Ethan Hawke Hopes 'Good Kill' Will Lead to U.S. Drone Policy Debate
"Does the world want the U.S. roving above us?” asks the actor
Good Kill, which had its world premiere at the Venice film festival, is set to screen in Toronto later on Monday. And it is expected to continue the political debate about the U.S. approach to drones, which the movie's stars began discussing before they left Italy.
Directed by Andrew Niccol, Good Kill stars Ethan Hawke as a fighter pilot forced to pick up a joystick, January Jones as his abandoned Las Vegas housewife and Zoe Kravitz as his young "co-pilot" who immediately questions her orders.
Most of the film takes place in a small space as Hawke's and Kravitz's characters are ordered to make wide-sweeping missile hits on suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Yemen. It's the first in-depth cinematic portrayal of U.S. drone policy, with audiences able to see the cause and effect of pulling the trigger.
The film's actors said they see it, more than anything, as an educational movie that they hope will open up the discussion about drone policy in America.
"What I love about this movie is that it's presenting a truth. We all love the idea that there'd be a way to have war without causalities. It seems like the least worst option," Hawke told The Hollywood Reporter. "Before we press 'go' on that completely, we should probably learn more about it. Because I for one, as a citizen, didn't know anything about it. And so I hope it provokes a dialogue, and I hope that dialogue is constructive."
Kravitz said she took on the role mainly because she knew so little about what was going on in her own country. "I think most Americans aren't as educated about it as they should be," she said. "It's written in a way where you see all sides of it. I left feeling compassion and understanding for both sides of the situation, which was not at all what I expected, because I'm a very peaceful person coming from a very kind of left-wing hippie-dippie family."
Jones calls the film extremely daring for Niccol to make, especially without the support of the military. "The fact that it even got financed was a miracle," she told THR. "When production went to ask for [Department of Defense] support, they very respectfully declined. They didn't know if they wanted to lend their support. They're just confused themselves as how to talk about it, so we'll talk for them."
All castmembers spent time meeting with real drone pilots, who were on set to teach the actors the more technical skills of the job. "A lot of the guys are extremely good at video games," said Hawke. "They'd do this for 10 hours and then drive home and play video games for four hours. It seemed impossible from my understanding of it to separate that."
"My character, his dilemma is trying to balance the absolute schizophrenia of trying to be at war with the Taliban in the afternoon and then picking your kids up from school," he said. "And how hard it is for one human being to hold all that in his head."
Hawke said that as an actor he's trained to separate roles, but it's not the case for the military. "I think for a lot of these soldiers, they have no real training about compartmentalization," he said. "I have a brother who's in the military, and he says, you know, some of these 19-year-old kids show up, you wouldn't give them the keys to your car. But you've got to give them the keys to a Humvee and let them drive it through Baghdad. It's very dangerous."
Added Hawke: "These soldiers can't tell their own stories. They probably don't have the desire to, but they also can't. We as a public have to decide what position we want to put our soldiers in. The world community has to decide: Does the world want the U.S. roving above us? And what do you do when every country has a drone? And then nobody can go outside. Will Obama be able to even publicly speak if an enemy of the U.S. has a drone and he can't even step outside?"