Ethan Hawke has long been an A-list Hollywood outsider, never quite joining in Hollywood life, while still managing to have a successful acting and directing career. In an interview with The Guardian, he opened up about how his work with the late River Phoenix contributed to his approach and outlook.
The pair starred in Explorers, which bombed, but they became friends. And when Phoenix died at age 23 of a drug overdose outside a West Hollywood nightclub, the 50-year-old decided he’d never embrace Hollywood culture.
“He was the brightest light and this industry chewed him up, and that was a big lesson to me,” Hawke said of Phoenix. “If I had to put a single reason on why I never moved to LA, it would be I think it's too dangerous for an actor like me to be in that kind of climate.”
He also reflected on losing out on a role to Phoenix. “You're really good, but I just gave the part to another kid with a bird name,” Hawke recalled Stand By Me director Rob Reiner telling him at the time.
Hawke also talked about how the late Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman changed his perspective.
“Drugs and alcohol and depression are formidable opponents all over the world. People think getting what you want will make you happy, but a sense of self, purpose and love don't come from the outside,” he said. “You can't get distracted by this culture that celebrates things that sometimes aren't what they seem.”