Moon Knight Star Ethan Hawke Was "Apprehensive" of Playing a Marvel Villain

Ethan Hawke goes to the dark side as the villain of Marvel's Moon Knight, set somewhere the actor was initially "apprehensive" of going: into the comic book world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Before trilogy and Training Day actor, who also plays masked kidnapper The Grabber in forthcoming Blumhouse horror The Black Phone, opens up about moving into the villain phase of his career in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly. Hawke teases he plays a "terrifying" threat when he stars opposite Oscar Isaac's action hero Steven Grant/Marc Spector in Moon Knight, the original Marvel Studios series premiering March 30 on Disney+.

"I've always had this theory that when you teach an audience how to see the demon inside you, they don't unsee it for the rest of your career," Hawke told EW. "Jack Nicholson can be playing an accountant and you're still waiting for him to explode like he did in The Shining. It changes your relationship to a performer, so I've always been nervous about it. But I realized I'm on the other side of 50 and it's time to put a new tool in the tool kit. Villains might be my future."

The first trailer for Marvel's Moon Knight identifies Hawke's character as cult leader Arthur Harrow, who just might call on the power of Amon Ra as the pyro-powerful supervillain the Sun King. Though details about Hawke's role are being kept under wraps, the actor said playing a lesser-known character was part of the attraction drawing him to the MCU in Moon Knight. 

"The comic book world meant a lot to me when I was younger. I was always a little apprehensive; there's a certain kind of actor that really excels in that universe, and I'm still not sure I'm one of them," Hawke said. "But then Oscar asked me, and I really respect him. And I knew that if he went in, he was going to go all in, and it's fun to do any genre with people who are all in."

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

Along with Isaac, who had stepped into the comic book realm as a mutant Marvel villain in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse and the voice of Spider-Man 2099 in 2018's animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Hawke wanted to work with "special director" Mohamed Diab (Clash, Cairo 678).

"So it just became about the project, and it wasn't an intellectual decision at all; it was like, 'Oh, let's do something cool with these guys.' And the more I learned about the Moon Knight, the more turned on I got, because it's so much better than trying to create something that the audience already has a big agenda with," Hawke explained. "Like, if you do Batman or Superman or Hulk, any of these famous ones, the fans have so many preconceived things that they want from it. It's like playing Hamlet. Ninety percent of people there have an opinion about how Hamlet should be played. I love doing Shakespeare in front of student audiences because they don't have a big agenda. They didn't see how much better Patrick Stewart did it than you. They're just accepting of how you did it."

He continued, "And with Moon Knight, we get to create a world and a character. The fan in me always enjoys the first movie. I love learning about how the hell Captain America came to be — those are my favorite parts of the story."

Hawke's performance is inspired in part by psychiatrist Carl Jung and cult leader David Koresh. He told EW, "Your gut leads you. The uber-rich villain mastermind isn't interesting to me. I love the ones who believe that they're a good person and that's why they have to kill you. That, I find really terrifying."

Marvel's Moon Knight is streaming March 30 on Disney+.

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