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Ethan Hawke - Biography

Discover all you need to know about Dead Poets Society star Ethan Hawke, from his marriage, career and more

Ethan Hawke - Biography
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Ethan Hawke is an American actor who has received numerous nominations for his work including Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award. Born in Austin, Texas, on November 6, 1970, Ethan was just three years old when his parents divorced and he and his mother moved across the country to settle in West Windsor, New Jersey. At an early age, he began taking acting classes at Princeton University's McCarter Theater, where he made his stage debut aged 13 in a production of St Joan

Spotted by a scout, a few weeks later Ethan was auditioning for a part in the 1985 teen sci-fi feature Explorers. Despite a barrage of publicity, the film flopped and, encouraged by his mother, Ethan withdrew from acting with only one film under his belt. This was a defining moment in his life. From that point on he would play the acting game by his own rules, taking parts he wanted rather than letting Hollywood choose for him.

Ethan Hawke poses for a portrait circa 1995© Getty
Ethan Hawke poses for a portrait circa 1995

Ethan Hawke's career

Four years later, Ethan was back in a supporting role in Dead Poets Society. The film was an immediate hit, earning him good reviews and the lead role in a 1991 Disney adaptation of Jack London's White Fang. At the same time, Ethan determined not to be seduced by the glitz of Hollywood after his Explorers experience, began to stride out on the boards. In 1992 he made his Broadway debut in a production of Chechkov's The Seagull, and a year later co-founded Malaparte, a non-profit theatre group based in Manhattan. 

Meanwhile, he conserved his cinema career with a series of coming-of-age roles and had his first high-profile lead in the 1994 romantic comedy Reality Bites, opposite Winona Ryder. The following year's romantic feature Before Sunrise proved to be a breakthrough for the star. From there on Hollywood sat up and took notice. In 1997, Ethan snagged his first adult role in Gattaca on the set of which he met his future wife Uma Thurman and a year later led a cast that included Robert De Niro in a modern-day version of Great Expectations. Then came Snow Falling On Cedars in 1999, and the following year he became the youngest actor to play Hamlet on screen in a Gen-X version of the Shakespearean play.

Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman share two children© Getty
Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman share two children

Ethan Hawke's family

Ethan and Uma's first child, daughter Maya, was born a month after the couple were married in 1998. And in January 2002 one month before he earned his greatest acclaim to date, an Oscar nomination for Training Day, the couple welcomed their son Levon. They split in 2003 after five years of marriage. 

Maya has since gone onto star in the hit series Stranger Things, and Levon dazzled at Cannes Film Festival 2023 as he graced the red carpet for a rare public appearance.

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