Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles don't mind
if you ask for their autographs
It ain't your high school Hamlet. The latest movie version, simply titled Hamlet, is set in the present, but spoken in Shakespeare and stars Ethan Hawke as the original depressed yet strangely attractive guy and Julia Stiles as Ophelia.
Ethan's been doing movies for around 12 years now and is married and a father. Julia's an ingenue. Yet they had the same idea: interview and photograph each other and cut out the middle man. They had a diner breakfast and then hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It wasn't your high school museum trip.
Julia: What are we gonna talk about?
Ethan: I have no idea. Hmmm... I have a little bit of B.O. today, but I have a baby, so I feel like I have a permanent excuse: "Well, I didn't have time to shower." We'll try to do this as painlessly as possible. Okay, how old are you?
Julia: Eighteen. Almost 19. This last year my life has really changed a lot.
Ethan: You've had a slew of movies come out since the time I first met you, 'cause I hadn't seen you in anything then. And now you've had a shitload of movies.
Julia: Two, really. 10 Things I Hate About You and Down to You. But it's weird, I guess because of Down To You, every day people come up to me. Which is fine, and I've learned how to deal with it. I don't take it as seriously.
Ethan: The only worse thing than being recognized all the time is when it starts not to happen as much. I was 18 when Dead Poets Society came out, and it was a big deal. But it's been like 11 years since that happened, and I got married, had the baby and I haven't been working as much, and it's been so interesting to, I don't know, watch the tide wash in and out.
Julia: I think initially I got really scared by it because I thought, "If I'm happy about this, it's gonna kick me in the butt later." And now I've just sort of decided to be happy. Enjoy it, and whatever happens, happens.
Ethan: That's the trick. I have to say that when I was 18, all the time I spent pushing it away or being miserable about it was a waste. In hindsight, the only times I wasn't having fun were when I had some idea that I shouldn't enjoy it because somehow the gods would make me pay. But I think there's something conceited about not enjoying it. Whatever. You're going to Costa Rica soon, right?
Julia: Yeah, to work with Habitat for Humanity [a volunteer program that helps needy communities build houses or rebuild after natural disasters]. I think we're going to put the roof on a house and build the interior walls. We'll work during the day and then on the weekends they'll take us to different places and educate us about what's going on there.
Ethan: What else can we talk about? I'm trying to think... I saw Live Schreiber play Hamlet over at the Public [a theater in New York City] and he was fantastic. But would you say that Live was the biggest schmuck on our set? [Laughs]
Julia: I'm gonna plead the Fifth on that one. He did intimidate me a little bit. But I'm not gonna... yeah, I would say.
Ethan: I think Live was the only one in the movie who is classically trained, and it shows.
Julia: Yeah, that's exactly why he was intimidating. We went out to lunch once and he was asking me what kind of training I had and I was like, "Uh, I don't have any training."
Ethan: And you feel like you have to start apologizing. That's kind of how I felt about this movie. When Michael Almereyda, our director, approached me with the idea of doing a modern version of Hamlet, Uma said, "Oh, God, you'll get so much hell. People will be like, "Who do you think you are?" But I felt, well, shit, someday I'll be dead, and I want to do that. Why the hell shouldn't I play Hamlet? I'd rather have done a bad Hamlet then not have done one at all.
Julia: If anything, do it for yourself, and who gives a fuck what other people think.
Young Woman: Hi, I'm sorry, I don't mean to interrupt. Do you think I could get your autograph?
Ethan: Yeah, what's your name?
Young Woman: Lauren... I'm nervous.
Ethan: You're nervous? Why?
Lauren: Because you guys are so cool.
Ethan: We really are? That's exciting. I think you're very cool. Here you are. [Hands her signed notebook paper]
Lauren: Thank you so much. I'm sorry to interrupt you.
Ethan: That's all right. We're doing something very deep and important.
Julia: It's going to change the world.
Ethan: We may never get back to the train of though we were on. But we won't hold you accountable.
Lauren: Oh... well, thank you.
Originally published in the May 2000 issue of Jane Magazine