is a very clear and obvious one about a guy who puts his own ambition ahead of his family, you know? Watch what happens when you do that!
When you were shooting ‘Sinister,’ were you actually watching the found footage film in those scenes, or what were you reacting to….?
Ethan Hawke: One of the things that I love about this movie is that the most horrific parts of it don’t really happen, they happen in this found footage, these old home movies that Ellison has found. And so my character in the film has to watch the movie, so our director Scott Derrickson showed me the actual movies and filmed me watching them – which was wonderful getting to do. They’re incredibly creepy and elegiac at the same time, that’s what I liked about them.
How did the experience of ‘Sinister’ meet your expectations of acting in a horror movie?
Ethan Hawke: I realised about half way through shooting ‘Sinister’ that I think the real reason that I never wanted to act in a scary movie was because I thought it would be scary to do it (laughs). I think some part of me was a little superstitious that if I play that stuff I might open the door to the demons of my own mind (laughs). I’ve even been offered things like ‘Macbeth,’ and I’ve found it very scary the idea of if you fully imagine this stuff, what’s going to happen to you? But the truth is that it was a lot of fun, ‘Sinister’ was a lot of fun.
How was it playing such a powerful and somewhat unappealing emotion like fear?
Ethan Hawke: Fear is a really interesting emotion. Scott cut together pieces of footage from ‘The Shining,’ a horror film I really love. And he cut together the famous Jack Nicholson “Here’s Johnny!” scene, without Shelley Duvall’s reactions. It became clear that Jack Nicholson isn’t scary in the movie, Shelley Duvall makes him scary by her reactions. Fear is so hard to play, a lot of times actors love to play tough, or they love to play hurt, vulnerable, bemused, angry – a lot of those emotions are charming or interesting or human. But fear is very unappealing, and it’s a scary emotion to play because it’s not an emotion you admire, it’s not an emotion you respect – or you’re afraid of it. After watching the Shelley Duvall performance, I really challenged myself to commit to playing fear and not be vain about it. Which I ended up really enjoying.
With your own experience of seeing the movie, what was the scariest moment for you as a viewer?
Ethan Hawke: For me the whole movie is intensely creepy. As ridiculous and outlandish the scenario is, there’s something that’s kind of believable about it in some strange way that I don’t really understand. I guess it’s just the domestic nature of it all, we recognise so much of the world about it. But the scariest part for me (long pause), I think the scariest part for me is the end. I love the end of the movie. When I read it in the script I loved it, I thought it was really smart and really terrifying.
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