Cheat Sheet: John Hawkes


John Hawkes (né John Marvin Perkins)

Date of Birth:

September 11th 1959

Place of birth:

Alexandria, MN, USA

Special moves:

Acting, perseverance

Films include:

Me and You and Everyone We Know, American Gangster, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene

What you probably already know:

If you knew anything about John Hawkes before 2009, you’re probably his mother or something. Despite a career which has spanned almost thirty years, it’s only in the last two years or so that Hawkes’ career has finally taken off – his Oscar-nominated appearance in Winter’s Bone catapulted him into the public eye, and he’s just followed it up with a captivating, unnerving performance as a charismatic cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene. You might expect him to have been beavering away in the shadows for five years or so, but Hawkes had more than fifty films to his credit when he finally hit the big time with his portrayal of meth addict Teardrop.

What he’s lacked in fame, though, Hawkes has evidently made up for in experience. Just like writer-director-actor Gianni Di Gregorio, who only started to direct a few years ago despite being in his sixties, one wonders whether Hawkes’ unconventional career has shaped his deeply nuanced and affecting performances. As Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene he is almost intoxicating in his intensity, making his Manson-esque character perversely charming even as his actions repulse the audience. Despite Patrick’s superficial similarities to Teardrop, the two characters couldn’t be more different in their portrayal – his raddled meth addict seems a thousand miles away when Patrick is taking centre stage. Would the John Hawkes who eked his way through the 80s playing characters like ‘Pizza Boy’, ‘Thief #2’ and ‘Rooster’ been capable of such skill if he’d been immediately successful? Who knows.

What you might not know:

Although he didn’t often make it out of the background, Hawkes appeared in a series of high-profile films throughout the 2000s. You can look out for him in The Perfect Storm, American Gangster and Miami Vice, as well as in disastrous straight-to-DVD sequel S. Darko and the charming Wristcutters: A Love Story, definitely Best For Film’s favourite surrealist suicide comedy drama. And things certainly aren’t slowing down – he’s due to star with Mos Def in the first film of Elmore Leonard’s novel Switch, the prequel to Rum Punch (which Quentin Tarantino adapted into Jackie Brown). Hawkes has inherited Robert DeNiro’s character – and this was back when DeNiro did real acting, remember. It should be good.

Don’t let us leave you thinking that Hawkes is exclusively a dramatic actor, though. He starred in Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), a rom-com-dram cited by Roger Ebert as the fifth best film of the decade – and even more interestingly, he’s a musician of no small renown. You can find him on the Winter’s Bone soundtrack (he wrote and performed ‘Bred and Buttered’), and he plays the haunting ballad Marcy’s Song in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Hawkes used to be in a band called Meat Joy, because he’s a LAD, and hitched round America with his guitar on his back when he was younger. And – get this, it’s our favourite – he made up a new character every time he hitched a lift with someone and played it religiously, just to keep his hand in. We think we love John Hawkes.

John Hawkes quote:

“I do all kinds of roles – nerd, psycho, nerd, psycho, nerd, psycho – and occasionally someone kind of normal. It’s weird, when I lived in Austin I was always cast as pretty normal people. But when I moved to Los Angeles I was immediately branded a psycho.”

What to say at a dinner party:

Better late than never! John Hawkes’ sudden rise to stardom has demonstrated that true talent will always find its way out, and now he’s arrived on the A-list he seems to be making the most of his new opportunities.

What not to say at a dinner party:

Isn’t 52 a bit old to win a Rising Star award?

Final thought:

Go and see Martha Marcy May Marlene. Serious. It’s Sean Durkin’s first film and it’s ace, so if you want to see more from him and Elizabeth Olsen (not to mention John Hawkes!) it needs supporting.

Anything else you think the world should know? Drop us a comment below!

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