Ethan Hawke on his ‘Moon Knight’ introduction and Arthur’s Cane

SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read unless you’ve seen the series premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Moon Knight,” streaming now on Disney Plus.

“Moon Knight”, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is as much a story about the gods of Egypt as it is about superheroes. It was fitting, then, to cast Ethan Hawke – a god of the independent film variety – to play the comic book series’ antagonist, Dr. Arthur Harrow, to play.

While Hawke’s career spans more than 35 years (and with four Oscar nominations to boot), the actor, writer, director and producer has spent most of that movie time on projects better known for their meaty monologues than for their alien mythology. Save for a few sci-fi movies (“Gattaca,” “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”) and historical epics (“The Magnificent Seven”) — not to mention modern versions of “Great Expectations” and “Hamlet” – “Moon Knight” marks the first time Hawke has played in a sandbox of this particular grain.

But when Arthur goes up against Steven Grant, the employee of Oscar Isaac’s British museum gift shop (and his other identity, the ex-mercenary turned vigilante Marc Spector), it’s immediately apparent why Isaac Hawke pitched the part in a Brooklyn coffee shop. : he commits.

So much so that the character’s introductory scene — where Arthur slams his cane on a water glass and stuffs the shards into his sandals — was Hawke’s idea. It’s a disturbing start to the series that takes audiences into the mindset of this “half-monk, half-doctor” character, and he carries it well. Almost too good…

“You do not have to be scared. I’m not a super villain, I’m just playing one on TV,” Hawke joked in an interview with Variety as part of “Moon Knight’s” virtual journey where he and Isaac revealed the methods behind their transformations and discussed Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.

Hawke explained that he was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to star opposite Isaac, but it was his conversations with the actor, executive producer and director Mohamed Diab (who helmed episodes 101, 103, 105 and 106) and Marvel. Studios chief Kevin Feige who went into lockdown. him for the part. “It was clear they wanted us all to sail together and create something,” Hawke said.

Read on as Hawke explains how and why he slipped into Arthur’s psyche.

You took on this role without reading the script – what was it about Arthur that made you want to say yes?

Mostly it was just a new legend, a new superhero. I love that it wasn’t a worn out path that we had to rethink. It was something I knew nothing about. So I could create a new character and play in this sandbox, in this arena, and create something new. That’s a turn for me.

In some ways it’s kind of indie because you’re breaking a new path, but it’s just indie with the biggest budget ever.

Yes, exactly. It’s an indie that can afford to build pyramids.

What surprised you the most when you stepped into that Marvel world?

Every other experience I’ve ever had with film is that the more money they have, the more scared the producing staff is. They really want you to do this cookie cutter thing, do what we paid you for, have no idea.

Marvel clearly has a good relationship with actors. The metaphor I like to use is that you have to cook in their kitchen and use their ingredients, but once you’re in the kitchen and with their groceries, you can do whatever you want. So that was pretty fun.

I was impressed. They have tremendous confidence. Many people who are truly successful become frail and arrogant. And great people gain confidence, and they believe in others and instead of having power over people, they empower people. They really empowered Oscar, Mohamed, myself, May and other people working on the show to try and have a good time and make something we cared about. Because they’re basically betting that if we liked it, other people would like it too.

You said that Oscar kind of cornered you in the coffee shop and asked you to join him on this adventure. You’ve done big budget movies before, but he’d also done ‘Star Wars’ and ‘X-Men’. Was there anyone other than him you turned to to ask what it would really be like to work with Marvel?

I made a movie years ago called “Sinister” directed by Scott Derrickson who also directed “Doctor Strange” and I’ve talked to him extensively about the experience. He was very passionate that I would have a good time. He basically said, “If you give them energy, you’ll have a good time,” which means, “You get out what you put in.”

I called Mark Ruffalo [who’s played Dr. Bruce Banner/the Hulk since 2012’s “The Avengers”], and he said exactly the same: “The people who have a bad time are people who don’t want to play; if you’re willing to play, they’ll let you play.” Vincent D’Onofrio, who played Fisk in “Daredevil,” said the exact same thing. [Marvel] really had him create a really insanely unforgettable character that he didn’t think other people would let him do.

Since you hadn’t read the script, how did you get to know the rather “crispy” way we introduced Arthur?

Which [scene] really came from my imagination and our conversations. When you read a comic book, some pages have eight drawings, some have 16, some have four, and every now and then, like the villain, they’ll give you a full-page drawing. I kept asking the writers and directors, if it was a comic book, what would its full-page drawing be? And they said, “What do you think it was?” I really started to meditate on that, and I started to think about spiritual people who go crazy, who get mad at their own spiritual pride, and how often that turns inward and you see them somehow in the secretly tear themselves apart and hate themselves. Because we all have sin, and the idea that someone is free from sin isn’t really possible when you’re human. And so with the self-loathing and turning inward, I had this image of him listening to a hymn while putting broken glass in his shoes, hiding it from other people.

I knew he had a cane and I kept saying, ‘Wait, I’ve got a cane. Am I lame?” They say, “No, you’re not limp.” And I thought, “Ah, I know why he has a cane.” So I told them this idea. And this is what I mean about what’s so surprising was up to Marvel: they say, “Let’s film that. That is a great idea. Let’s open the show with that.” I’m like, “Okay, well, I think these guys to do want to play.”

They wanted all the way there. They wanted you to know exactly what kind of show you are signing up for. So, what was in the sandals?

It’s just candy glass – it turns to sand pretty quickly so my feet are fine.

You could just imagine it.

I didn’t go full Daniel Day-Lewis and cut the bottoms of my feet.

You have cited Carl Jung and David Koresh as sources of inspiration for this. What did that research look like? Or was it more the atmosphere you were going for?

I really dived into Carl Jung, because I saw Oscar take the psychological aspect of his character very seriously. He was constantly reading about it and talking about it, so I learned about it from him and how it fit into the landscape of a superhero movie.

Because the disorder speaks to you a lot in dream language, and in metaphors, and you take on these archetype personalities and that their dream life is one of the most healthy spaces, because it’s a unified space. I started to think, “Carl Jung used to write a lot about dreams.” I didn’t know much about Carl Jung, so I started reading all about him and I found that many of his most famous quotes really spoke the language of this piece, and I started riffing on this half-monk, half-doctor combination. That was where my brain took me.

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