Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette have amassed such a body of work individually that either actor could have been the subject of Thursday night’s American Riviera Award at the Arlington Theatre, the penultimate tribute of this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
But after last year’s stunning “Boyhood,” in which they play parents to the lead character Mason (Ellar Coltrane), it only made sense to honor both at the same time.
Moderated by Roger Durling, executive director of the film festival, the evening was a sit-down interview with the two, while viewing clips from particular years of both their careers – a parallel progress report.
While Mr. Hawke was making “Reality Bites” with Winona Ryder and being directed by Ben Stiller, Ms. Arquette was starring as Mr. Stiller’s wife in David O. Russell’s “Flirting with Disaster.”
When Ms. Arquette was bashing James Gandolfini over the head with a toilet cistern cover in “True Romance” in 1997, Mr. Hawke was sharing a summer romance with Julie Delpy in “Before Sunrise,” his first work with Richard Linklater.
It made for an interesting evening of contrasts.
Mr. Hawke may have owned the evening, however, riveting the audience early on after a clip of his work with Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society.”
The actor was only 18, and had been working in film roles before, but, as he said, “I had never really acted for the camera.”
Mr. Hawke described how Mr. Williams impressed him, improvising like mad and being in the moment. Mr. Williams would also help Mr. Hawke get his first agent.
But the actor was visibly upset upon seeing his scene with Mr. Williams, who committed suicide last year.
“Sometimes I think there’s this kind of grace that can happen in art,” he said, trying to explain why being a genius like Mr. Williams or Philip Seymour Hoffman can lead to such darkness. “You touch it, and it’s really, really beautiful. And it makes regular life really scratchy.”
Ms. Arquette, after watching her scene with Viggo Mortensen from “The Indian Runner,” talked about how scary it was working with director Sean Penn, mostly because Mr. Penn would act out what he wanted a character to do, “and he would do it so much better than you ever could.”
She mentioned that the baby in that 1991 film was her son, Enzo, and that at the very start of her career she was already a young mother.
“Boyhood” actor Ellar Coltrane, who was in town for the Virtuosos Awards on Sunday, returned to walk the red carpet with his screen parents and later present the award.
“It is a strange thing, they have this bond (when they’re together),” he said. “They’re not a romantic couple, but they have a certain kind of relationship.”
Mr. Hawke’s experience of working with Mr. Linklater was like a gift, he said.
It was the lack of a plot in such films as the “Before Sunrise” trilogy or “Boyhood,” that helped him really achieve the truth, the realism in his acting, he said.
Working with Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) kept him from “acting” and not being in the moment, Mr. Hawke said.
They would look at him funny, he said, if he “acted” too much.
“Rick (Linklater) hates plot,” Mr. Hawke continued. “He’s allergic to it.”
He compared Mr. Linklater’s films to what playwright Anton Chekhov and theater director Constantin Stanislavski were trying to achieve: holding a mirror up to reality.
Mr. Linklater’s 1993 film “Dazed and Confused” is a Chekhov play, said Mr. Hawke.
“Who else but a descendant of Chekhov would have the big end(ing) as ‘Let’s go and get some Aerosmith tickets?'”
The evening continued in this in-depth style, delivering one of the festival’s most thoughtful and rigorous evenings.
Today continues with more films and the Outstanding Performer of the Year award with Steve Carell. Visit www.sbiff.com for more information.