Leave a Comment

In Daybreakers, Ethan Hawke stars as a vampire. No, he doesn’t sparkle like Edward Cullen nor does he sulk the majority of the movie, but his character does share something in common with the heartthrob of the vampire craze: an aversion to blood. Hawke’s character, Edward Dalton, works as a hematologist trying to devise a blood supplement to replace the near-depleted supply of human blood. The thing is, not only does he have no interest in indulging in the purest of human blood, but he doesn’t think a blood supplement is the answer to world’s predicament.

From the moment Hawke saw the script for Daybreakers, he knew it was something novel that he’d love to be part of. Once he signed on the dotted line it set Daybreakers on the path to a wide release and made it a magnet for big stars like Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Isabel Lucas. He’s eager to give the film’s writers/directors, the Spierig Brothers, their due credit, but it was his faith in the duo who had only made one very small scale film that made the world of Daybreakers a reality. And that faith has extended so far that he's already talking about how excited he is to do a sequel. Read below for all that and more.

Was there anything that surprised you when you saw the final cut of the film particularly when it came in the midst of a vampire movie craze?
When I first read the script obviously the whole vampire thing hadn’t taken off so I actually thought it was really an original moment to be bringing back the vampire movie. The world moves in mysterious ways. [Laughs] When I saw the final cut of the movie – it’s strange for me. I had no idea what I was watching. I had no idea the whole time I was working on the film! I could only try to help them by applying my limited knowledge of story and how that works, but I don’t know what to do in a scene where somebody’s head explodes or with giant bats flying around you. What I liked about these guys is they’re very old school. There really were guys who spent days in makeup, not in a computer lab. They did computer things too but Peter and Michael love the old school horror movie idea of it. And the fact that the movie, in a very subversive way, it’s kind of intelligent. A good genre movie that has an allegory to it is what John Carpenter did so well.

You’ve worked as an author, in theaters and in movies. Do you have a favorite medium?
You know, my favorite thing is to work with talented people. When I met Peter and Michael, they’re these Australian kids, they’re twins, they came in with these giant drawings and things that they’ve done with the script, and you start to realize that while so many of these movies are based on graphic novels and things like this, how original it was, that it wasn’t based on something else. This idea that most of the world was vampires, when you’re sitting there listening to them tell you about it, their passion is exciting to be around. They don’t take the idea of making a movie for granted.

You brought up the film’s allegory. Could you elaborate more on that?
Well, it’s pretty self evident about people destroying their natural resources, that’s the most obvious one. Are we going to wait until the polar icecaps melt until we do anything about it? Are we going to wait until there’s two humans left? That’s the one that I find so interesting is turning us into the icecaps, turning us into the American Indians, turning us into the meat industry. I was making a joke earlier that I thought this film was going to become the staple for all PETA members.

The humans in the poster do look like the dairy cows.
Don’t they? When I look at the poster I’m like, ‘PETA loves this!’ It doesn’t bother anybody if we just slaughter the shit out of pigs and cows.

Now that the climate for vampire movies has changed and there’s so much out there, are you proud that yours is the one that actually holds true to the rules of vampires?
It’s the first post-adolescent vampire film in about 20 years. My daughter is such a huge fan of the Twilight series that I cannot speak ill of it in any public form. But I do think it’s fun to be in a rated-R vampire movie. I think there’s supposed to be something badass about a genre movie.

Would you like to live forever?
The only fun idea I had in the movie is that I thought that I liked this weird notion that when faced with immortality everyone was depressed. They’re smoking all the time and there’s this hazy deadness to it, and when given mortality there comes joy and hope. It doesn’t really make sense! You think you’d be happy if you could live forever, but yet, it makes you realize that the reason life is beautiful is because it’s passing.

In contemporary action films, for a lead character not to be physically active is very unusual. Was your character’s docile nature difficult to get into in that environment?
Maybe that’s why it felt so strange because here I was in the middle of The Road Warrior, or something like that, but I was always going, ‘I have a cure.’ [Laughs] It was interesting. I think in some strange way, I’ve never quite understood why - they really wanted me to do this movie. I never got to the bottom line when they showed up with these comic books and these things that they were drawing. They also had pictures they’d mocked up from Before Sunset with me with fangs and me from other movies. They loved the idea of a vampire - that everyone was a vampire. They wanted him to be as normal as possible and not superhero-y and I really thought that was kind of a fun. There’s a million vampire movies, [so] you’re always trying to find what’s unique about this one. It is bizarre how you can’t - it seems that you can’t really have a very lucrative career in the film business without killing a lot of people on screen. There’s a couple of people who’ve managed to do it but they’re very talented.

Did you feel obligated to take them more seriously when they approached you with a part written for you?
Well, it’s flattering. Ultimately you don’t really care if it’s not good. They reminded me of Joe Dante and the people I met around Joe when I was younger, because they had that kind of glint and joy. You know, Tarantino has it--the joy of making movies and how you can make movies that are about something without being pretentious in the slightest little bit. I love people like that. They’re really creative guys.

What was the most surprising or challenging thing that happened on set?
The funniest thing that ever happened was being directed by twins, which is one twin comes up to you and goes, “Oh! It’s terrific! Just a little more scared, a little more scared.” The other one says, “Great job, but you’re seemingly a little timid. Fight him! Get in there!” And they go into their respective corners and [makes mumbling noises]. “But I don’t think …” “You’re wrong!” And they come back, “OK, do it like you did.” That happened constantly. The biggest thing with movies like this is that we didn’t – the fun of it is the obstacle that we’re not James Cameron. There’s so much that’s possible now in people’s imaginations. They’re used to seeing such unbelievable spending that to be competitive in that way is very difficult because we didn’t have the money to do all that. This movie is totally resting on a lot of different ideas to carry it. It can’t compete in the other way. So you have to go kind of old school with it, with the puppets, and you have to try to make it funny and you have to try to find something else that’s going to be clever or worth your time. So that was always challenging. We all had to be really discerning about what could be achieved.

What’s doing with Richard Linkater’s 12-year project, Boyhood: Year 7?
He’s asked me not to talk about it, but then I find that he does press junkets and talks about it. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever been involved with, I can’t wait. We’ve been doing a short film every year for seven years and we’re going to do it for 12 taking a child from – we improvise the movie, a little short every year – taking him from first grade to twelfth grade. It’s just this little vignettes of childhood but it’s a movie about time, about growing up. Well, I don’t want to even tell you about it. He tells me, it’s so irritating, “Stop talking about it!” And then Me and Orson [Welles] came out and he’s talking about it everywhere, but I will stop there. The reason why he doesn’t want me to talk about it is it’s going to be five years before we shoot the last scene so it’ll be six more years before it comes out.

Is it scripted?
It’s not scripted right now. We script it as we go. Like I have no idea where we’re going next but what’ll happen is this spring we’ll spend a weekend with the main actor. I play his dad, so I’m in every other episode, but he tries to do one a year with the mom and the dad and then he’ll intercut them together. I just talk to Ellar [Salmon] and see where he’s at and we talk about things where I am and parenting and we kind of come up with the scene. For example, the last scene we did it was all about the election, so that by the time it comes out it’ll be, it’s like a little – what do you call it? A time capsule? Real pop culture, in the moment, things that maybe you’ll just have even totally forgotten about. It’s father-son stuff or mother-son stuff.

Can you see yourself doing more in the horror genre?
Could I be the Christopher Lee of my generation? [Laughs] Sure! I like to make good movies. My taste doesn’t often draw me to movies that are terribly entertaining. I think it would just depend entirely on if it was good. If Andrew Niccol wanted to do a sequel to Gattaca I’d do it. I like this movie. If this movie’s a big hit and people wanted to know what happened - part of me always thought that this could be our Mad Max. You know, Mad Max is actually quite a humble little movie and Road Warrior is huge and amazing. You could envision a world of vampires and undead that exists post this moment of running out of blood where everybody’s those weird creatures. I could imagine a sequel to this movie that could kick ass. It’d be a combination of like Cormac McCarthy meets Road Warrior. If they did that I’d want to do it.