Ethan Hawke Talks About Paul Newman And Joanne Woodward

As the title clearly states, “the last movie stars”—Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward—have personal lives, successful jobs, and romantic relationships that are followed in The Last Movie Stars. What does that expression signify, though? Even Ethan Hawke, the actor who helmed the new series and is nominated for an Academy Award, is unsure. But his doctor gets a little bit closer to the solution.

Hawke approaches his six-part HBO Max documentary with the zeal of a devotee, as if he were dragging you by the hand into a theatre and yelling, “You’ve never watched Hud?! You must keep an eye on Hud! Hawke interjects, theorises, and celebrates the work of Woodward and Newman as if it were his own story as he leads the reader through the creations of two artists he feels incredibly close to. The Last Movie Stars is a project with a deep appreciation for its themes, and the relationship between artist and admirer serves as its connecting thread.

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By tying their legacy to not only himself but also the generations that came before and after the couple, Hawke hopes to bring their legacy into the twenty-first century. Hawke asks his very famous pals to read for the very famous duo, with Laura Linney and George Clooney filling in for Woodward and Newman, using a collection of oral history transcripts between Newman and his buddy Rachel, Rachel scriptwriter Stewart Stern. Although the series features well-known figures, the chats aren’t exactly glamorous. Hawke wisely forgoes the glitzy, documentary-style talking-head interviews in favour of quarantine-friendly Zoom talks that feel personal and casual, like a lengthy conversation with a close friend that leaves you wanting—nay, needing—to watch The Three Faces Of Eve. In our own Zoom interview with Hawke, the A.V. Club and I discussed celebrity, Newman, Woodward, and the dearth of movie stars.

Ethan Hawke: Absolutely not. I didn’t have a plan, you know. I had no idea how I was going to handle this or what the hell I was going to do. And I thought it would be fun to have my friends and other performers act out these transcripts. And as I was conversing with everyone, I found a great deal of what they had to say to be fascinating. The way these old Hollywood beautiful pictures were spliced together with the verité craziness of the present made you feel like one generation was looking at another in a slightly revelatory way. I thought it was proper. And I’ve only begun experimenting with it. I initially just used Zoom calls as stand-ins till I found something better. However, I soon grew fond of them. AVC: I had the impression that I was taking part in a discourse while seeing you take these individuals and the audience on your journey. How does it feel to force yourself into that kind of story?

EH: Well, I recall reading Rolling Stone profiles by people like Cameron Crowe or Hunter Thompson when I was younger. It was always obvious that this was their perspective. They weren’t being honest with you. Due to the fact that there isn’t a single truth, they would slyly integrate themselves into the story to make it feel almost more honest. There is the author’s perspective on the stated truth, correct? It also has a hook! It’s an outdated gadget. What’s the hook, it’s like? Why ought we to care? I began to think that perhaps one of the characters in this movie represented the director looking for something revelatory about these characters. Who should see this now, and why? What does this matter? Therefore, rather than telling the audience what was important, I was allowing them to participate as I made discoveries.

AVC: Your first documentary, Seymour: An Introduction, about the pianist Seymour Bernstein, was released in 2014. This is your second documentary and the second one regarding the legacy of an artist. Why do you believe you are best suited to address that subject? EH: It’s the only subject I have any knowledge of. The very difficult aspect of directing is that it’s so simple to lose your love for the material if you don’t have it. for the room to lose its oxygen. It must be really important to you.

I’ve devoted my entire life to the arts, so I find this discussion to be incredibly fascinating. I also think that when you examine the arts, you unintentionally explore a lot of other topics. Paul and Joanne’s tale must be told alongside the history of America over the past 50 years, including the ways in which culture has influenced them as artists, how art reflects social change, and how film has evolved. The topic of art is initially brought up before shifting to parenting, relationships, and politics. It all has an impact on the person. You can thus view a wider panorama of the artist’s work as you delve deeper and deeper into it. The quick answer is that it’s probably the only topic I feel competent to discuss.

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