Ethan Hawke Interview: The Black Phone

The Black Phone star Ethan Hawke talks about playing a villain for the first time, whether Arthur Harrow is dead, and wanting a Star Wars role.

The Black Phone sees star Ethan Hawke once again teaming up with the dynamic duo behind his 2012 hit Sinister, writer-director Scott Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill. The newest film, which releases in theaters on June 24, allows Derrickson to return to his horror roots despite parting ways with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Instead, he partnered with Blumhouse Productions for an adaptation of Joe Hill’s 2004 short story, focused on a kidnapped child and a mysterious phone.

Hawke is cast very much against type as a terrifying murderer called the Grabber, who has killed a number of children before abducting Finney Shaw (Mason Thames). But not only does this latest victim begin receiving phone calls from past kids while trapped in the basement, he also has his sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) looking out for him. Will supernatural forces and sisterly affection be enough to stop the Grabber in his tracks from him?

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Related: Every Scott Derrickson Movie Up To The Black Phone, Ranked

ScreenRant spoke to Hawke about agreeing to play a villain for the first time thanks to Scott Derrickson, whether Moon Knight‘s Arthur Harrow is dead, and why he hasn’t been in a starwars film yet.


Ethan Hawke in The Black Phone movie wearing a mask and brandishing an ax

Screen Rant: I love seeing you reteaming with the wonderful Scott Derrickson, one of my favorites. What was it like coming back together for The Black Phone?

Ethan Hawke: It was awesome. Sinister was a great experience; I think it was great for him too. It was an important movie in my career. It was my first horror movie, and I was turning 40. Scott kind of reinvigorated my love of genre movies, and I learned a lot from him.

Now, to get to work with him again… The movies are kind of siblings in a way. But, Sinister is extremely dark; there’s just a darkness to that movie. [The Black Phone], while being incredibly terrifying, has a tremendous amount of love in it. It’s less cynical. You’re watching this brother and sister look after each other in a malevolent world and save each other.

When he first sent the script, I was like, “Listen, I’m so excited that you’re sending me something that I want to say yes.” But he was telling me the character he wanted me to play, and I was like, “I’m never going to want to play that part. I’ll read the script, but I’m never going to play that part.” But then I read it, and I thought it was so well-written, so well-made. It was just well conceived, and I thought, “Well, maybe it is time to play a villain.”

I normally never felt inclined. I just didn’t want to invite that kind of energy into my imagination; I just didn’t want to. But then I thought, “With Scott, he’ll do it really well. It’ll be worth it.”

It’s funny you say that, because I’ve been reading this narrative that you were hesitant to play a villain, and now we’ve seen you do Arthur Harrow and The Grabber back-to-back. Where are you with playing those types of roles now?

Ethan Hawke: I don’t know. I did The Black Phone first, and so that was my first villain role. Then after The Black Phone, they offered me the Marvel thing, and it seemed like, “Well, I guess maybe this is the chapter in my life.” But Arthur Harrow is not really a villain the way The Grabber is.

Arthur Harrow’s more what I would call an antagonist. He’s against the hero, but he still thinks he’s a good person. He has a certain logic that you can follow. The Grabber is just evil incarnate. He’s just some disgusting id from the universe, so that was more challenging.

The masks are so creepy.

Ethan Hawke: Super creepy. I knew when I saw the mask, I was like, “Oh, this movie’s gonna work. This is gonna be great.”

100%. By the way, do you think Arthur Harrow is dead?

Ethan Hawke: He doesn’t feel dead to me. That’s all I can say.

Right?! I feel that way too.

Ethan Hawke: I don’t know. Certainly, he’s seen better days. But I’d be surprised if he goes down. with that [show]you’re never sure what’s happening in somebody’s imagination or what’s really happening anyway, so.

You did this campaign in 2018 to do a starwars movie. And I’m just like, “Who at Lucasfilm is denying Ethan Hawke a starwars role?” How do we make this happen?

Ethan Hawke: Isn’t it amazing? I mean, I did a hard public pitch! And I see all these great people in these things, and I could have played that part. I could have played that part. I guess somebody up there doesn’t like me.

That cannot be true.

Ethan Hawke: I think they’ve got something– how I make myself feel better is I think they’ve got something really good in mind.

I think it’s like, “We’re not going to waste him on just some side character that comes in and out.”

Ethan Hawke: Exactly, I want something really good. But I am enjoying the new Obi-Wan series.

It’s really good, and I’m enjoying Stranger Things too. You must be so proud.

I’m so proud.

Thank you so much, Ethan. Such a joy to talk to you as always.

The Black Phone Synopsis


Finney Shaw is a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who’s being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims — and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.

Check out our other interview with The Black Phone producer Jason Blum and stars Mason Thames & Madeleine McGraw, as well as our previous interview with Ethan Hawke for Moon Knight.

More: Do Black Phone & Sinister Exist In The Same Universe?

  • The Black Phone (2022)Release date: February 04, 2022

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