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Why Ethan Hawke Thought Robin Williams ‘Hated’ Him During Dead Poets Society

Todd Anderson getting emotional after the administration finds out about the secret society in Dead Poet Society

Ethan Hawke has acted alongside some acting giants in his decades-long career. One of the screen legends Hawke got to share screen time with was the late Robin Williams. Viewers will remember the student-teacher relationship the two actors shared in the beloved drama Dead Poets Society. While they had a great onscreen dynamic, that dynamic didn’t translate off-screen, according to Hawke. The Cut Throat City star revealed why he felt the late actor hated him while shooting the cult classic.

Dead Poets Society changed both Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke’s career trajectories. Williams proved he could do more than comedy while Hawke joined Hollywood’s A-list. Williams’ over-the-top funnyman was always on display. A young Hawke wasn’t impressed with his antics on set. The Boyhood star revealed what led to the misunderstanding between him and the late Williams.

I thought Robin hated me. He had a habit of making a ton of jokes on set. At 18, I found that incredibly irritating. He wouldn’t stop and I wouldn’t laugh at anything he did.

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

If anyone has seen Robin Williams’ interviews or comedy films, viewers knew to expect the unexpected with him. Oftentimes, Williams spouted an unexpected joke or get animated. So, an 18-year-old Ethan Hawke wasn’t ready for an over-the-top Williams, especially on his first big film. Also, he was being a typical teenager feeling annoyed and irritated by an adult. Luckily, Hawke and Williams were able to work through the growing pains. But the Reality Bites star’s attitude didn’t leave a bad impression on the late actor.

According to Variety, Robin Williams saw something in Ethan Hawke after working together on the 1989 drama. Hawke’s Hollywood trajectory was helped by Williams’ watchful eye. The Before Sunset star said about the late actor leading to his first agent:

He called, saying, ‘Robin Williams says you are going to do really well.’ There was this scene in the film when he makes me spontaneously make up a poem in front of the class. He made this joke at the end of it, saying that he found me intimidating. I thought it was a joke. As I get older, I realize there is something intimidating about young people’s earnestness, their intensity. It is intimidating – to be the person they think you are. Robin was that for me.

After a rough beginning, Robin Williams saw the skill and star power Ethan Hawke possessed during their time in Dead Poets Society. Hawke’s story proved Williams was a true standup guy, looking after a young actor in the early stage of his career. Without Williams intervening, there’s no telling if Hawke would’ve reached the top Hollywood status. Thankfully, the actor can now look back at that time with gratitude.

Due to Robin Williams looking out, Ethan Hawke still has a thriving acting career as evident by his Moon Knight villain and mysterious Knives Out 2 roles. Hopefully, Hawke has served in the same capacity for another young actor.

Adreon Patterson

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).