Ethan Hawke: I’m ‘Obsessed’ With Nicolas Cage

Mark Deming
Ethan Hawke is all about Nicolas Cage
Ethan Hawke is all about Nicolas Cage

Despite having a long and successful career and an Oscar on his mantel, Nicolas Cage has a reputation as — well, let's say he's known as a less than subtle actor. Cage is one performer who is never afraid to "go there," and he has a legion of fans who love seeing just how over-the-top he can be with each new movie.

One of those fans happens to be Ethan Hawke.

In a recent "Ask Me Anything" online chat on Reddit, 42-year-old Hawke was asked about actors he admired, and one of the first he mentioned was Cage. He even cited the appropriately extreme Cage fan page called One True God.

"I'm kind of obsessed with Nic Cage," Hawke admitted on Wednesday. "He's the only actor since Marlon Brando that's actually done anything new with the art of acting; he's successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours."

Hawke went on to say one of his own all-time best career moments was with the 49-year-old actor, who won an Oscar for his 1995 film "Leaving Las Vegas." "One of my favorite scenes I've ever done is the last scene in 'Lord of War,'" Hawke said of the 2005 crime thriller in which Cage was his co-star.

That very scene is uncharacteristically low-key by Cage standards. It's actually Hawke who brings a tone of understated rage to the scene.
Watch Hawke's Favorite Scene With Cage From 'Lord Of War':

In "Lord Of War," Cage plays Yuri Orlov, a Russian gun-runner who rises to become one of the world's most wealthy and powerful underground arms dealers. Hawke plays Jack Valentine, an intelligence agent who has been assigned to track down Orlov and bring him to justice.

And in that favorite Hawke scene, the corrupt arms merchant (Cage) quietly and carefully explains why Valentine's superiors will allow him to go free, no matter how much it enrages the agent – because he sells arms to the enemies of American's enemies, and for that reason the American government is willing to look the other way.

[Related: 'The Purge' is Raging on Twitter and Facebook; Will Social Media Success Mean Big Box Office on Friday?]

In his Reddit chat, Hawke admitted as a fan that Cage has been in a few real stinkers over the years (most actors wouldn't put "Ghost Rider," "Drive Angry," or the remake of "The Wicker Man" high on their resume).

Cage himself is well aware of his larger-than-life onscreen reputation, and has even acknowledged the infamous Internet "supercut" video, "Nicolas Cage Losing His S---" (which contains four high-intensity minutes of Cage freaking out in highlights from over a dozen of his movies). He even said he enjoyed watching it.

But all that joking doesn't change Hawke's feelings about Cage's work.

"If I could erase [Cage's] bottom half bad movies, and only keep his top half movies, he would blow everyone else out of the water," Hawke said. "He's put a little too much water in his beer, but he is still one of the great actors of our time. And working with him was an absolute pleasure."

Hawke spread the love around, citing several other actors he admires, including Denzel Washington ("To my mind, Denzel Washington is the greatest movie star of our time. There’s nothing he can’t do"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("When I first met Phil, he was often the reader when I would go in to audition for something … He was intimidating then, and he’s intimidating now"), Leonardo DiCaprio ("I know he's crazy famous and everyone wants to work with him, but I admire tremendously the way he has handled his celebrity. After the success of 'Titanic,' it would have been very easy for him to wind up another drug-addled casualty on the Hollywood Strip; but instead he's dedicated himself to making great films"), and the late River Phoenix ("I remember knowing he was special when in the first days of filming 'Explorers' -- we were staying in a motel outside of San Francisco, and I saw him practicing his character's walk in the parking lot one of the mornings before shooting began. Uncommon behavior for a 13-year old").

Hawke has certainly been blabbering a lot about his former co-stars, even bragging last week about his onscreen kiss with Angelina Jolie (in 2004's "Taking Lives"), saying it was his professional best.

We'll see if Hawke has absorbed Cage's "take no prisoners" example to heart in his starring role in "The Purge," a dystopian horror story which certainly offers its characters plenty of chances to freak on out.

"The Purge" opens in theaters on Friday.

Watch Ethan Hawke in 'The Purge' Clip: