As part of MTV’s Fall Movie Preview, we recently brought you an excerpt of our conversation with Ethan Hawke about his upcoming horror movie, “Sinister.” The talk covered a range of topics, including Hawke’s fear of making scary movies and being able to premiere the film in his hometown of Austin, Texas, during South by Southwest.
Here is our complete Q&A with Ethan Hawke about “Sinister.”
MTV News: The thing I always wonder when I’m watching these movies and I’m uncomfortable watching it is does any of that suspense leak through to when you’re actually filming a scene?
Ethan Hawke: You know, I really believe that’s why for years I never wanted to make one of these movies is because I thought it would be absolutely terrifying to make it. But the irony is of course that it’s incredibly fun to make it. It’s kind of like telling a ghost story at midnight with a bunch of friends. You just laugh a lot and it seems really silly. I just had a great time making it. I’m not really one of those mad enthusiasts of the genre. I like certain scary movies that are good, but, I don’t know, it just was silly and fun.
MTV: Like you said, you don’t have a ton of experience with the genre. Do you find that making a movie that is horror, that that on-set experience is different than making any other film or even a genre film?
Hawke: No, it’s all the same stuff, if you’re working with a filmmaker that’s talented and knows the architecture of film and knows how to tell a story. In a way, there is a real discipline to making these movies. It’s like a comedy. It’s all about the timing and the math of it. What makes something spooky and what makes something cheesy and stupid is a razor’s edge. So that was the fun of it for me. This guy Scott Derrickson had made an incredibly scary film called “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” and I met him and it was kind of obvious to me that he was a real filmmaker and he knew how to do it and he wanted somebody to give a performance in his film and I wanted to do that. I don’t know jack sh– about making something scary, but we did.
MTV: So the centerpiece of this movie and where a lot of the scares come from revolve around these home videotapes. Is that something that was prepared beforehand that you were able to see before acting out the scenes where your character is watching those?
Hawke: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I’m sitting there watching them, so a lot of them were shot beforehand.
MTV: There are a lot of layers to “Sinister.” It’s not just a straight horror movie. It’s about a character who is actually watching these scary movies and also creating these stories. Is this movie about horror movies in that way?
Hawke: That’s the reason why I did it. The layers of it are so interesting. On one level, it’s about a guy who puts his work ahead of his family; it’s a simple moral tale, on that level. Then on another level, it’s about the dangers of watching horror films, that somewhere inside the film itself is something dangerous to you, which is really subversive and f—ed up and interesting. I really like that. That’s what made the movie appealing to me.
MTV: There are aspects of “Sinister” that are old-school horror movie. It’s a character drama. This is a messed-up family in the middle of it, but it’s also this character watching this found footage. Where do you think this falls in the genre? Is “Sinister” new-school or old?
Hawke: Well, I worked on it, so I love it. I think it falls in this really interesting mix of normal activity with “The Shining.” It’s some kind of weird found-footage movie that also is very classically built, classically told. But I’m not the judge of that — it sounds like I’m just pimping the movie out. What I loved about it is strictly from a straight-up acting point of view was to have such a complicated character. He’s a character that is both — you know, he’s several things at one time, as opposed to normally in these movies you’re the good guy, you’re the bad guy. This guy’s some kind of crazy hodgepodge.
MTV: So “Sinister” ’s coming from a really cool place because it got this groundswell from SXSW. What was it like premiering the movie out there and getting that work done ahead of time?
Hawke: It was awesome! The whole experience, just to be honest with you, has been really great. It was a simple movie to make. It was shot in New York. Scott is a really prepared guy, he knows exactly what he wants, and we finished the movie and got to screen it at SXSW. I’ve done a lot of work in Austin with Richard Linklater and had a lot of fun at the SXSW film festival and got to do kind of a Fright Night screening and have everyone love it the way they did and have the studio get so excited about the movie. It doesn’t happen that often that people really get excited about something, so I don’t take it for granted anymore.
MTV: When you’re watching something like that, are you too close to have it scare you?
Hawke: Yeah, I just laughed the whole time. I just laughed hysterically the whole time.
MTV: Everything’s just like a memory of being on set, I imagine.
Hawke: No, I love watching it work on an audience, watching things that were created so deliberately have their effect.
MTV: So you’re in on it a bit. I get that.
Hawke: I feel like I’m one of the puppet masters, you know. Watching when people scream kind of makes you laugh because you know there’s no bogeyman.
From “Perks” to “Breaking Dawn,” “The Hobbit” to “Skyfall,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest upcoming flicks in our 2012 Fall Movie Preview. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.