Ethan and Maya Hawke Attend the Premiere of ‘Wildcat’ in Manhattan

| 04/16/2024

By: Fernanda Pierorazio

The Good Newsroom spoke to the Hawkes about the importance of telling the story of writer Flannery O’Connor and the profound influence her Catholic faith had on her writing

From left: Ethan Hawke, Laura Linney, and Maya Hawke attend the premiere of "Wildcat," April 11, 2024, in Manhattan.
From left: Ethan Hawke, Laura Linney, and Maya Hawke attend the premiere of "Wildcat," April 11, 2024, in Manhattan. Photo by Fernanda Pierorazio.
The film “Wildcat,” which follows the life of writer Flannery O’Connor while she was struggling to publish her first novel, premiered in Manhattan on April 11. The director and co-writer of the film, Ethan Hawke, and the film’s protagonist, his daughter, actress Maya Hawke, spoke with The Good Newsroom about the importance of telling the story of O’Connor, whose Catholic faith had a profound influence on her writing and can be seen in all her works.
 
The Good Newsroom: Why it was so important for both of you to make a movie about a woman and her relationship with herself?
 
Ethan Hawke: Great question. It’s the reason to make the movie. I mean, what you just expressed through that question is what’s most essential about it. What felt fresh to me is when Maya came to me, which is that idea of wanting to see a movie where the main character was a female, who was exploring a spiritual life and her relationship to the self and her work. And there are so many movies about men like that, and there are a few about women, but so many young people’s movies don’t take work, faith, self, seriously. And Ms. O’Connor really took all that very seriously. So, the parental thing was a kind of talisman for us, a kind of North Star about what the movie was trying to explore.
 
The Good Newsroom: What struck you the most about her life when you were reading and getting to know more about her?
 
Maya Hawke: Well, I think what struck us the most was what really the movie was based around, which is how can you possibly write that adventurously, that creatively, that spontaneously about that many different kinds of people and stories when you really spend most of your life in a room with the door closed. We’re both obsessed with imagination and dream life, creativity, and building, taking the world that is within your heart and mind and turning it into something that is tangible and relatable and connects to other people. That was what made us really want to make this movie.
 
The Good Newsroom: What message do you want people to take away after watching this movie?
 
Maya Hawke: We have absolutely no dogmatic message about this movie. There is no dogma. What we really want people to do is talk about it. We had incredible conversations deciding whether or not it was even an appropriate thing to make this movie today.
 
The Good Newsroom: Why?
 
Maya Hawke: Because of Flannery’s issues with race. Because she’s not a very popular writer anyway and is someone that is being reconsidered as to whether or not she shouldn’t even be a part of the canon. It was a very complicated issue and we talked about it for many hours, and we decided that our conversation about it was worth making a film about. And we wanted people to come see it and talk amongst themselves about how they felt about America and our history, and women, and their faith. And we wanted to start those conversations. So, there’s no dogmatic thing that we want anyone to take away except, hopefully, the ability to have an interesting conversation with their friends.
 
The Good Newsroom: What was the biggest challenge for you Ethan during the process of co-writing, and for you Maya when playing O’Connor’s character?
 
Ethan Hawke: The biggest challenge was a person who lived such an inward life. I mean, her life was inwardly directed. I really think her primary relationship in her life was in Jesus. So, how do you make a movie about that relationship? And I took a lot of inspiration from a Saint Joan (of Arc) quote, when she was on trial, they said “Ma’am, I think you’ve been a victim of your imagination,” and she said, “How else would God talk to me?” And so, we kind of took that quote and made a movie about it.
 
Maya Hawke: I would say the most difficult part, it was pretty much the most obviously difficult part, which is how many characters that I play in the movie and how to make it feel like each character had a piece of Flannery inside of it. We didn’t want it to be like a big, campy acting show where you’re watching people perform like a “Saturday Night Live” skit. We wanted it to feel like you saw how Flannery was seeing herself in all of these other people. And that was very difficult.
 
“Wildcat” will have a limited release on May 3, 2024, followed by a wide release.
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By:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan

01:41
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By:

Patrick Grady

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Fernanda Pierorazio

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan (center right) celebrates Mass for the 125th anniversary of St. Philip Neri in the Bronx, joined by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat (right) and Father Daniel O'Reilly (left) current pastor of St. Philip Neri. Photo: Steven Schwankert/The Good Newsroom
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