Today's Evil Beet Gossip

How Celebrities Recover Their Careers After Scandal

Ethan Hawke

There’s a really fascinating interview with Ethan Hawke up at the Guardian right now. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

A good chunk of the interview hinges on something the youngest among you probably won’t remember, which is how Ethan Hawke fell from public grace after his dramatic split from then-wife Uma Thurman:

“I call it the black years,” he says of the period following his divorce in 2004, sequestered in the delicious post-punk rot of the Chelsea hotel. “It was really difficult. It was difficult in ways I couldn’t even see at the time. There was the obvious way in which it was difficult—the death of a dream, the inability to parent in the way that you want to. But for me it was—what’s that Dante quote? ‘At the midpoint of my life, I’ve come to the part of the forest where the straight way is lost.’ Nothing teaches you like getting levelled. And I got levelled in my early 30s. Nothing went exactly the way I thought it would. Wait a second: love isn’t real and, holy shit, I put all this energy into not making the same mistake my parents did and I just re-enacted them all! I thought I was so much smarter than everybody. And I’m not.”

The article goes on to say that Hawke found solace—and eventually a personal and professional redemption of sorts—in stage acting.

This really strikes on something else I read recently, a fascinating blog post titled “Claire Danes’ Second Act.” See, right around the same time Hawke murdered his own career, Claire Danes took an identical hit simply by dating Billy Crudup. Popular perception of Danes whiplashed from “girl next door” to “homewrecker,” and yeah, sure, it was unfair.

But the viewing audience is not so able to reconcile an actor’s private life with his public persona, unfortunately. Pop culture critic Anne Helen Petersen refers to this lasting stigma (and I really like her coinage) as “star text”—that is, when a celebrity’s personal life, for better or worse, informs every onscreen performance. We imbue every character’s backstory with the actor’s own life “narrative.”

It takes a lot of work to rehabilitate a reputation—viewing audiences aren’t so fickle as they are moral and deeply ungenerous—and in Danes’ own case, Petersen posits, it was Danes’ marriage to Hugh Dancy that made her viable as an actor again. (Let’s not even acknowledge Claire’s work as a Latisse spokesperson, though! Good grief.)

Anyway, check out the Ethan Hawke interview. He hasn’t quite recovered from whatever smudge has blighted his career since his divorce, no, but he is thoughtful, intelligent and—from what I hear—a terrific writer.

P.S. This is the first time I’ve practiced typing extensively on a Netbook, and it DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE SPELLCHECK EVEN, so here’s hoping I didn’t embarrass myself too terrifically.