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Ethan Hawke Almost Turned Down ‘The Black Phone’ Because of Jack Nicholson



Actor Ethan Hawke teamed up with director Scott Derrickson again for the horror film The Black Phone. But he was initially discouraged from playing a maniac in the thriller after seeing what happened to Jack Nicholson in The Shinning.

Ethan Hawke warned director Scott Derrickson why he wouldn’t do ‘The Black Phone’

Hawke was already familiar with working alongside filmmaker Scott Derrickson. The two collaborated for Hawke’s first pure horror feature Sinister, where he played a crime novelist being haunted by a menacing demon.

The two would later collaborate for Black Phone, where Hawke found himself playing the villain in the feature. Hawke’s character, dubbed The Grabbeir in the film, was a child abductor terrorizing his neighborhood in the 1970s.

Although the role was unlike anything Hawke had played, the actor was hesitant to do the role. Partially because of what he believed happened to Jack Nicholson in his own horror picture The Shinning.

“I remember when Scott first sent me the script I warned him before he sent it and I said ‘I am dying to work with you again but it is unlikely that I will do this movie because for years I have had this theory that Jack Nicholson’s whole career changed when he played The Shining,” Hawke told Heavy Cinema. “Once you unveil your madness, evil side to the world they can’t unsee it and they start to see it all your other characters.”

But for Hawke, the movie’s premise was too hard to turn down.


“So I have always been sensitive to doing that but then I read it and I felt it was so much fun. The script was so good and I just enjoy Scott’s work. I loved doing Sinister and I thought to myself ‘well you are 50 years old and maybe it is time…it is time to change the map and it is time to embrace my inner Grabber,’” Hawke said.

Ethan Hawke was initially wanted for ‘Black Phone’ because of his voice

Hawke slightly modifies his voice in the 2022 horror picture. According to Derrickson, the Moon Knight star came up with his Grabber voice on the spot.

“The next morning I woke up, and there was a voicemail on my phone, and it was Ethan, in the voice of The Grabber reading one of the lines,” the filmmaker said in an interview with IndieWire. “And that was it. That was his way of telling me that he was going to do it. It was very exciting.”

It turned out Derrickson wanted to cast Hawke due to the actor’s voice.

“I think that one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Ethan first is that Ethan has one of the most distinctive-sounding voices of any actor,” Derrickson said. “I don’t think that people really take advantage of how unique his voice is. It’s got a very distinctive tone, but not only that, it has incredible range. He can talk in a very high range very naturally, and he can talk in a very low, menacing, growly range very naturally.”

The Black Phone gave Hawke the opportunity to make full use of his vocal range.


Scott Derrickson on the differences between working with Ethan Hawke on ‘Sinister’ and ‘Black Phone’

Since Hawke’s Sinister and Black Phone characters were incredibly different, they required different approaches. Being Hawke’s first horror film at the time, the Training Day actor needed a little more hand-holding in Sinister.

“On Sinister, he had never been in a horror film before and being the protagonist, he wasn’t sure, I don’t think at first, of how to play it,” Derrickson once told Comic Book Movie. “The two things I did were, first of all, told him, ‘Don’t think of this as a horror film. Your character, Ellison Oswalt, is not in a horror film. He’s just living his life. Forget the fact you’re in a horror film and play it as if you’re in a drama.’”

Meanwhile, Derrickson was more hands-off with Hawke in Black Phone, and left him to his own devices.

“When it came to The Black Phone, it was much more that I didn’t give him a lot of instruction. He had the script, I’d written the role, and I just told him, ‘You need to create this character and show up ready to do something interesting and unique.’ I just didn’t feel the need to say much to him about it and, of course, he showed up and gave a performance that I thought was iconic,” Derrickson said.

Source: Cheat Sheet


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