After Boyhood scored six Oscar nominations today — including Best Picture, Best Director, and both Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress — Ethan Hawke was a little stunned. "If you had told me 13 years ago, when Linklater first started scheming up this idea, that I would be having this conversation with you …" he told me this morning, before drifting off into a brief speechless moment. "I mean, I knew the movie was good, there's no false modesty here, but I would have never thought you and I would be on the phone together with you congratulating me like this. I never imagined it."
Hawke's been nominated three times before, earning an acting nod for Training Day and two nominations for co-writing the sequels to Before Sunrise, but he said this time around is quite different. "I've been making movies for 30 years, and every other movie I've done is like another movie. Training Day is like French Connection; Dead Poets Society is like Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Gattaca is like Fahrenheit 451. Everything has a sibling, but Boyhood is its own movie. It's so unique, and I think people in the Academy are recognizing that."
And what happens if Boyhood takes the Best Picture prize, becoming the first film to have premiered at the indie-skewing Sundance Film Festival to do so? "Look, it'll be a giant flare-gun shot up into the night," Hawke said. "Wild pipe-dreams can manifest, and independent cinema can be relevant to popular culture! If it does win Best Picture, it's just unheard of, really."
Both Hawke and his co-star Patricia Arquette have been making the rounds since Boyhood's Sundance debut last January, but their onscreen kids Ellar Coltrane and Lorelai Linklater are industry novices, and Hawke confessed that he's felt a paternal responsibility to them on days like today.
"I've spent 30 years training for how to handle this, and it's emotionally complex even for me," he said. "How do you feel if you get nominated, and how do you feel if you don't? Whenever the eye of the Zeitgeist turns to you, it's challenging — there's aspects of it that are a little fun, and there are aspects of it that are really confusing — so I feel a great responsibility to help Ellar and Lorelai see what the positive points are and how to ignore the more negative aspects."
Still, he's not that conflicted about it. When I told him to have a good day, Hawke chuckled. "God willing!" he said. "It should be an easy day to enjoy."