Ewan McGregor, Ethan Hawke talk about playing brothers on Apple TV+’s Raymond & Ray
The actors talk about working together, their acting process, family, and what they hope to leave behind
RELEASING on Friday (October 21) on Apple TV+, Raymond & Ray tells the story of two half brothers, whose lives have not ended up the way they would have liked, and are brought back together by the death of their estranged father.
But it’s not quite that simple, as their father left behind a list of instructions, including having them dig his grave.
Written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, Raymond & Ray stars Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke, respectively.
Both actors have had long and successful careers in both independent films and in the biggest mainstream hits – coincidentally both very recently appeared on separate shows on Disney+, with McGregor headlining Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Despite that, this is the first time they are sharing the screen.
What follows are excerpts (edited for clarity) from an interview conducted via Zoom following the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.
On whether streaming services will replace the cinema-going experience.
Ewan McGregor: It was interesting having seen the film already in a small screening room, to see it last night here at the Toronto International Film Festival on a massive screen was amazing to see, the difference in how you see all these things that you hadn’t noticed before.
Ethan Hawke: The thing about seeing it with a big audience is the audience, and I’m not saying this as a filmmaker, I’m saying this as an audience member, the audience teaches you about the movie.
Certain people laugh at things you would never laugh at or wouldn’t have thought were funny and then once you understand that that’s funny, you find wit in other places than yourself, or you hear somebody get upset and you realise ‘wow that is really moving, I haven’t really thought of it like that.’
We inform each other as we watch it and I love that collective experience.
What did they learn about being a son and father from the making of this film?
EH: Well that’s a tough question. Anybody who’s a child and a parent – son, daughter, it doesn’t matter – knows you’re always learning about being a son or a daughter or a parent. It never stops. I mean, my own relationship to my childhood changes as I become a parent, right?
As I start to understand what my parents might have been going through, I become a lot more forgiving. So I enjoyed making this movie because it’s a giant meditation on being a child and being a parent and I really enjoy the way it makes me think.
On working together as brothers.
EM: Ethan and I have known each other for… I mean a long, long time ago, we met when Ethan was working with Jude (Law) on Gattaca (from 1997) and we met and we must have hung out there a few times, we’re pretty sure.
EH: We might have hung out more than once, but I don’t remember much else about the evening, except that we had a good time.
EM: And then we bumped into each other over the years and corridors at events like this, and walking in and out of interviews we’d bump into each other here and there.
But I’ve always felt like a sympathetic feeling to our careers and our way of thinking about our work, the kinds of people we’ve worked with, the kind of work that we’ve done.
I’ve always felt a sort of kindred spirit with Ethan, although we didn’t know each other and it certainly turned out to be true as soon as we hit the set and it was just a brilliant experience working together.
Lucia (Maribel Verdú) and Kiera (Sophie Okonedo) are both curiously drawn to the odd spectacle of these two men having to literally put their father into the ground. – Pic courtesy Apple TV+
On facing death, having a legacy, and leaving this life.
EH: Well first off, I don’t wanna leave this life, I plan on immortality, that’s my goal. And not through my work, I want immortality through not dying. Actual permanent life.
My favourite Willie Nelson quote is: ‘I don’t go to funerals and I definitely won’t go to mine.’
All joking aside, we’re all building sandcastles and some of the sandcastles get knocked down sooner than others.
One of the things that I love about making movies is it’s kind of like starting conversations. You offer these conversations, these kinds of stories and you send them out to the universe and other people get to respond to them and tell stories and it’s about how we talk to each other today.
Somebody might study a really good movie 50 years from now, or 100 years from now, but then there’ll be studying it as an artifact, like a library piece, it won’t be a part of the living conversation the way it can be today.
On playing each other’s roles and the acting process.
EH: I’m haunted by this question, because really you (Ewan) definitely could play both roles extremely well and I don’t think that I would have played Raymond as well as you.
EM: (Laughs) That’s not true.
EH: It’s an acting exercise we never did, but I also know that there are some directors that would have us trade parts.
EM: If there’s a play we could trade, do that thing.
EH: It would be a fun challenge.
EM: I’ve never, I can’t imagine, it was already terrifying enough to go on stage to play our role but if you’re switching roles… have you ever done that?
EH: No, I’ve never done that.
EM: Some people have done that. Jonny Lee Miller did that when Danny Boyle directed Frankenstein at the National (Theatre). It was Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, one night they were Frankenstein and one night they were the doctor, or professor, and they switch every night.
EH: It’s a fun idea, but what I enjoyed about this process was both of us arrived on the set kind of fully in the skin of the brother we were playing, and I enjoy that fullness of commitment and switching parts can sometimes feel kind of stunty to me.
Raymond is the more uptight of the two brothers, while Ray is more of the free spirit, a jazz musician with plenty of his own demons. – Pic courtesy Apple TV+
Reflecting on their own family dynamics and drawing that as inspiration for their performances in Raymond & Ray.
EM: (Laughs) You draw on everything, as an actor you draw on your life experience and you draw on your imagination, but you’re focused entirely on making this character.
I don’t spend a great deal of time trying to think of something in my life that’s pertinent. Of course it must be in there, because that’s the only thing we have to draw on. Our imagination and our experience of the world and the people in it.
Of course it must be, but it’s not a tidy answer for that question in terms of a specific relationship in my family experience that pertains exactly to this, well absolutely there’s not to Raymond’s experience, but the answer to the question broadly is yes of course, you draw from your experience.
EH: And you also draw from Rodrigo’s experience. I really think when acting is at its best, you’re touching the same muse, the same fire that lit the writer. You’re kind of diving into that imagination.
I think for Rodrigo, there’s a lot of mourning in this film, he’s meditating on some really profound ideas that he’s been wrestling with through his life, so in a way you (Ewan) and I are really looking towards him as a kind of guide through the map of this script, so to speak.
It becomes bigger than just your own specific life experience.
*Raymond and Ray premieres exclusively on Apple TV+ on Friday, October 21
source – – The Vibes