Showing up for this interview partially dapper in a gray flannel suit, unbuttoned shirt and traces of a five o’clock shadow, Ethan Hawke was more than ready to talk about his transformation into a somewhat kinder, gentler Humphrey Bogart-ish hematology vampire, in Daybreakers. Long since defanged but still feisty, Hawke traced his guilty pleasure infatuation with horror to preteen, pre-VCR erotic fantasies about sexy vampires, that apparently awakened his kid lust while watching late night TV. Hawke was likewise not shy about letting on how stupid questions from the press can be, getting into character to play an eco-conscious vampire who’s worried about the planet, embracing the B movie, and falling in love with both his fangs and Isabelle Adjani.
Q: I see there’s a guitar in this hotel room. Do you want to play something?
ETHAN HAWKE: Sure. I’d rather do that than talk! [Ethan picks up the guitar and strums a little] If it was tuned, I’d play something for you!
Q: So what turns you on about vampires?
EH: I know why I like vampires. And it’s the same reason why 11-year-olds like vampires. I remember when I spent the night over a friend’s house when I was about eleven years old. This was before VCRs. And on late night TV, Nosferatu came on, with Isabelle Adjani. And she was so beautiful. Other vampire movies have captured that completely too, like Twilight and Interview With The Vampire tried to. It’s this sensuality, and something weirdly sexual about vampires. But what’s cool about Daybreakers is it’s not that. And that it’s just kind of bringing it back to an old school horror film. And, that has somehow turned new.
Q: Are you saying you loved Nosferatu because Isabelle was so hot?
EH: When you repeat that back to me, it sounds so stupid! I sound like such an idiot! I, um, I was hypnotized by Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani. You know, there was something just so weird about watching him bite her neck, that attacks your dreams. And that’s been true for generations. But I have no idea why! But probably one of the biggest reasons I ended up doing this movie, was that when I made my first movie [Explorers] with Joe Dante, he was coming out of Roger Corman. And he had directed The Howling and Gremlins. So I was 13 or 14 years old when he turned me on to the power and the passion of movies. And in a way, like when you make a movie like The Howling, it’s about werewolves. But there’s an allegory underneath it. So he kind of taught me about why John Carpenter was brilliant. And these guys had that passion about movies. And they wrote scripts that were incredibly original. I did one other movie that was a genre movie, Assault On Precinct 13. Which was a remake of John Carpenter’s. And these guys understand what an old school B-movie is supposed to be. So I thought that would be really kinda fun to be in one, and get into that mode. And I imagined myself in this movie, something like Humphrey Bogart in film noir. You know, just walking around. But he happens to be a vampire. And that combination of film noir with vampire, is cool. Did I answer the question?
Q: I think so. Now, these vampires in Daybreakers have really complicated personalities, they’re not just run of the mill vampires. Is that something that got you excited about this movie?
EH: Just being one of those dead vampires is boring. If you’re not like diabolical and evil, there’s no spark. And with my character, I wanted to show that haze of depression. You know, every day being just like the next, forever.
Q: What was the best thing and the worst thing, about wearing fangs?
EH: The best thing…As I’ve been getting older, I really enjoy wearing that stuff. When I was younger, I hated any kind of makeup, or any kind of artifice in a performance. And the older I get, the more I’ve been enjoying it. And realizing that there’s this whole other door to performance. And that’s fun. I don’t know how to explain it, more than that. And the worst thing, was that I loved my fangs. Because they were fitted on to my teeth, and they were really cool to put them on for parties. But my daughter borrowed them for Halloween. And when she took them off, she accidentally dropped them down the sink. And they’re gone forever. But they were pearl and so cool, you know what I mean? Kids today!
Q: You didn’t have a spare?
EH: I didn’t have a spare, no…
Q: Talk a little about being, well, a soft vampire.
EH: Vampire theories are always fun! Yeah, I’m a peacenik vampire in this movie. Like I’m the person who doesn’t want to fight.