Over the course of almost 4 many years of performing, Ethan Hawke has completed a bit of little bit of all the things. One factor he’s by no means actually tried, nonetheless? Enjoying an unquestionably dangerous dude. In Scott Derrickson’s “The Black Cellphone,” Hawke lastly goes full villain, taking over the function of “The Grabber,” a prolific kidnapper and assassin who has turned a quiet ’70s-era Denver into his personal private searching floor.
Based mostly on the Joe Hill brief story of the identical identify, and tailored for the display screen by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, the movie follows younger Finney (newcomer Mason Thames), who’s taken by Hawke’s character and should someway hatch a plan to flee from The Grabber’s (suitably creepy) basement lair. He’s assisted by a mysterious telephone, which routinely connects Finney with the voices of The Grabber’s earlier victims, all of whom have suffered mightily on the assassin’s fingers. Upstairs, the masked madman lurks, plotting more and more horrifying tips and exams for his newest sufferer.
The movie additionally reunites Hawke with the crew (together with Derrickson, Cargill, and producer Jason Blum) behind the 2012 horror hit “Sinister,” which noticed Hawke taking over a distinct form of scary function, taking part in a down-and-out creator who strikes his household right into a haunted home. Regardless of the obvious affection between Derrickson and Hawke, the filmmaker advised IndieWire that he and Cargill by no means wrote their on-screen Grabber expressly for Hawke, and even tried to speak him out of the function after they approached him with it.
“I didn’t write the script for him, I don’t write roles for specific actors,” Derrickson advised IndieWire throughout a latest interview. However after Derrickson and Cargill accomplished the script and arrange the movie with Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, the filmmaker reached out to Hawke to drift the thought of his “Sinister” star approaching board as The Grabber.
“I known as him up, and I mentioned, ‘I’ve the following film I’m going to make, it’s with Jason,’ and Jason and Ethan are very shut,” Derrickson mentioned. “I mentioned, ‘It’s the villain, and let me attempt to discuss you out of it already. For starters, he’s a pedophile, sadistic killer, and second of all, he at all times wears a masks, so we don’t actually see your face, however apart from that, it’s a fantastic function.’ He advised me, ‘Look, I don’t actually play villains, and it must be some actual Jack Nicholson and ‘The Shining’ form of factor for me to do it.’”
Derrickson stored it easy: He requested Hawke to learn the script and get again to him. By the following morning, Hawke already had his reply. Furthermore, he even appeared to have already got the character on lock.
“The subsequent morning I awakened, and there was a voicemail on my telephone, and it was Ethan, within the voice of The Grabber studying one of many traces,” the filmmaker mentioned. “And that was it. That was his manner of telling me that he was going to do it. It was very thrilling.”
So, sure, that gravelly, super-creepy Grabber drawl? That’s all Hawke. It’s additionally precisely what Derrickson hoped for when he requested the enduring actor to think about the function.
“I believe that one of many important explanation why I needed to go to Ethan first is that Ethan has probably the most distinctive-sounding voices of any actor,” Derrickson mentioned. “I don’t suppose that folks actually reap the benefits of how distinctive his voice is. It’s obtained a really distinctive tone, however not solely that, it has unbelievable vary. He can discuss in a really excessive vary very naturally, and he can discuss in a really low, menacing, growly vary very naturally. He made use of that skillset with The Grabber, and I believe you actually really feel it behind a masks. You’re feeling the sunshine, nearly susceptible issues he’ll say after which the actually growly, indignant issues he’ll say and the way he shifts between them so simply. It’s very unnerving.”
And whereas different actors might need balked at a task that requires them to have their faces lined for the overwhelming majority of their display screen time, Hawke appeared to please in it, utilizing his voice and the remainder of his physique to convey the totally different sides of The Grabber. Whereas we by no means be taught a lot of The Grabber’s backstory, one key component about his non-criminal life informs a lot of the work: He’s a magician.
“I really like the concept he’s a magician, he’s a performer, so there’s a flamboyance to what he does,” Derrickson mentioned with fun. “I believe all of it ties into the character.”
A Common Photos launch, “The Black Cellphone” hits theaters on Friday, June 24.