The Black Phone’s Ethan Hawke Explains Why He Liked Terrifying His Young Co-Stars

The horror genre has been experiencing a thrilling renaissance lately, to the joy of fans. Blumhouse is behind some of the biggest original concepts to hit theaters over the past decade, including Scott Derrickson’s Sinister starring Ethan Hawke. Those two have once again collaborated on The Black Phone, with Hawke explaining to CinemaBlend why he liked terrifying his young co-stars so much.

While Ethan Hawke was the hero of Sinister, he’s appearing in The Black Phone as the masked villain known as The Grabber. I had the privilege of speaking with Scott Derrickson and his cast ahead of the movie’s release, where I asked Hawke about what it was like terrorizing his young co-stars throughout filming. As you can see in the video, he explained how it was actually a blessing, saying:

I had some nervousness coming to set. What’s it going to be like to try and terrify this young person and everything? But might surprise people to know it was really fun. Because kids love a good scary story. They love it. ‘I’ve been trapped in the dungeon for days’ and they get into it. And it’s a little contagious. And the whole thing of acting stops being pretentious or important or anything but a sense of joy. And so the emotions can be played with fun.

Talk about a breath of fresh air. While Ethan Hawke had to be a terrorizing presence in The Grabber’s cell, it looks like it actually felt more like play than work. And that’s because of how excited and into it his various young co-stars had while filming The Black Phone. Clearly there was some fun had on set, despite the movie’s dark (and sometimes supernatural) material.

Ethan Hawke's Grabber carrying Finney in The Black Phone

(Image credit: Blumhouse/ Universal Pictures)

The Grabber has various victims throughout the 102-minute runtime of The Black Phone (which truly flies by), but the movie’s main protagonist is Finney played by Mason Thames. He’s kidnapped by Ethan Hawkes’s character, and they share various scenes while he’s in the killer’s cell. I asked Thames about his experience filming those serious scenes with Ethan Hawke, and he told me:

He is so incredible, he was the nicest person ever. Even after a super hard scene, scary scene of him in the mask and me in the basement he was just talking to everybody on set with the mask on. He’s like a normal person. He’s having a good time and they’re just terrified for their life. He’s such an incredible person, and I’m so fortunate to get to work with him.

How sweet is that? While the young cast of The Black Phone had plenty of serious material to grapple with, luckily it seems like Ethan Hawke was great to work with. And is Mason Thames’ comments are any indication, the Boyhood actor was a joy to work with. Even when wearing The Grabber’s creepy mask.

Reviews for The Black Phone have been super positive (including my own for CinemaBlend), marking Scott Derrickson’s triumphant return to the horror genre. The movie is currently sitting at 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Ethan Hawke getting a ton of praise for creating his new horror villain

The Black Phone is in theaters June 24th. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.  

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.