Despite being one of Hollywood's most experienced young thesps, Ethan Hawke says he wasn't offended when producers asked him to audition for his role as a rookie cop in Training Day (opening Friday). Admittedly, headlining an action flick opposite Oscar-winner Denzel Washington was a big shift for the actor best known for films like Reality Bites and Gattaca.
"Was it insulting that I had to test for this? Nah," laughs Hawke, who has appeared in nearly 30 films since age 15. "This is about commercialism, not about whether you're good or not. It's about the studio trying to sell as many units as they can. I've done a lot of movies in the past few years that are movies that I like a lot, but they're not tremendously accessible."
Hawke says his philosophy towards more mainstream films changed last year when his critically acclaimed performance in Michael Almereyda's darkly modern update of Hamlet drowned in a sea of summer blockbusters. "Last Fourth of July, I went to see The Perfect Storm and I realized that everyone in the theater who was so anxiously awaiting that movie would all walk out of Hamlet.
"We live in an environment where it becomes difficult for filmmakers to hire you if [you're not commercially viable]," he adds. "It's something I really lived in denial of for a long time."And although the rude awakening will likely affect Hawke's future career choices, don't expect him to start chasing down brainless popcorn pics. "I'm not willing to play ball to the extent that I'd make something I wouldn't be proud of," insists the 30-year-old, who just finished directing wife Uma Thurman in the indie drama Chelsea Walls. "I'm trying to find a sense of balance with that."