UPDATE: Hawke has provided additional comment clarifying his remarks. You can read it below:
“I think the Oscars do a very good job in representing much of the great work in a given year. Inevitably though, many great films and performances are not recognized and can be overlooked due to the mass marketing and PR machines that march through the awards season. I don’t mean to take anything away from the genuine and deserved excitement that every nominee should feel.”
Two-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke has been involved with a number of Oscar-worthy features over the course of his career, from Training Day (which earned co-star Denzel Washington a statue) to Before Sunset, which scored him a screenwriting nod. But now the actor is biting the hand that occasionally feeds him by lashing out at the Oscars as the industry prepares to roll out its annual carpet.
Speaking to The New York Post, Hawke dismissed the Oscars as “asinine” and “destructive,” singling out how ridiculous it is to have art competing against art to try and determine a winner.
“People want to turn everything in this country into a competition . . . [so] it’s clear who the winner is and who the loser is. It’s why they like to announce the grosses of movies, because it’s a way of saying, ‘This one is No. 1.’ It’s so asinine … If you look at how many forgettable, stupid movies have won Oscars and how many mediocre performers have Oscars above their fireplace. Making a priority of chasing these fake carrots and money and dubious accolades, I think it’s really destructive.”
Hawke isn’t the only actor to recently attack the Oscar ceremony. Joaquin Phoenix, who ended up being nominated for his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s haunting The Master, called the Oscars “total, utter bullshit” and basically refused to campaign for the win (which is part of the reason why he’s likely going to lose to Daniel Day-Lewis on Sunday. And several inside and out of the industry have been swiping at the Oscars for their inability to really determine a “winner,” for how can anyone truly “win” when it comes to something subjective like art?
But what happens if Hawke finds himself in the Best Actor race for Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, which is scoring fantastic reviews as it makes its way around the film-festival circuit? Is he also going to refuse to play the game? Will the Oscars end up going to actors who want them? Or are we sensing a shift in interest in the Oscars, which could have a serious impact in coming years?