Ethan Hawke: The Good, The Bad, and the Utterly Terrifying

It is time for Ethan Hawke’s heel turn. After amassing a reputation of perfecting the somewhat arrogant, somewhat of an asshole, but the ultimately kindhearted and masculine archetype, Hawke is ready to tear those chapters out of the book. With his new run of antagonizing roles in Moon Knight and The Black Phone, he is making quite the second impression. In an interview with E! News, Hawke said “it might be time for [him] to go to the dark side.”

Don’t get it wrong, Ethan Hawke is a chameleon. While he is not a highly praised character actor, he has delivered in nearly every genre and every type of character. His breakout role was playing the boyish, innocent Todd Anderson in “Dead Poets Society” opposite the late Robin Williams. He would shine most as honest cop Jake Hoyt in “Training Day” and holds his own against Denzel Washington. Periodically, he would also reprise the role of a stubbornly romantic Jesse in the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater, which portrays Hawke’s emotional range throughout years of acting. 

As Hawke approaches his fifties, some of his roles take a dark turn. One of his most recent appearances was in “Moon Knight,” which just aired its season (or series?) finale in early May. Hawke was one of the standouts, playing the ultimate foil to Oscar Isaac’s title antagonist. His character, Arthur Harrow, is the previous host of the Egyptian deity Khonshu. After being shunned, he becomes a disgruntled, but calm and charismatic religious cult leader.

His performance as the show’s villain is understated and powerful. His character opens and closes the six-episode series–the beginning displays him crushing glass and putting it in his sandals and the end shows him meeting his possible demise. His performance pulls from all kinds of historical and influential people, both good and bad: cult leader David Koresh, the Dalai Lama, an evil version of Steve Jobs, and fictional character Nurse Ratched, among others. 

Hawke takes it another step further in The Black Phone, which releases in late June. He again teams up with director Scott Derrickson, who worked together on “Sinister.” Instead of portraying the victim of a serial murderer, he embodies one as The Grabber. He poses as a part-time magician that goes around kidnapping unassuming kids. The trailer suggests that his newest obsession, Finney Shaw (played by film newcomer Mason Thames) can call the spirits of his previous targets. 

“It’s very rare to see me playing bad guys because if you do it right, people believe you are the spawn of Satan,” said Hawke.

These two roles, while both dastardly, are not very similar. So what makes Hawke such a convincing villain? It can’t be that he just shaved off his trademark facial hair and grew his hair out. A change in appearance might suffice but in the end, Hawke is just as good as it gets when it comes to acting. 

Hawke is no doubt a busy actor, with at least four movies in the works. The immediate standout is “Knives Out 2,” which is a follow-up to the Rian Johnson murder mystery. Hawke has stated that he is only making a cameo in the sequel, but that doesn’t mean viewers can’t rule him out. Hawke’s villain run is not one to take lightly because he simply does bad really good.