In the bloody vampire film Daybreakers, Ethan Hawke takes on the classic, but often dull, role: the self-hating vampire. Hawke explains how to keep the miserable undead interesting — and how a genre movie is like a punk rock song.
While doing Daybreakers roundtable interviews, we got Ethan to open up on the themes of this dark-toned film — be warned, there's some minor spoilers below.
When you took on this role you were also taking on the iconic self-loathing vampire character, how did you prepare yourself for this, and did you watch any other self-loathing vampires, such as Brad Pitt in Interview With A Vampire, or [Adrian Pasdar in] Near Dark?
I watched both of those movies. You know, it's funny you say that because it's a very hard character to do right. As soon as you start playing a self-loathing undead... The fun of being undead is that you get to do whatever the hell you want so you get to be liberated from anxiety and all this stuff, it's weird. I felt like a lot of times [for] the actors who have done it — myself included in this — it's a struggle to not be boring. All the other characters in the movie are more interesting than you, because there is nothing worse than watching an introspective, alienated, undead person. So I struggled with that. You just have to kind of embrace it.
The fun thing for me [spoiler] is that he became alive. I loved the notion that when faced with immortality, you get depressed. And when given back mortality, the fact that you're going to die, your life is filled with hope. There's something real to that. It gets to the core as to why our lives are wonderful: [the fact] that they're not going to last forever.
Do you think that the people who watch this film think about these things, or just the blood and the gore?
No. Not at all, I know that. That's not lost on me. The point of a good genre movie is kind of like the point of a punk rock song. Which is that the message of it comes at you in the subconscious. You don't think about it, it just kind of works on you in a weird way.
The directors talked about vampires becoming such a big thing, and they wrote the movie before Twilight and True Blood came out. What do you think about this whole phenomenon?
I have no idea, more than anyone else, why these zeitgeist things happen. Why the fuck? I have no idea. You know there hasn't been a vampire movie in a while, all of a sudden people starts realizing that, and talking to themselves. In a little while they're going to be ready for space movies again. For a while all it was, was Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, and crap like that. Then that's out of fashion. Now that, the...what's it called big blue? Avatar, it's going to be aliens again, because we can do aliens really well. And so it will be aliens for a while and that will be fun, and then the Western will make a come back. And before you know it the Gladiator movie will be back. It's just an endless cycle of what we get bored of. I think the fun thing about Daybreakers is, it's the first horror vampire movie in a while.