In a bold move, Disney+ and Marvel Studios snagged one of Hollywood’s most seasoned independent film leads to play the antagonist in Moon Knight. At a recent Moon Knight press conference attended by io9, Ethan Hawke discussed how working with Marvel has really changed his perspective on blockbuster movies.
“In my whole experience, usually when there’s a huge budget, there’s a tremendous amount of fear and the people in charge are incredibly controlling and creativity is reduced. In my entire experience with Grant [Curtis, Moon Knight’s executive producer] and with Marvel, it’s the opposite of that,” the actor said. “There was a lot of playfulness and a lot of willingness to fail and a lot of willingness to have bad ideas because you can’t find a great idea if you don’t and make mistakes.”
But mostly… it was Oscar Isaac stopping him at a coffee shop that inspired him to take on the role of mysterious New Age leader Arthur Harrow. Turns out their kindred indie inclinations really vibed on this particular darker take on a superhero story. “I sensed it from Oscar from the get go. There was a huge passion to contribute. And when an actor has a strong hit on a character, when they have something they want to contribute and you follow it, good things happen,” he said. “Oscar had a hit on this guy, on DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and how it could be useful. And that, combined with the architecture we had already—that’s what collaboration is.”
There’s definitely a David Koresh-meets-New Age toxic positivity worker energy around Harrow that Hawke masterfully utilizes to gaslight Isaac’s Steven Grant into questioning whether or not he should trust the ancient deity and voices in his head. Hawke explained, “The histories of movies are paved with storytellers using mental illness as a building block for the villain and we have a mentally ill hero. And that’s fascinating because we’ve now inverted the whole process.”
Hawke figured his take would be to play it as helpfully ableist, “Now as the antagonist, I can’t be crazy because the hero’s crazy. So I have to kind of find a sane lunatic or a sane, malevolent force. And that’s that was an interesting riddle for me to figure out how to be in dynamics with what Oscar was doing.”
It was intentional from the start to have the villain set on keeping Steven from realizing he had power as Moon Knight, which director Mohamed Diab encouraged Hawke to use as motivation. “Mohamed was really embracing mental illness as a way to create an unreliable narrator. And once you’ve broken the prism of reality, you realize everything that the audience is seeing is from a skewed point of view. I think that was our riddle, and we came up with somebody who was trying to save the world. And in his mind, he’s Saint Harrow. He thinks he’s going to be, you know, part of the great solution.”
We love a villain era. Moon Knight will be the first time we see Hawke dive into a new arena of antagonist roles, but it won’t be the last. In June, he’ll be starring in horror movie The Black Phone, playing a child murderer dubbed “the Grabber”—a chilling role that looks to be vastly different than Harrow in Moon Knight.
Moon Knight premieres on Disney+ March 30.
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