Ethan Hawke Explains Why Marvel is ‘Actor-Friendly’ as Opposed to ‘Director-Friendly’

Ethan Hawke has enjoyed an incredibly prolific career since his debut role in 1985’s Explorers. The actor has been part of such critically acclaimed films as Dead Poets Society, Training Day, and Boyhood, which is why it was such a surprise to see Hawke make the leap from smaller, more intimate films into the grand scale of the MCU. Hawke played opposite Oscar Isaac earlier this year in Moon Knight, portraying the compelling and complex villain Arthur Harrow. As Hawke revealed to IndieWire, it was actually his daughter, Stranger Things star Maya Hawke, that convinced him to dip his toes into the Marvel water:

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“Maya would say to me, ‘Why are you sitting on the outside and telling everyone their sandbox is bad? Why don’t you go into their sandbox, play with them, and show them what you have to offer?’ I said to Oscar Isaac, ‘We’ve got to go play in Marvel’s sandbox and try to do what we do. We don’t have to change Marvel. We just want to show them what we’re capable of doing and see if they find it interesting.'”

Ultimately, Hawke says he enjoyed making Moon Knight but believes it’s because Marvel is very accommodating with its actors. Given the fact there’s a wider universe that each project needs to play into, Hawke doesn’t believe the same flexibility actors have in Marvel projects is afforded to directors:

“That group is extremely actor-friendly. They might not be director-friendly, and that could be what [Martin] Scorsese and [Francis Ford] Coppola are talking about. But they love actors. I think Kevin Feige had a great thing happen with Robert Downey Jr. and he understood that Downey’s passion was a large part of the success. When actors are excited by a part, audiences get excited about watching them. Feige understood the algorithm there, so they’re extremely respectful toward the process.”

Some Legendary Directors Don’t Believe Marvel Films Are ‘Real Cinema’

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When mentioning such directors as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, Hawke is referencing the many times that they and other Hollywood legends have called out Marvel films for not being “real cinema.” Coppola told GQ earlier this year that Marvel pictures possess no individuality from their directors and that they have a prototype that is consistently followed. Scorsese has famously described MCU films as theme park rides, adding they lack a singular vision from an artist who has developed their own unique idea. As Hawke said, actors in MCU films seem to have a great deal of freedom to develop their characters in their own personal way, but some directors may have their hands tied when it comes to telling the stories they want to tell.

Still, many MCU directors over the last ten years have been able to infuse their own style into the larger-than-life films they’re helping create. The most famous example of that might be James Gunn, whose irreverent comedic tone was able to make Guardians of the Galaxy one of the most beloved films in the MCU upon its 2014 release. One could argue that Gunn’s success paved the way for Taika Waititi to take over the Thor franchise, leading to a pair of films in Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder that more closely resemble the Guardians films as opposed to the two prior Thor adventures. On the flip side, Ryan Coogler was able to take his dramatic, character-driven work on such films as Fruitvale Station and Creed and inject it into one of the most successful films of all time in Black Panther. While there is some truth to the notion that directors of Marvel films can be slightly hamstrung, Kevin Feige and the rest of the MCU brain trust have been more than willing to let creators find their own voice in the ever-expanding Marvel world.

Hawke’s performance in Moon Knight can be streamed in its entirety on Disney+.