Ethan Hawke’s great-grandmother had wanted him to become a priest, but the American actor prayed that he would never get the calling, he said at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.
Hawke finally got his taste of priesthood when he was cast as a minister in Paul Schrader’s spiritual drama “First Reformed,” one of 21 movies competing for the Golden Lion that will be awarded on Sept. 9.
“I’ve been surrounded by religion my whole life and it’s a very important dialogue, in my head anyway, so I was very grateful for the opportunity to play this character,” Hawke told journalists before the film’s premiere.
Hawke plays Toller, an ex-military chaplain struggling to come to terms with the loss of his son, who he had encouraged to enlist.
Toller now looks after a small but largely empty tourist church. He is further challenged in his faith when a pregnant parishioner, Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried, and her radical activist husband ask for counseling.
The idea that life is a balance between “hope and despair” is a theme throughout the movie, although the film does not answer which wins, Hawke said.
“It’s asking questions and how it bounces off you is what’s most relevant,” he said.
“The movie definitely walks that razor’s edge between utter despair and completely believing in love. The two are at war throughout the film and they are so at the end to me.”
This article originally appeared in Page Six.