Independence Day

Ethan Hawke recalls turning down Independence Day by throwing the script out of a moving car

Contributed by
Sep 18, 2018

Ethan Hawke is an actor who prides himself on going his own way with his film career, whether that be fun genre fare like Sinister and Daybreakers or moving independent dramas like Boyhood and the Before trilogy. That spirit of creative freedom, though, has meant that sometimes a hit has been staring Hawke in the face and he's found some way to say no. One such hit was Independence Day, and Hawke decided not to be in that film with a particularly dramatic flair.

Hawke was on Conan Monday to promote his new film Blaze (which he wrote and directed), and host Conan O'Brien asked him if there were any times he said no that he looks back on and regrets.

"A lot," Hawke replied, and then explained that he felt "insecure" about telling the story he was about to tell because he'd just run into director Roland Emmerich recently, but he told the story all the same.

After Reality Bites hit big as one of the romantic comedies of the 1990s in 1994, Hawke was "the bee's knees," but he didn't see it as an opportunity to suddenly become a massive movie star. Instead, he decided to let his free spirit take over, and took a drive with his buddy from Austin to New York, which then became a drive from Austin to New Mexico halfway through because that was just "the state of mind [he] was in" in those days. Along the way, Hawke was reading the script for Independence Day, and making jokes at its expense with his friend. Then he decided he was done with the script in a particularly emphatic way.

"I'm like, 'Isn't this a bad line? E.T. phone home. That's stupid!'" Hawke recalled. "And I'm going through to the point where I literally throw it out onto the Texas highway."

So Hawke left his Independence Day script — which he described as having "dollar bills attached to it" — on the side of the road, and in the summer of 1996 he went to a sold-out show of the film with his then-girlfriend, to "see how bad this is." Everyone else was laughing and cheering at the film, but Hawke described sinking in his seat, and said he "really didn't get the joke." After the film, he asked his girlfriend.

"I said, 'But it wasn't that good, though, was it? I mean, I know everybody else loved it, but it wasn't that good.' And she was like, 'It was really good.'"

Could anything have convinced young Ethan Hawke to actually say yes to Independence Day in those days? Based on the way he describes himself, probably not. But hey, at least he has an amusing story about throwing a script out of a moving car to tell on talk shows now.

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