Ethan Hawke on preparing to play jazz musician Chet Baker in ‘Born to Be Blue’

Ethan Hawke portrays trumpeter Chet Baker in the new film Born to Be Blue and shared with The Gracie Note the path that he took to discover and execute the “James Dean of jazz’s” signature voice.

“For me, it’s funny [because] it makes me realize how often I don’t work hard enough,” the actor said about his creative process. “I remember [director] Peter Weir did this for us on Dead Poet’s Society, he’s like, ‘Write your character’s biography.’ It was suppose to be five pages long and you have to write [things like] what your mom’s name is, where your grandparents [were from,] what your first kiss was and what was the car of your dreams and when you’re playing a real person, you have all that.”

He also said, “If you want to you can find out what kind of car he drove in 1967 and actually have that car. You can find out what he would order and what happens is you become much more immersed in the details.”

The film’s director Robert Budreau also wrote the script for Born to Be Blue and it seems like he and Hawke were on the same page from the start of the project on how to capture Baker’s life at their chosen moment in time.

“Luckily for me, Robert was like me, which is I liked the ones that helped unlock the character and helped me do the interpretation that I wanted to do,” Hawke said. “I always find that you define your Hamlet by how you cut the play. I loved it and it made me think that I need to do a better job in playing non-real people and really fully imagining them.”

You might remember that the actor brought William Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the screen in 2000 and has starred alongside film heavyweights like the late Robin Williams in 1989’s Dead Poet’s Society, Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998’s Great Expectations, and Denzel Washington in the Oscar-nominated Training Day.

Check out the trailer for Born to Be Blue below and listen to Chet Baker’s music on Spotify!

Watch last week’s interview with Born to Be Blue director Robert Budreau and find out what it was like filming in Sudbury, Ont.

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