Maya Hawke Loved Being Directed by Dad Ethan Hawke in ‘Wildcat’: ‘He’s Always Been My Biggest Collaborator’

“We’ve been acting and playing together for my whole life,” the actress tells TheWrap

Ethan Hawke and Maya Hawke (Credit: Getty Images)

Working with family can get a little tricky for some, but for father-daughter duo Ethan and Maya Hawke, it’s nothing new. In fact, according to the actress, it simply made filming their new indie project “Wildcat” all the more fun.

The biopic, which releases in limited theaters on May 3, centers on American novelist Flannery O’Connor, played by Maya Hawke. Her dad directs the film, which also stars Laura Linney and Philip Ettinger, and it marks the first time he’s directed her in a project. But according to Maya, there didn’t need to be any metaphorical separation of church and state between them.

“He’s always been my biggest collaborator. We’ve been making art together — whether it’s doing a watercolor together, or writing a poem together, or reading a play together, him helping me with my auditions or me helping him learn his lines — we’ve been acting and playing together for my whole life,” she told TheWrap.

“There’s nothing that has to be set aside, you know? Both of us love our work so much. We don’t have a work self and a personal self. They’re really one creature. And so we were just ourselves, and I loved being directed by him. I felt like I had so much of a voice.”

Granted, Hawke was a producer on the film herself, and was actually the one to introduce her dad to the idea of making a biopic about O’Connor. So really, the collaboration extended behind the scenes, too, and became a bonding experience for the pair.

“We worked on it together every day, and we stayed in the same house together every night, and we’d talk about how today went and how to make tomorrow go better. And it was just awesome,” she said. “When I look back on it, I cannot believe I got to do that. It’s just so fortunate and lucky and I can’t believe I got to do it.”

“Wildcat” also marks the first biopic Maya Hawke has led, and it is significantly different than projects like “Stranger Things” and “Do Revenge,” which fans have come to love her for. The actress notes that playing a real person certainly has its unique challenges, but having such a wealth of information was a “blessing.”

“When you’re playing a fictional character, you basically have to build their world,” she explained. “You feel like ‘OK, where did they grow up? Were they good in school? Were they bad in school? What was their relationship like with their mom? What’s their favorite color? What street did they live on? What are their fears?’ You make these lists so that you can really put yourself into the imaginary life of the character.”

By contrast, that kind of “homework” is already done with a biopic. In fact, Hawke noted that she got to know O’Connor so well through her work and the information readily available that she could improvise scenes in the film using real quotes from the novelist.

What’s harder, in Hawke’s opinion, is starring in a biopic about someone who’s particularly well-known.

“I don’t know how people go into doing movies about people that there’s a ton of video footage of, and that are extremely famous,” Hawke said. “People know who Flannery O’Connor is, or they just know what ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ is. Some people have heard her voice, most people haven’t. So there’s a little bit of anonymity there.”

Really, the most challenging part for Hawke was nailing O’Connor’s accent (the novelist was born in Savannah, Georgia) and portraying the physicalities of lupus, which O’Connor was diagnosed with at age 25.

Hawke continued, “It’s kind of the best of both worlds in some ways, because you have all of these resources to work from, but she’s not so famous that everyone on the street’s going to be like, ‘You didn’t do a good [job].’”


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