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The Walking Life: A Brief History of the Hawke 'n' Talk

The Walking Life: A Brief History of the Hawke 'n' Talk

Aaron Sorkin may be the inventor of the walk-and-talk (remember those quip-filled White House strolls in The West Wing?), but only Ethan Hawke can be the undisputed master of the Hawke N’ Talk, a staple of the actor’s lengthy filmography. What is a Hawke N’ Talk?  Exactly what it sounds like: a lengthy, in-motion monologue in which Hawke sounds off about any number of subjects, from the nature of love to the benefits of inaction vs. action.  Among the many admirers of the Hawke N’ Talk is Hawke’s regular collaborator Richard Linklater, who admits to being on the listening end of many such monologues with the star in the real world.  As he recently told Yahoo Movies’ Mary Kaye Schilling, “When I first met Ethan, we just started talking, and we’ve been talking ever since.”  In honor of the duo’s latest team-up, Boyhood (which has a pretty a great Hawke N’ Talk itself), here are some of the finest examples of Hawke’s signature speech pattern.    

Reality Bites (1994)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: Era-defining, flannel-wearing slacker heartthrob, Troy.
Topic: Troy’s checkered employment history.
Listener: Winona Ryder’s winsome dream girl, Lelaina.
Location: Downtown Houston 
Key Line(s): "In total, he has been fired from—yes, count them—12 jobs."
Does It Go the Distance? While this early Hawke N’ Talk is more focused and less rambling than later editions, it’s a strong trial run for the lengthier, more philosophically-inclined versions that would follow.  

Before Sunrise (1995)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: Young American abroad, Jesse.
Topic: Parents, man. They just can’t seem to do anything right.
Listener: Julie Delpy’s idealistic Celine.
Location: A Viennese amusement park.
Key Line(s): "My parents are just these two people who didn’t like each other very much, who decided to get married and have a kid.  And they tried their best to be nice to me."
Does It Go the Distance? Back when we were his age, Jesse’s rant earned him a big “Right on.” These days, though, he kinda comes off like a whiny, entitled twit. Maybe that’s just because deep down, we know that our own kids will talk about us that way one day. 

Hamlet (2000)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: Hotshot prince of New York and heir to the giant Denmark Corporation, Hamlet.
Topic: To off himself rather than be forced to confront injustice — or fight back against the various “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” 
Listener: The audience
Location: The most ancient of all locations: a video rental store.
Key Line(s): "For in that sleep of death, what dreams my come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause."
Does It Go the Distance? Shakespeare would be honored to know that his most famous soliloquy paved the way for what’s quite possibly the greatest Hawke N’ Talk ever.

Before Sunset (2004)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: Slightly older American abroad, Jesse.
Topic: The intractability of peoples’ personalities, despite good or bad circumstances.
Listener: Julie Delpy’s cynical, Celine.
Location: An elevated Parisian garden path.
Key Line(s): "People don’t want to admit it, but we have these main set points and nothing much that happens to us changes our disposition."
Does It Go the Distance? Hawke’s ruminations on the human condition are always gold, mainly because it always sounds like he just barely understands what he’s talking about (but doing an expert job faking it). We’d love to see the source of the “study” he offers up as proof to a skeptical Celine. 

New York, I Love You (2008)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: A horny, unnamed writer and (extremely) amateur pick-up artist.
Topic: To quote Sophie B. Hawkins:Damn, I wish I was your lover.
Listener: Maggie Q’s eternally patient smoker.
Location: A New York City street corner
Key Line(s): "We share a flame. Thousands of tiny molecules are heating up right now. They’re penetrating our brain, all right, they’re stimulating our sexual desire. I don’t know about you, but I find that s—t very romantic."  
Does It Go the Distance? The bit where Hawke waxes rhapsodic about his G-spot-locating ability could be every hipster lothario’s ring tone.

Boyhood (2014)
Hawke’s Alter Ego: The previously irresponsible and absent father of two young kids, who has since grown into an honest-to-god family man…with his second family.
Topic: How to deal with the end of a relationship and why commitment is hard when you’re young.
Listener: His now-grown son, Mason Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane.
Location: A small Texas bar. 
Key Line(s): "I’ve finally become the boring, castrated guy your mom always wanted.  And she could have had it too, if she’d just been a bit more patient, and a bit more forgiving."
Does It Go the Distance? It’s the heartfelt father/son moment the whole movie has been building towards.  Although we wish that Mason Jr. had stuck up for his mom a little bit more.

Want to see Boyhood? Visit our Showtimes page to get tickets.