As I drove home from work today, I cued up the newest podcast episode of The Moth and squealed with delight (literally) when I saw the storyteller was Ethan Hawke. Never to disappoint me, he told a great story about the real secret inspiration of his life.
Did I start in 1985 with The Explorers, starring Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix (my other tragic obsession)? I certainly watched this movie over and over as a kid. Or was it White Fang in 1991? I’m not sure, but at some point by the tender age of 12, Ethan Hawke became my real secret inspiration.
In 1993, he starred in the film Alive, the movie based on the true story of a South American rugby team being stranded in the Andes Mountains after a plane crash – and they survived 72 days. Next to Aliens and The Empire Strikes Back, I watched this movie over and over and over. Between starring my favorite actor and dramatizing a horrible true disaster, this movie was meant for me.
Then let’s not forget just a year later when Reality Bites came out…the anthem of my generation.
Yet, at that point, he was just an actor in my mind. Until my second year of college, where I randomly picked up a copy of his novel The Hottest State. I remember having to justify to all my other Lit major friends why I was reading a book by Ethan Hawke. I read it cover to cover in one sitting. And then again a year later. I forced it upon my college roommates, who also read it with similar veracity. (Sadly, the movie sucked, but we won’t go there).
Today, listening to his podcast, I realized just how much of his real life is embedded in The Hottest State and it was like experiencing the book all over again. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve seen 80% of the movies he’s been in, but I’ve read a lot about his life as a writer and performer from his own perspective. He’s a dude who proves you can have a messy homelife, drop out of college, and still make something of yourself.
So anyway, back to Alive. After the podcast this afternoon, I immediately knew what my classic movie of September would be.
Alive (1993) – Beyond my love of Ethan Hawke, this movie was the fire of my burgeoning obsession with true disasters. 7th grade, I read the book (twice); and in 2007, I saw the documentary Stranded. I really don’t understand why people watch so many movies and films about fake disasters when the real ones are so much more intense. Those who might be interested in stories or films about Edward Shackleton can appreciate that although there were 29 lives lost in this tragedy, it was the team dynamics and group leadership that are attributed to the survival of the remaining 16. And much like Shackleton, two of the players literally hiked out of the Andes Mountains and returned to save the remaining passengers.
It’s an amazing story. I’ll never get over it.
Also, you can check out his podcast episode here: Ode to Stepfather