'True West' brings Ethan Hawke to Broadway

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Call it the prime of Ethan Hawke. Three decades have passed since he first made his mark in "Dead Poets Society;" and seeing him onstage recently, I found him at the height of his powers as an actor.

On Broadway -- and on the big screen -- Hawke has never been better. He stars as a priest of a failing church in "First Reformed" and as a thief fighting with his brother on stage in "True West."

The star explains the magic of live theater this way: "There's something about the energy of knowing that a thousand people bought a ticket, and they are going to sit, and they're going to drive in from Jersey to take time out of their day to watch you perform that makes you say, 'I better do a good job.'"

In the play by the late Sam Shepard, Hawke's character confronts his brother, who is a screenwriter played by Paul Dano.

"Show business is a backdrop," Dano said. "But it's about the struggle of being an artist and the struggle of being a human being, the struggle of family, of brothers, of blood, and the struggle of self."

In "True West," the brothers wrestle over a script. That's a reflection of how the battle between art and commerce never stops, or as Hawke put it, "The push, pull relationship to the aura of Hollywood and the love of how it represents the best of America, and the gloss of America, and what's fake about America."

Hawke has found a way to strike a fine balance in a career lasting more than 30 years.

"The key is your sense of humor," he said. "If you keep a sense of humor, you can live longer, happier."

Another key is, the star has never squandered his talent nor gone for the quick buck.

"It's about being true to who you are," he said. "And your own creativity and your own spirit, you know, and that will guide you."

He's long been one of my wife Eileen's favorites, the standard by which other guys are judged.

Hawke is a four-time Oscar nominee, twice for writing and twice for acting. I think he deserved another nod this year for "First Reformed," as he was great as a tortured priest. He's also terrific in "True West," equally at home on stage and on screen.

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