Ethan Hawke on lessons from Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society
It has been more than 25 years since a young Ethan Hawke stepped on his desk to salute his teacher, portrayed by Robin Williams, in Dead Poets Society.
Hawke, 43, has taken on some 50 roles since. This year, he received his third Oscar nod for best adapted screenplay for Before Midnight, shared with Richard Linklater and Julie Delpy.
Hawke spoke with Reuters about how Williams helped him find his "barbaric yawp" in that scene.
Dead Poets Society movie stills. Photos: YouTube
You played Todd Anderson in Dead Poets Society opposite Robin Williams. What was that experience like?
"I think the sadness with Robin is this person that brought the world so much joy, and to have it be revealed that we didn't do the same for him.
When we're young, it's easier to find mentors and teachers and Dead Poets Society is about that. It's about young people with a great mentor who's telling them to hear their own voice: "What will your verse be?"
Something happened to me with Robin.
It's the scene where he writes on the chalkboard, "I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world," which is a Walt Whitman quote. And he wants me to sound my barbaric yawp.
It's a very difficult scene to play and the director wanted to do it in one take.
He wanted it to have an authenticity and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
And when it was over, Robin just held my hand, and whispered, "Remember this." Very, very beautiful moment for me, you know?
And I've hunted, sought that moment out again, all the time.
My thoughts about his passing were extremely sad, but it was clear to me in 1988 that this is a person who was in serious pain, that he carried with him for decades." - Reuters