Ethan Hawke

Occupation: Actor, Author, Director
Date of Birth: November 6, 1970
Place of Birth: Austin, Texas, USA
Sign: Sun in Scorpio, Moon in Aquarius
Relations: Wife: Uma Thurman (actress); daughter: Maya Ray Thurman-Hawke
Education: Attended Carnegie-Mellon and New York University


IT'S not easy being Ethan Hawke. His first big role as the "oh, captain, my captain" kid in Dead Poets Society led many to believe he was a shy, intelligent, sensitive young man. His role in the quintessential twentysomething angst movie, Reality Bites, led many to perceive him as a whiny, goatee-wearing, pop culture-reference spouting, grunge-looking slacker. The real Ethan Hawke lies somewhere in the middle: he is no more likely to spout off Whitman than he is to say "I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."

Born to teenage parents who split up when he was still a toddler, Hawke travelled the country for seven years with his free-spirited mom until she remarried and the family settled down in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. Hawke made his first screen appearance at the age of 14, as the star of a little-seen sci-fi flick called Explorers, a film that marked the debut of another young actor, River Phoenix. (Hawke and Phoenix became and remained friends until Phoenix's death, in 1993.) While Phoenix's career took off, Hawke's went nowhere, and for the next four years, he attended high school and acted in school plays. He went on to study acting at Carnegie-Mellon, but when he was kicked out of his first class on the first day, he started to wonder if he and college were made for each other. In 1988, Hawke was offered a role in director Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society: it did not take much to convince him to leave school.

Dead Poets Society was a huge hit, and this time, Hawke's career did not subside. He went on to make several critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful films, including a World War II drama, Midnight Clear. While he was well-regarded throughout the industry for his acting abilities, it wasn't until he asked Julia Roberts to dance one night in 1994 that he found himself a household name  and tabloid fodder. Hawke's dance with Roberts, then married to singer Lyle Lovett, was splashed all over the news, and for the first time, Hawke found himself in the upper stratosphere of Hollywood society. For someone who placed so much pride in the quality of his acting, it was an uncomfortable place to be.

Hawke is not content with just acting, and fancies himself something of a Renaissance Man, not unlike his idol Sam Shepard. He is the co-founder (along with Robert Sean Leonard and Frank Whaley) and artistic director of Malaparte, a New York City theatre company. He also directed the music video of "Stay" (from the soundtrack of Reality Bites) for his friend Lisa Loeb. Hawke still regrets that he never completed his undergraduate degree. He has twice enrolled in New York University's English program, but film work has kept him from finishing his studies. He has made peace with this fact by educating himself; he is an avid reader and writer. In 1994, he made headlines when he signed a $400,000 book deal with Little, Brown, and Co. for a novel, The Hottest State, which was released in fall 1996 (the premise is more than a bit autobiographical: a 21-year-old protagonist lives in New York and is trying to figure out love). Not bad for someone who has never published a word. Of course, celebrity does have its perks.

Hawke has been criticized by some in the acting community who see his intellectualism as an act. His Reality Bites co-star Winona Ryder was speaking of Hawke when she said, "I know a lot of young actors who live in these dumps. They have their books scattered, and their mattress on the floor  and they're millionaires. That's fine. That's their way of living. But the reason they're doing it is they're ashamed. You just want to say, 'Don't live this way to show people that you're real and you're deep.'" Hawke, who claimed that he is not a millionaire, says he lived that way because he always wanted to live in New York City, in the kind of apartment Henry Miller would live in. He says he gets a kick out of Winona, which speaks volumes about how he deals with criticism.

Never one to accept a film based on its commercial prospects, Hawke has made several small but smart films that went on to become minor hits, including Richard Linklater's talkfest, Before Sunrise, and the rugby players-eat-their-dead drama Alive (a film for which he had to lose 30 pounds). He has more recently starred opposite real-life lady love Uma Thurman in Gattaca (the couple married in May 1998 and welcomed a daughter, Maya Ray, in July); and opposite a radiant Gwyneth Paltrow in a modernized adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations. He reunited with director Linklater for the 1998 Western The Newton Boys, which had him robbing banks with fellow hotties Matthew McConaughey, Skeet Ulrich, and Vincent D'Onofrio. In 1999, Hawke co-starred alongside Val Kilmer in the deeply affecting drama Joe the King (Malaparte co-founder Frank Whaley's debut feature as director and writer); and headlined Scott Hicks' eagerly anticipated adaptation of David Guterson's best-selling mystery-romance-courtroom drama novel Snow Falling on Cedars.

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