Inside The Hero Winter Annual

In-conversation: Zoe Kazan and Ethan Hawke discuss the shifting landscape of Hollywood
By Alex James Taylor | Film+TV | 1 December 2022
Photographer Mark Seliger
Stylist Jess Roberts.

In She Said, Zoe Kazan takes on a role that is generational, historical and vital: playing Jodi Kantor alongside Carey Mulligan as Megan Twohey – the two New York Times reporters whose painstaking work won them the Pulitzer Prize for their 2017 investigation into the formerly untouchable film producer Harvey Weinstein, and ignited the #MeToo movement. The film, directed by Maria Schrader, depicts the resolute investigation by Kantor and Twohey that shattered decades of silence surrounding sexual assault in Hollywood, altering modern culture forever. Kazan’s next project has personal roots – as writer and executive producer of a new East of Eden series directed by Florence Pugh. Kazan’s grandfather, Elia, helmed the 1955 film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel.

“Old Hollywood ended in a day,” says multi-award-winning auteur Ethan Hawke, recalling the seismic effect Kantor and Twohey’s investigation had on the industry. A storied craftsman, Hawke’s unbridled devotion to the nuances and subtleties of performance has built a formidable career as varied as it is brilliant – Training Day, Born To Be Blue, Boyhood, Before Sunrise, Dead Poets Society, to name a few – not only tapping into the zeitgeist, but tuning it. The two actors first met when Kazan was cast in the 2007 stageplay, Things We Want, directed by Hawke, and have remained close friends since.

Ethan Hawke: I want to start by asking how She Said came into your life.
Zoe Kazan: In a very strange pandemic-y kind of way. Carey [Mulligan] and I have known each other since 2008. We did The Seagull together, we shared a dressing room and we fell in love. [laughs]

EH: I saw you guys in that; it was a great production.
ZK: It’s so close to my heart. It really does feel like yesterday to me, I feel like I could close my eyes and be back in our dressing room. Anyway, we’re very woven into each other’s lives now and I had been talking to one of our mutual best friends on the phone who mentioned how Carey was going to do this movie she was really excited about. I was like, “That’s so good, that seems exactly like what she should be doing.” I never thought there was a part there for me, I was just genuinely so thrilled for Carey. She was right in the middle of her Promising Young Woman press so I wasn’t talking to her a tonne, but I was so excited for her. Then my agents said, “There’s this project, have you heard about it?” And I was like, “Yeah I heard about it because of Carey,” and they set up a meeting for me. I had auditioned for something else for Plan B Entertainment that I hadn’t gotten shortly beforehand, so I feel like I was on their minds because of that. They didn’t make me read for it, which is really unusual, for me at least. I had a meeting with the director then I was attached to the project.

EH: Coincidentally, I know Megan [Twohey].
ZK: I like Megan and Jodi [Kantor] very much. Do you know Megan’s husband?

EH: That’s how I know Megan, through [her husband] Jim Rutman, the literary agent. Right when they were breaking the story, before anybody had heard about it, Megan called me and got some off-the-record information. She called me up and said, “Look, we’re about to break this story about a very famous member of the industry, a revelatory story about sexual misconduct,” and I remember saying, “Who? Harvey Weinstein?” She burst out laughing saying, “Well, I guess it’s not top secret.” It was so obvious.
ZK: It was in plain sight. The thing I kept saying to Carey when we were in prep for this was, “It’s a little bit like Zeus being pulled up for his rapes.” [Weinstein] was such a powerful person, and it seems like in our industry, everyone knew. I don’t mean they knew he was literally raping people, but everyone knew about his conduct, and it was just the landscape we lived in, or at least as a young woman it felt like that was just the landscape we lived in. The idea of someone meticulously holding that person to account seemed like it was never going to happen, because if it’s sitting in plain sight, how can someone be held to account for it? At least that’s how it felt to me.

EH: That’s how it felt to me. It makes you ask these questions about movements in society, how they happen and why. Sometimes, certain movements happen so quickly. If you read about the histories of revolutions, things will be at a status quo for hundreds of years then one thing will happen and the city will catch on fire. Something you thought unthinkable happens really fast, and that’s the way it felt to me with this story. Old Hollywood ended in a day. I remember when I was coming up you’d hear people like [Martin] Scorsese, and other really smart people say, “Well the 70s ended in a day, the 70s ended with the release of Heaven’s Gate.” [the film famously flopped]. They had been making movies in that counter-culture, auteur-driven way, I grew up loving these types of movie. The 80s happened, and Reagan became President… but it all really happened with the failure of Heaven’s Gate. Things were never the same. And when I hear those stories, I’m like, “Well that can’t really be true,” that the world pivots in one moment. But with this story, I really felt our industry pivot in one moment. Things I grew up with that I thought you just had to accept because they were never going to change, and it makes you wonder why. I’ve heard my mother say she thought systemic racism would be revolutionised with the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and that was supposed to be the energy that was required to spur all this change. Everyone knew it needed to happen and then it didn’t happen – why not? Or, on a positive front, when I graduated high school there was no one who said, “I’m gay.” I’m not saying there weren’t homosexual people but no one was out. In my son’s graduating class it was not an issue.
ZK: I sit directly at the halfway point between you and your son. Even at my high school graduation, I think there was one out kid in our class.

EH: In the wake of that article, there were lots of people writing other ancillary articles and I remember somebody wanting to attack all these other people they were saying were facilitating the great lie of Harvey Weinstein. I remember thinking, “Well you’ve got to put the whole generation on trial then,” and you can do that if you want and that’s fair, but if we’re going to charge everyone who was complicit it felt too big to fight. Whether we’re talking about other agents, other producers, or other actors who worked for them.
ZK: I feel sort of on both sides of the coin. I remember when the article came out, my first reaction was, “I hope they don’t stop with him.” It’s not about one man, it’s about asking how this could have existed in plain sight for so long. And the answer is because it’s not just one person, it’s a whole system built to protect that person. I know for Jodi and Megan it really wasn’t just about Harvey, it was about what that represented. There is a line in the movie where Jodi says something like, “If this can happen to these women who have power and are famous, who else is this happening to?” But I also felt – and I continue to feel as we start to talk about making the movie – that when a system is built to support a monster, everyone is complicit. You would have to wait 50 years to make this movie and have no one on it who had their career touched by Harvey Weinstein. I think the system is worth interrogating, I just also think it’s impossible to separate the history of the film industry from a history of sexual misconduct at this point. I think it’s worth trying to change that, but I think you’re right to feel that it’s too widespread to tease out those threads completely.

EH: The article they broke is using a particular abusive mogul as an example of a much larger way in which we look at the world, and the way young people are raised, about what’s acceptable or not. I think everybody is still vibrating off that, somehow the ground is shifting underneath the conversation in a really positive way. Right when it was happening, I got to have dinner with Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve who had passionate, strong, educated opinions that were completely contradictory to each other. These were two wildly powerful women who are smart, experienced and knowledgeable – particularly about the film business and abuses of power – that had very different points of view about it. It was wonderful that conversation was happening internationally, but I felt privileged to hear them both because they were talking about their experiences in the ways power corrupts, the dangers implicit in victimhood and how to make sure you don’t create a world where women are more afraid. It was about creating a world where people have a sense of sexual empowerment and joy and spontaneity and creativity and love and playfulness in their life, where we don’t all neuter ourselves to such a point that we rob the joy of life away from ourselves. In such a fear of possibly hurting someone’s feelings, we might all shove a sock in our mouths and that’s not the answer. Human beings are messy.
ZK: Do you know Melissa Febos? She’s a really incredible essayist and she posted something on Twitter from an interview she’d given where she said, “You cannot write with the bad faith reader in mind,” which I found so helpful to think about from a creative standpoint. Part of the difference between writing and acting for me is that, as an actor, you’re in collaboration with other people and your mess is coming up against someone else’s mess. There is a lot more grey area than me sitting at home in front of my computer. You still have to banish the bad faith viewer, or the person sitting over your shoulder saying, “You shouldn’t write that,” or asking if you’re going to get in trouble for saying something. There is so much grey area naturally in our profession but having some agreed-upon boundaries on what is appropriate has felt, to me, like it’s given me more freedom. Having an intimacy coordinator, for instance, is something I felt self-conscious about the first time. Then as soon as I started having that conversation, I was like “Why haven’t I always had one of these?” There’s a stunt coordinator and that person makes me feel safer on set… There is a lot of romance around freedom in our profession and those moments of inspiration that come out of nowhere. We want to be able to protect them, but I think sometimes in order to be able to protect them it’s like good parenting – you need good boundaries.

“I always want to be good at something immediately, I always want people to love me immediately – I don’t have a great relationship with patience.”

EH: I also fundamentally believe that discipline creates freedom. It might seem like a pivot but it’s not, take your husband Paul [Dano] and I, we weren’t really ‘free’ on stage. We were doing True West together and the penultimate scene – where we’re supposed to tear apart the stage, abuse each other, spit on each other, be drunk and throw things – as a piece of art got better with each progressive performance. We felt more comfortable with each other, we felt more comfortable with the text, with the space, with the audience, and we knew we were safe. As the feeling of safety arose, creativity and freedom flourished, it didn’t get old and boring or die. The last week of that run was so far superior to the first week, there was actually more spontaneity in the moment-to-moment acting and playing of the music of Sam Shepard. They don’t really ask me to do sex scenes anymore, that ship has sailed for me! [both laugh] But there was a period of time where every movie I got cast in, I had to make out with somebody, and it used to really bother me. The words ‘intimacy coordinator’ didn’t even exist. I used to hate it, they just used to say, “You guys kiss,” and we were just supposed to do it. I used to say, “You would never say, ‘just punch them’.” There are certain actions where your body doesn’t understand that you’re acting. So, if somebody hits you, it doesn’t matter if you play fight with your best friend or your sibling and they actually smack you, you often smack them back. These things often escalate. If you’re trying to express something true about human sexuality, these things are big events in our human life which art has a responsibility to talk about. There’s a huge well of confusion and messiness, most of us don’t understand our own sexuality so the idea two actors are supposed to come on and tell a story that involves kissing or touching or intimacy and you’re not going to map it out?! It is a stunt, and you often don’t know one another, so I’m very grateful for that movement. I was reading an article the other day about a nineteen-year-old actress being asked to do this very serious love scene and she was talking about the intimacy coordinator and I thought, “I’m so happy this is happening.”
ZK: You must also feel that as a father. I had this scene on The Big Sick where I had to be strapped to a heart monitor and we were shooting in a real hospital, so they were just using a real heart monitor which tracked my heart. The script supervisor came over at some point and was like, “It’s so funny in the scene whenever Kumail [Nanjiani, Kazan’s co-star] comes in, your heart rate jumps,” and I thought, “This isn’t even a confusing situation for me, his partner is on set, and I don’t feel confused that I might be in love with Kumail, this isn’t a showmance situation but still, my body is this dumb animal. I tell it every day, ‘You’re in love with this person,’ and so when he comes in the room my heart rate jumps.” I’ve been in plays where I’ve played a rape victim and I have stood on stage and talked about my rape every night. What stories am I telling my poor body? I do think it is holy to protect that ‘pretend’, but one of the ways you protect it is by saying, “My job is to pretend, and this is where the boundaries are.”

EH: As I’ve grown older, more and more I believe acting for me has become a form of prayer. It’s a place where I go to say, “Human beings are important, the things we think and feel have value, I think the audience’s time has value and this is where they go to understand behaviour.” Good storytelling is a form of collective prayer, it’s a collective imagination. A good preacher at a service usually tells you a story.
ZK: I think this is why I find cynicism in literature or art so off-putting.

EH: I’ve become allergic to overly hopeful pieces or overly cynical pieces, our real life doesn’t have that dualistic quality where it’s either left or right or good or bad, there are positives and negatives attached to every movement. Ive learned it about myself, every single one of my best qualities is also a big problem in my life!
ZK: I agree, that’s funny. [laughs]

EH: I wanted to ask you a question. When I first met you, there was a wildness to you that made you an extremely thrilling and dynamic actor, really fun to work with. You didn’t accept conventional boundaries, and you loved to poke holes. I remember you came into an audition and asked a tonne of questions. What parts of that wildness have helped you? What parts have you carried with you and what parts have you redirected?
ZK: That’s a really good question. I took an acting class with Ron Van Lieu for a three-month period in my early twenties and he was such a good teacher. I don’t know if you’ve experienced this with acting teachers, or even just with jobs, but I often learn the lesson from something two or three years down the line. [laughs] It sometimes takes me a moment and I don’t know if that’s because it takes me a minute to integrate, or whether I am so stubborn that I put up a wall against the lesson at first. But in that class, he assigned me a scene from Summer and Smoke and I really didn’t like doing it because it was this good, sweet girl. I just felt everyone looks at me and they see the sweetness of my face and they see I’ve been such a good girl, an A student, and I wrote him a drunken email being like, “I have a tiger in my belly and the tiger takes the reigns sometimes and I need to get the reigns on the tiger!” So, for the next class, he assigned me Cowboy Mouth which is the Sam Shepard and Patti Smith play. I was so thrilled to get to put some of that wildness in a place. When we were doing the scene in class for the first time he said to me, “You need to put your play in service of the text, not have the text be in service of your play.” I was so in love with my wildness and my freedom but I didn’t want to put any fetters on it at all. I think that lesson has taken me a really long time to incorporate, I remember doing Angels in America playing Harper at Signature Theatre – that was six years after. Joe Pitt [a character in the play] is this immovable object and Harper is trying to act on him in all these ways, to make him change. I found it incredibly frustrating playing those scenes, trying so hard to get Joe to behave differently, which of course he never will. I remember Michael [Greif] the director on that saying to me at a certain point in our preview process “You’ve put your play away and now you’re trying to make the scene happen. Now you need to bring your play back.” So it felt like I went too far down the other road, as a professional actor I had to put things in place and nail them down. I feel like that live wire thing you’re talking about – the tiger I feel in my belly – has been really hard for me to figure out. What is an appropriate amount of wildness, what is an appropriate amount of freedom, how do I put that into my work and not have it be the point of the work, or how do I have that in my life and not have it derail my life? I think the flip side of that for me is the depression I’ve struggled with my whole life too, they’re two sides of the same thing. When I go too far down one road it unbalances me. I will say, having my work take me away from my child has actually made my work feel even more important. It’s got to be something worth it for me to spend time away from my kid, whether that’s monetarily or creatively, and it has meant I’ve developed a kind of patience with myself. I have to say, “Alright, I’m only going to get three hours to write today,” or, “I’m only going to get two days on set,” so I have to winnow that fire down into a golden thread. I’m pushing into that time, knowing it’s going to be there and that I can come back to it. Does that make sense to you?

EH: It does. I guess the short answer is, “Ethan, I’ve grown into a woman.” [both laugh]
ZK: I guess so.

EH: I often have the same thing, where I have a lesson provided to me from playing a part that I don’t actually absorb until a couple of years later. It seems obvious to everybody else who knows me, they’ll say “Oh you must have learned that on that thing.” But I do think sometimes playing these parts kind of rips open the soil and, as a couple of years go by, some seeds get planted in that ripped-up soil and they begin to manifest. If you ever meet or hang out with Vanessa Redgrave, or one of these heavyweight actors… she’s really wise. She’s a really substantive human being, it almost feels like you’re meeting an older monk or nun who has spent their life in a monastery or a convent because she’s dedicated so much of her life to great literature. She has played so many amazing roles and meditated hard on the plight of this character, that character, this sequence, that sequence; she has seen the world from so many points of view, and she has allowed those seeds of all that stirring-up to be planted. This woman knows a lot about what it means to be a human being, and I do think that is the benefit of a lifetime dedication to this profession. It’s funny you mention Cowboy Mouth and I mentioned True West, I think Sam Shepard is a great model for the actor-artist. It’s about giving yourself permission to write and do other things but to also love acting. It’s definitely getting better, but when I was younger there was real pressure to stay in your lane, everybody just thought you were being self-important or self-aggrandising if you stepped out of it. Of course, if you stay in the lane you’re going to atrophy and die, so it’s a no-win situation. How much does your writing impact your acting and how much does your acting impact your writing? How would you say those are related?
ZK: First of all, having you come into my life when I was 24 made a huge impact on me because you were not concerned about lanes at all. It really was inspiring to me because I did feel I would be a less serious actor if I seriously pursued writing. I really mean that, I really feel like meeting you changed my life in so many ways. The importance of my writing to me has really changed during this pandemic. Like you, I think I have a lot of creative energy that has to go somewhere [laughs]. I had this feeling when I was maybe 22, where I felt like if I didn’t do something with my time when I wasn’t professionally acting I would either become a terrible addict, or sleep with everyone I meet, or just become a gym rat – I had to do something with that energy. My writing over the course of my twenties became this thing that, if I wasn’t acting, I put my creative energy there. But I was always writing in spurts and writing the first draft very quickly between jobs, honing it in my trailer while I was bored on set. During this pandemic, having my life grind to a stop and frankly just not having any childcare for the first year, Paul and I were giving each other three hours a day. So I didn’t have a lot of time, but I knew I had three hours every day and I wrote so much and I wrote so freely because no one was looking over my shoulder. Even on East of Eden, which I actually had deadlines on, no-one was expecting it tomorrow, so I developed a kind of patience with my process that I’ve never had. I always want to be good at something immediately, I always want people to love me immediately – I don’t have a great relationship with patience. Becoming really patient with my writing process has totally changed my relationship with it and has given me more ownership. Whatever acting job I have next has to be as meaningful to me as my writing is, which I really didn’t feel before.

EH: I relate so much to what you said, particularly the impatience. I do think one of the things I’m most envious of – that I imagine formal writing education would give you – is an understanding of the process. I have over-relied on inspiration and energy, I read books about writers I admire like Flannery O’Connor or James Baldwin. These great writers really accomplished a lot and you realise how deeply they thought about what they were writing. It reminds me of the way I approach rehearsing a play, I’ve done it since I was thirteen-years-old and I am educated about how to prepare scene work. I can do it quickly if forced to, but I know it doesn’t breed as good a result and I understand the value of how to harness a collective imagination, and that it actually takes time. I haven’t had that as a writer, I’ve had to learn how to write on the fly and I’ve developed a tonne of habits I wish I didn’t have. I remember when Maya [Hawke] was born, that was the first time I had to develop writing habits too, and what a huge benefit that was. Because, all of a sudden, you can’t just think, “I might have fucked around all week going to parties but now it’s Sunday morning and I’ll write all day until Tuesday.” That’s the way I used to do things.
ZK: Same.


EH: It was much more interesting to do these two or three hours a day where the clock is ticking the whole time and you have to centre yourself. Revisit what you did yesterday, experience the disappointment of what you did and how you can’t believe this thing you thought was so inspired is so mediocre. One question I have for you though, was it fun to play a writer? You can really understand a lot about what these women were going through as they wrote their article, you’ve researched projects, and you’ve obsessed about how to phrase something and what’s good writing. What was that like?
ZK: So much of this movie is about how you create an airtight, unsinkable ship of an article. When I was talking to Jodi about writing this, and Jodi is a really good writer who prides herself on being a writer, she said; “Writing an investigative piece like this is like creating a legal document. You have to make it airtight.” So, a lot of what we were doing was all the stuff leading up to writing. I will say though, I really like putting on the metaphorical clown nose. I’ve loved playing parts where my intelligence gets tied behind my back, I love Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun and I love Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday. I love seeing an intelligent person put their intelligence away – it’s very powerful to me.

EH: Warren Beatty does it beautifully.
ZK: Totally.

EH: Warren Beatty in Shampoo or Bonnie and Clyde, he’s so good in those movies even though he plays a doofus.
ZK: In Olive Kitteridge for instance, I play this person who is more helpless than I am, I just really love those characters and I feel really protective towards them. There is something of a relief for me about going to work, putting on that invisible clown nose and tying some part of myself behind my back. But there was something really wonderful about going to work on the other side of it and knowing this is a full fucking adult woman who has to juggle all the things I’m juggling. How to provide childcare, how to balance her career with her husband’s career, whose intelligence is her superpower and who is relying on it every day to help tell other people’s stories in service of something greater than herself. That was a very different and new experience for me. I felt like it helped so much to have Carey there, someone who knew me really well and has known me since I was a wild girl, who has watched me become a woman. It made me feel really safe to bring out those parts of myself, I feel like sometimes it is harder for me to stand in my power than it is for me to put on that clown nose.

EH: It’s difficult to try to own all the aspects of yourself, it’s difficult for different actors for different reasons. Some people can’t play the clown.
ZK: Yeah, they only want to be high status.

EH: I’ve always secretly scowled at that, you see it in a lot of male actors. They can’t play somebody that gets beaten up, they really atrophy themselves when they do that.
ZK: On the other side of that there are all these memes on the internet about Paul getting beaten up in movies. It’s one of the only things about the public persona of Paul that bothers me because don’t you see this beautiful, vulnerable person is not afraid to show that aspect of masculine life?

“I’m so fortunate to make a living in this profession, I just don’t have such a clear idea of what I want as an actor as I did a decade ago.”


EH: Those are one example of how fake the public self is when it actually completely misconstrues strength and weakness. If you’ve rehearsed with Paul you realise he’s never been beaten up, he’s always done exactly what he wants to do! I am a bully in a rehearsal room. [both laugh] I’m like, “I’m gonna go over here, then you go over here!” Paul will not play that game and that is what makes him such a wonderful scene partner. Philip Seymour Hoffman was the same way, he was very capable of playing alpha or beta, and he didn’t manifest his own ego through his acting. He was a storyteller, and Paul does that too. That’s Paul’s superpower, not identifying with society’s game of what is strength and what is weakness.
ZK: I think that’s true.

EH: Well, it’s one of his superpowers anyway. I am curious, I saw you and Carey in The Seagull and it was really fun for me because I did my Broadway debut in The Seagull. I did it with Laura Linney and we’ve kind of grown up together in this business. She was fresh out of Juilliard, I was coming right off Dead Poets Society and it’s been really interesting to know her all this time and I really feel like I’ve watched her become a master craftsman of our profession. I think she’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, she’s worked the hard way, she’s so good and I’ve watched her do that job by job by job. I remember watching you and Carey thinking these are two really exciting… sitting there wondering what these young people are going to do with their lives. You had such great careers ahead of you. I think Carey is such a remarkable actress, I believe in her completely, I don’t need to see the movie to know she’s going to be great in it. What do you think makes her a special performer to work with and how have you seen her develop in your friendship?
ZK: I got to be in the editing room cutting Carey’s performance with Paul on Wildlife [a 2018 movie written by Dano and Kazan and directed by Dano] and I was like, “She is a prima ballerina.” Every take is useable, you can build almost any performance out of what she gives you. If you want her softer, there’s a softer one, there’s everything. She’s so good and so precise, it’s always going to be Carey’s performance but there are many different ways that could go. She’s always going to be precise, she’s always going to be giving that exact thing you need, but I’ve watched her become more in service of her own pursuit and less in service of what the other person might need from her.


EH: I’ve found sometimes, not just in acting but in all walks of life, when you really are trying hard to make everyone else happy, you often fail. I’ll give you an example, I had one of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve ever had as an actor doing a movie with a director I couldn’t stand. We fought and I really felt they didn’t understand my character, I felt like going to set was a war. But strangely it translates in my acting in a very positive way, I realised I’d been trying to make my directors happy my whole career. I had such a good experience in my early years, Peter Weir was a hero to me and a great mentor. My teaching was that the director was a master craftsman and I had to execute exactly what they wanted. I relied on looking to the director for what each scene should be, and as I started working with other people they didn’t know what the scene should be, they didn’t have any ideas, or they had ideas but they were… not master craftsmen! Strangely this director I was fighting with, we ended up being friends when the whole thing was over because I was really happy with my work and the adversarial relationship created energy and I stood up for my own point of view. I stopped trying to do everything right and I started asking myself, “What do I want to contribute? What is so important to me that I’m not going to let this moron fuck up?”
ZK: I have one more question for you. I feel like having a kid has been this really transformative thing for Paul and me, where our relationship with our work has changed. I think some of it is also just being in your thirties and having your priorities shift in other ways. But what I’ve felt is that the throughline of my ambition has become less clear to me than when you and I first met. I think part of this is growing up with parents who are artists, where I watched them pay the bills with their writing my entire life. Making a living being an actor was my goal, and once I hit that goal I just needed to keep climbing this ladder. Whatever the next thing was – more security or more opportunity. I felt this big hunger in me to be able to put myself into the world. Now I don’t really feel that anymore, I’m so fortunate to make a living in this profession, I just don’t have such a clear idea of what I want as an actor as I did a decade ago. I think part of that is the trappings of our profession seem more hollow to me than they did then, I have this feeling of being in service of… what? If I were to want something more for myself, what would that be in service of? I’m curious because you seem to have so much hunger in you, so much curiosity, so much learning and it’s like something has never atrophied in you. I feel myself at this tipping point in my life where I really feel like the next decade is going to look different and I don’t know how, I don’t know whether that’s writing becoming more important and acting becoming less, or whether acting becomes more important because I’m only doing it every so often because I’m prioritising our family life. I’m curious how your relationship with ambition has changed. For ambition, I could easily sub in hunger or desire too.

EH: The question itself is so illuminating about you, and the question will answer itself. My favourite works of art don’t give you an answer, they ask a question and then it vibrates with you. The ancillary superficial elements of perceived success and perceived failure are hollow. Your ambition, if you’re growing up, will die. There is a ‘look-at-me’ aspect of every young actor, “Notice me, I’m important!” You do need it to do the work and drive yourself, but it’s a hollow journey if it stops there. I had some pivotal experiences when I was in my late thirties where I met some people who were beyond the accumulation of status, the accumulation of wealth or perceived power. Their life and their art and their development as human beings were integrated. That integration is how you get into the Obi-Wan Kenobi landscape of thinking; “I’m over-worrying about who wins this sword fight, I’m much more interested in the people I affect and the conversations I have and what my sword fight is in service of, because one of them I will lose.” We’re all going to lose, we’re all going six feet under, we do have a very limited amount of time and it was a very difficult moment for me that I’d completely forgotten about – but I identified with my ambition. I thought my ambition was me. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t striving for something. And then you realise what you’re striving for doesn’t exist. Your question is an essential question and it’s one that will be your North Star, that question alone. How you answer it depends on who you are, but asking it is everything.
ZK: That’s really helpful, thank you.

EH: I love you Zoe, I feel honoured to be talking to you. I can’t wait to see you and Carey in the movie, it’s such a great thing to put into the world.
ZK: Love you Eth.

Interview originally published in The HERO Winter Annual. 

manicurist HONEY at EXPOSURE;
executive producer RUTH LEVY;
production intern BEAR MOODY;
post-production supervisor RACHEL CROWE;


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