John Hawkes Talks THE SURROGATE, LINCOLN, Working with Daniel Day-Lewis, and More at Sundance

     February 4, 2012


Led by a truly remarkable performance by John Hawkes, writer-director Ben Lewin‘s The Surrogate blew me away at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  The film’s based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, who decides that he no longer wants to be a virgin.  With the help of his priest (William H. Macy) and a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt), we follow his amazing journey.  Trust me, The Surrogates is great on so many levels (which explains why there was a bidding war; Fox Searchlight won), and it’s definitely going to be a contender at the 2013 Academy Awards.  For more on the film, here’s Matt’s review.

Shortly after seeing the film, I sat down with John Hawkes for an extended interview.  We talked about being at Sundance, how he prepared for The Surrogate, the responsibility of playing a real person, his preference between a few takes or a lot, and so much more.  In addition, since Hawkes just worked with Steven Spielberg on Lincoln, he talked about how Tony Kushner‘s screenplay drew him to the project and what it was like to work with Daniel Day-Lewis.  Hit the jump to watch.

As usual, I’ve time indexed the interview so you can watch the parts that interest you.  Finally, if you missed my video interview with William H. Macy you can watch it hereThe Surrogate will be released later this year.

helen-hunt-john-hawkes-the-surrogate-imageJohn Hawkes Time Index

  • Talks about being in a buzzed film at Sundance yet again after Winter’s Bone in 2010 and Martha Marcy May Marlene in 2011.  The film already sold to Fox Searchlight.
  • 1:25 – After the Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone, a lot of scripts were sent to Hawkes.  The Surrogate was the one that jumped out at him.  He talks about financing and the production.
  • 3:30 – Pitches the movie for people who haven’t seen it without spoilers.  The Surrogate is based on the true story of a man in an iron lung.  Hawkes discusses at length how it evolved from that starting point.
  • 6:50 – There is a documentary about the life of Mark O’Brien, Breathing LessonsThe Surrogate is “true to the spirit” of Mark’s life, but it is a work of narrative fiction.
  • 8:30 – Says he prefers to do as many takes as they’ll let him to try out different approaches to the scene.
  • 10:00 – With the role there is a responsibility to Mark O’Brien, and to a lesser extent the disabled community.  Hawkes hopes he represented the man well.
  • 13:00 – Hawkes can’t talk too much about the details of working on Lincoln.  He worked one day with Daniel Day-Lewis, and was blown away by the commitment.  Says Tony Kushner’s screenplay is one of the best studio scripts he’s read in many years.



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