John Hawkes has long since established himself as one of cinema’s most beloved character actors. While his “big break” with mainstream audiences came with the 2010 gritty backwoods drama Winter’s Bone, indie cinema fans and television lovers were already quite familiar with the lanky Hawkes. His expressive features, his easy-going manner off-screen, and his ability to become the role— no matter how big or small the part—have all contributed to Hawkes being one of Hollywood’s most sought after character actors.
Hawkes has long been a familiar face to Tribeca Film Festival audiences. In 2011, Hawkes portrayed Taissa Farmiga’s unhappy father in the spirituality-in-crisis movie, Higher Ground. Higher Ground was actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut. Last year, Hawkes mesmerized TFF audiences again with his stellar work in Julia Dyer's The Playroom as the flawed patriarch of an unstable family. The New York Times recently praised the film as perfectly "captur[ing] the malaise of mid-’70s suburbia with a merciless accuracy not seen since Ang Lee’s 1997 film, The Ice Storm.” In addition to Hawkes, Molly Parker, Olivia Harris and Cody Linley are also featured. Currently available on VOD and digital platforms everywhere, The Playroom opens in NY and LA this Friday, Febuary 8.
In honor of this limited release of The Playroom, join us as we take a look at the multifaceted and diverse filmography of John Hawkes.
Hawkes broke into acting in the film Future-Kill (his debut performance alongside the returning players from the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and then steadily appeared in bit parts in movies such as D.O.A. and Johnny Be Good. In 1995, Hawkes had a small but memorable role in Congo alongside genre legend Bruce Campbell as the doomed Bob Driscoll who meets his untimely demise when he encounters some very ornery gorillas. The following year, he again made a small role memorable, playing Pete Bottoms in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Till Dawn. As the liquor store clerk who must keep his calm as a sheriff stops in to buy a drink at the same time two crooks (Tarantino and George Clooney) are robbing the place, Hawkes was able to switch from cool customer to unhinged mad man in a single shootout scene..
Small Screen Stardom
Long before his breakout film roles in the independent realm, Hawkes was (and continues to be) an established guest star/recurring character on many notable television shows. From Millennium to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The X-Files, Hawkes appeared in some of most notable genre shows of the 90s. These small roles led to recurring roles on shows like The Practice, 24 and Taken, in which he memorably portrayed Marty Erickson, a pivotal character in the series. Of course, very long-term fans of Hawkes appreciate him for his work as Sol Star on the HBO’s Deadwood. Hawkes as Star offered an easy counterbalance to the show’s mostly despicable characters and charmed audiences with his loyalty to Bullock, his intelligence and his tender love affair with Trixie.
You want to strengthen your ensemble? Call John Hawkes. His distinctive face fits any decade and a variety of roles. One of major breaks in Hawkes’ career was his performance as Mike “Bugsy” Moran in The Perfect Storm. As the doomed fisherman, Hawkes stood out among an ensemble cast that included George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly. Hawkes also made the most of his role as detective Freddie Spearman in American Gangster, one of the few honest cops investigating Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington). In a cast that consisted of Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Hawkes stood out.
Hawkes appeared in minor roles in many independent films, but Mirando July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know gave him the opportunity to prove that he was able to anchor a indie film. In it, Hawkes gives a remarkably contained performance as Richard Swersey, a lonely shoe salesman with two sons who is separated from his wife and develops a crush on an eccentric woman who works with the elderly. Another indie, Winter’s Bone, gave Hawkes the role that officially brought him to the attention of mainstream audience—Teardrop. Hawkes garnered his first Academy Award nomination for his fierce portrayal of a meth addict who values his kin above all else. Winter’s Bone officially made Hawkes a household name.
Other notable indies: Higher Ground: CW Walker; The Playroom: Martin Cantwell; Wristcutters: A Love Story: Yan
As a now established leading man, Hawkes can pick and choose his roles. After Winter’s Bone, Hawkes went on to star as Patrick in the well-received indie, Martha Marcy May Marlene. For his performance as the cult leader who clouds the minds of his young followers (including Elizabeth Olsen) with his peculiarly twisted beliefs, Hawkes was nominated for Best Supporting Male at the Independent Spirit Award. Hawkes also wrote and performed the film’s haunting theme, “Bred and Buttered.” This year, Hawkes mesmerized critics and audiences alike with his performance as Mark O’Brien, a man paralyzed from the neck down who desperately wants to lose his virginity at the age of 38 in The Sessions. The film is based on a true story, and Hawkes embodies O’Brien, mimicking his voice and using only his facial expressions to convey the emotions that come with being in love and experiencing sex for the first time. You can root for Hawkes at this month’s Independent Spirit Awards where he again received a nomination, this time for Best Male Lead.
As for the future, John Hawkes certainly will continue to be a force in films of all types. He could also easily reappear on your television screen at any time. Be ready to enjoy his performance whatever the venue.
Watch the trailer for The Playroom: