Early Gay Crushes: Ethan Hawke

He has always been there somewhere of course, but for some reason I had to see the totally Ethan Hawke-less The Empeor’s Club to get the guy back on my radar. The comparison might be obvious to the point of seeming almost lazy, but  in its portrayal of teacher/student dynamics, Michael Hoffman’s 2002 drama with Emile Hirsch has a thing or two in common with the film that introduced the world to Hawke, Peter Weir’s sentimentally inspirational Dead Poets Society. Most importantly in this particular instance, they both had young male leads who I fell for instantly.

But in our eagerness to find a plausible entrance into the world of Hawke, we nevertheless need to back up a little. Despite what the opening paragraph might seem to suggest, Dead Poets Society was by no means the film that made me fall for Hawke, although it did nothing to make me reconsider my crush. The honor of introduction instead went to Reality Bites, one of the very, very few Ben Stiller comedies I can still watch without instinctively wanting to kill myself. I watched it on television when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, and its romantic depictions of young adult life, coupled with a once fresh-seeming scruffy aesthetic proved absolutely irresistable to my young and impressionable mind. At the time, I would try to convince myself that the tingly feeling the movie left me with was courtesy of Winona Ryder, but of course the real cause was Ethan Hawke, taking his first trying steps toward mastering the young love earnestness of Before Sunset (1995).

Later, that very earnestness would ensure that my relationship with him transcended that of simply wanting to watch his movies. In 1999, at age fourteen, I read his debut novel The Hottest State, and was instantly blown away. This post has been in the making for about a year now, and when I re-read the book last year, planning to write something about its author, I was pleased to see that it hadn’t lost the unashamedly naked emotional drive that made me love it the first time around. The extra years may have made me a slightly more cynical reader, but in the greatest compliment I could think of, in a way it actually still made me want to be a little like its protagonist Vince, an actor, amateur poet and hopeless romantic. Back when I read it for the first time, not only did I feel that the book spoke directly to me. Even better, I felt like I was suddenly in on this exclusive secret, that Ethan Hawke, movie star, was also an accomplished writer. Also, it certainly didn’t hurt my reading experience that the novel’s cover was graced by a portrait of that same accomplished writer. It secured that my memories of reading it stayed with me long after I had turned the final page. (Partly because I wanted to protect my relatively favorable view of the book, I have yet to see Hawke’s own movie adaptation).

What I didn’t realize back then was that this was also to be the high point in my relationship with him, a culmination of what had been building for two years since I had gone to see Gattaca at least in part because I just wanted to see more of him. Our emotional bond wasn’t quite strong enough to survive the dreadful Training Day, and by the time he had redeemed himself with the excellent Before Sunset, my taste had simply changed. That said, my taste may actually have been broader back when I didn’t know that what I was feeling probably meant I was crushing on a guy. Today, my distaste for facial hair might have disqualified him straight out of the gate in Reality Bites. I’m glad I didn’t.

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6 Responses to Early Gay Crushes: Ethan Hawke

  1. jay says:

    I always liked Ethan Hawke , I first saw him in ‘ The Explorers and loved him in Dead Poets . Gattaca is such a great film music and acting wise , I’ll have to get that one on Blue Ray if its out yet .

    Back to Ethan , my favourite film of his would be After Sunrise . And I must check out the The Empeor’s Club as anything with Emile in I’ll always watch , except for Speed Racer and I did try .

  2. queerlefty says:

    Thanks for your comment, Jay.

    While I loved both his Sun movies, I think I loved ‘Before Sunset’ (2004) a little more than ‘Before Sunrise (1995). I’m not sure exactly why, but I suspect it has something to do with the way the characters had matured.

    I was actually a little disappointed with ‘Emperor’s’, as its premise took a not quite believable turn in the last half hour, but Emile is worth watching no matter what.

  3. I totally agree with you that “Sunset” > “Sunrise” even though both are great films. That song in the end by Julie Delpy is seriously one of the most romantic scenes in any movie I’ve ever seen.

    Ethan Hawke doesn’t appeal to me especially nowdays because he reminds me too much of my uncle. O_O

    Hahaha @ your “Training Day” bit. OK, I didn’t despise it as much as you did.

  4. queerlefty says:

    Sunset is absolutely wonderful. I especially admire the economy of the film, how it’s not one minute longer than it needed to be. Also, I felt that the scripts really elegantly capture how the main character had matured.

    I’m still totally blind to the eventual upside of ‘Training Day’. It was not nearly as cool or clever as it wanted us to believe, and it’s sad that this was the film that won Denzel Washington an Oscar (much like with Kate Winslet and ‘The Reader’)

    Yeah, Hawke doesn’t do much for me nowadays. He sure was pretty when he was younger, though. But seriously; your uncle looks like him?

  5. Smilie says:

    Yet another one who caught my attention. :-) While I never really “crushed” on Hawke, I loved him in “Gattica.” It’s the only one I can remember him from. I may have to go back and find some of his movies.

  6. queerlefty says:

    You really should, Smilie, In addition to the films already mentioned here, he was quite good in Richard Linklater’s claustrophobic ‘Tape’.

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