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Premieres & Events

The Hawke Show: Hottest State Bows in NYC

By Christopher Campbell

“It is a personal film,” Ethan Hawke said Monday night while introducing his latest directorial effort, The Hottest State, at Tribeca Cinemas. He then turned to the film’s leads, Mark Webber and Catalina Sandino Moreno, and added: “It’s you guys’ movie. It was your inspiration that made it fun and made it worth being here tonight. It was the joy -- why I want to watch it tonight is to watch you guys.”


State of the union: (L-R) Sonia Braga, Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ethan Hawke and Jesse Harris at Monday's screening of The Hottest State (Photo: Christopher Campbell)

Hawke could have just been acting polite for publicity’s sake, but after the picture began rolling, his point was clear. Based on the actor/director's first novel, published back in 1996, The Hottest State is a semi-autobiographical and therefore obviously personal work, but the adaptation is primarily collaboration. Nearly every minute belongs to Webber and Moreno -- Sonia Braga does turn them invisible in one stolen scene -- and to Jesse Harris, who provides an ambitious score and soundtrack combo. “Anybody who has ever had their heart broken or fallen in love for the first time knows it’s set to music, and Jesse did that for us,” Hawke said in his introduction. “And I’m indebted to him. He put his own money into it. He wrote every song in here [except for] one old Fred Rose song.”

Earlier in the evening, Harris explained to The Reeler exactly how much freedom he had while writing the songs, many of which are performed by other artists, including Cat Power, Bright Eyes and Willie Nelson. “There’s a lot of music in the book,” he said, "but I can’t remember if it indicates the style. Ethan told me what instrumentation he wanted, but beyond that he didn’t make me go and do things over and over again. When something was done, he was pretty hands off.”

Webber also put a lot of himself into the film, despite the fact that Hawke loosely based the character on himself. “I really wanted to make it my own, and that’s what Ethan wanted me to do, too,” Webber told The Reeler. “I already identified with the character somewhat. If people want to say I played a young Ethan Hawke, fine. That’s not what I set out to do, but if someone thinks that, then great. He’s a great guy.”

This dedication from others is what makes The Hottest State work so well as a film. In fact, thanks to everyone involved, the material comes off better suited to the screen than to the page. However, according to Hawke, it was not about which medium is more appropriate for the story. “I felt like I had to write the novel,” he told The Reeler. “That felt very personal to me. It was a really dangerous thing for me at the time. I wasn’t a writer. It was very scary to do. I loved it because of that.”

When Hawke decided that he wanted to move into directing, it seemed only logical to him to return and recycle. “This is a story that I own and possess,” Hawke said, “and there were certain elements of it that I thought I could do better. But mostly I wanted to learn about filmmaking, and I thought that this would be a relatively inexpensive way to make a movie that people would like.”

Apparently, Hawke didn’t even come up with the idea to make the movie from his own book: “People wanted to give me the money. It wasn’t something I had this big agenda to do. It came to me, and I thought it would be fun.”

The Hottest State opens Aug. 24 in New York.

Posted at June 26, 2007 9:41 AM

Comments (1)

Hawke's a excellent professional. His choose are always wonderful. Everythig that he makes are resulted own efoort. The Hottest State's a amazing book and the movie as well. Congratulations for Hawke.

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