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'The Black Phone' star Ethan Hawke on the film's final fight & the dual roles he wanted to play

Fight scenes are hard to shoot in general, but they're even harder when there's a kid involved.

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

Sometimes lessons can take a bit too long to learn. Especially in horror movies.

“You’re gonna have to stand up for yourself one day,” a bare-knuckled badass tells 13-year-old Finn (Mason Thames) after another beatdown by bullies in The Black Phone.

Right on cue in this supernatural horror flick set in suburban Colorado in 1978, that day comes when Finn is snatched by a deranged masked child murderer called the Grabber (Ethan Hawke).

**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for The Black Phone!**

It’s only a matter of time before Finn could become the next casualty. Tick-tock. So you can expect a do-or-die battle between Good (the kid) and Evil (the psycho).

The actors trained hard for it. “It’s very difficult to do fight scenes with a kid,” Hawke tells SYFY WIRE, “because you really don't want to hurt them.” When the camera rolls, actors can get carried away.

Hawke, 51, says that happened when he and Denzel Washington had “a huge fight scene” in the 2001 cop drama Training Day, as well as on other occasions. “I’ve accidentally hurt stunt men in my life.”

Still, for The Black Phone to work, the actors went full-tilt. They didn’t phone in the brutality. “You need to be really careful about it, and we did meticulously rehearse,” says Hawke, adding that there was a lot going on in the scene.

“We had a dog in there,” he says. “I had to fall in this hole and he had to punch me and I had to grab him.”

Thames, who turns 15 in July, loved everything about the fight to the death with Hawke. “We had about three or four hours of training for three days straight. That was intense,” he tells us. “When they yelled ‘Action,’ we really went at it.”

Who lives to see another day? Only Satan or his spawn would give that away (or you can find out in theaters now!).

Earlier in the movie Madeleine McGraw, 13, who plays Finn’s true-blue kid sister Gwen, also put up her dukes and got down and dirty on her brother’s behalf.

“It felt so cool because one of my dreams is to get to do stunts in movies,” she says. ”I was so happy that I finally got to do an actual stunt scene with tons of stunt coordination. It was awesome.”

In The Black Phone, Finn and Gwen share an awesome bond, one in part forged by dealing with their boozing, belt-wiedling father (Jeremy Davies). In an eerie echo, the Grabber uses a strap to torture his victims.

Hawke fixed on the similarity. “I even had the idea that if you never saw my face as the Grabber, that maybe I could play the father as well,” he says.

In the end, director and co-writer Scott Derrickson went another direction. Still, “grown-ups are failing these children,” says Hawke. “There is a connection between the parents and the Grabber. It works on a metaphoric level.”

The Black Phone is in theaters now.

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