“We were just saying, ‘We must be the two actors with the most f—ed-up teeth,’ ” Patricia Arquette cracked when she and her Boyhood costar Ethan Hawke took the stage at the 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Thursday night after watching a montage of their past work flash. The duo then embarked on a 100-minute, two-lane trip down memory lane — smoothly moderated by fest director Roger Durling and focusing on their careers before and after they intersected — followed by a presentation to them, by their Boyhood son Ellar Coltrane, of the fest’s American Riviera Award.
Charming Hawke, 44, and delicate Arquette, 46, who are nominated for the best supporting actor and best supporting actress Oscars, respectively, for their work in Boyhood, spent much of the time gushing about that Richard Linklater film. They felt deep personal connections to it from the start of the 12-year journey, since Arquette was already a young single mother, like her character, and Hawke was the product of a divorce who would soon go through one himself, like his.
Hawke described the undertaking as a “labor love” that had to beat incredible odds to ever even make it to a big screen. He noted that virtually “all the indie companies that were around in 2002 are gone now except IFC,” the Jonathan Sehring-run company that believed in and financed the film with annual installments. Arquette seconded this: “How do you get people to give you money that they know they aren’t gonna get back for at least 13 years? What kind of cockamamie financier?!” Hawke added jokingly about Sehring: “This guy’s been hiding $200,000 under the rug every year!”
As for the film itself, both are proud of what it stands for. “Not many people can say they did something new in film,” Arquette said, referencing the nature of the way it was shot over so many years, which is unprecedented in the narrative realm of filmmaking. Hawke added about its “plot,” “It’s basically a selection of scenes that would have been cut out of any other movie,” noting that he was pleased that Linklater focused on those because, he feels, “The minutiae of life is interesting.” Arquette added, “The special effect is time.”
Other Arquette films that were referenced in clips and discussion include Tony Scott‘s True Romance (1993), which Hawke said he had also auditioned for; Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood (1994), in which she played Johnny Depp‘s love interest; David O. Russell‘s Flirting with Disaster (1996), a comedy that felt “like working with a live electrical wire”; and Martin Scorsese‘s Bringing Out the Dead (1998). She also talked about starring on the NBC-turned-CBS television series (2005-2011), noting that she resented being asked to slim down by one exec. “We shouldn’t even have to have that conversation,” she said to applause.
As for Hawke, clips and discussion included Peter Weir‘s Dead Poets Society (1989), his breakthrough role, a clip of which — featuring the recently deceased Robin Williams and himself — choked him up and prompted him to ask, “What is it about intensely creative people and their inability to find balance?”; Ben Stiller‘s Reality Bites (1994); Andrew Niccol‘s Gattaca (1997); Antoine Fuqua‘s Training Day (2001), for which he received his first Oscar nom, and on which, he recalled, “I just enjoyed every second of it”; Sidney Lumet‘s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007); and his other great collaboration with Linklater, the Before trilogy (1995, 2004 and 2013), which he linked with Boyhood as “spiritual siblings — we really basically made them simultaneously.”
Both thesps couldn’t say enough good things about Linklater. Hawke, who has now made eight films with the Texan, said, “Rick thought I was a great actor so I started to just pretend to be the person he thought I was,” and noted that Linklater had advised him once when he was working too hard to seem real in a scene, “If you start acting, then everybody will notice there’s no plot. Don’t feel any pressure to create drama.” Noting that the filmmaker is such a big supporter of his actors (“You should have seen Rick’s face when [Matthew] McConaughey [who worked with Linklater on Dazed and Confused] won the Oscar!”), Hawke said of their collaboration, “It’s been a blessing.”
The night closed with Coltrane stepping up to the podium to present his screen parents and scene partners of a dozen years with their their statuettes. Calling them “my greatest allies,” he pointed out, “I’ve been watching Ethan and Patricia grow up, too,” and told them gratefully, “You never cease to amaze me.” Hawke then said, “I’ll remember this night for as long as I breathe.”