EXCLUSIVE | Ethan Hawke says Nikola Tesla lacked 'sense of humor' after portraying the inventor in biopic

Ethan Hawke's film 'Tesla' had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2020

                            EXCLUSIVE | Ethan Hawke says Nikola Tesla lacked 'sense of humor' after portraying the inventor in biopic
Ethan Hawke (Getty Images)

Ethan Hawke is best known for his role as a soul-searching cynic but romantic at heart in the 'Before' trilogy — 'Before Sunrise' (1995), 'Before Sunset' (2004) and 'Before Midnight' (2013) — and now he has played the role of electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla.

An inventor and futurist, Tesla's contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system are known worldwide. Hawke brings Tesla's life to celluloid in a biographical film written and directed by Michael Almereyda. Shedding light on the movie, Hawke spoke exclusively to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) at the Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered.

“I didn't know anything about Tesla,” he confessed. “I only knew about the supposed wars with Edison about who invented electricity and who figured out how to channel it.” Hawke then disclosed how the film opened Tesla's personal life to him. “Then I got this script and I found it incredibly interesting,” he added. The biopic comes with a hope to present Tesla's inventions in a new light with a speculated special mention of his secret Shoreham lab, called Wardenclyffe.

Ethan Hawke attends the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Discovering Tomorrow Panel at Filmmaker Lodge on January 28, 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Getty Images)

Clocking to 102 minutes, the movie is essentially a drama at its core. Does it also bring Tesla's funny side or soft-hearted elements on the big screen? “Not enough,” pat came the answer. Hawke also added, “I would love for the movie to be funnier. I think everything should be funny. The older I get, the more I want to laugh. I think one of the things Nikola Tesla lacked is, perhaps, the sense of humor or maybe it's my portrayal... But, I hope there are some quality laughs in the movie.”

Edison, who is also credited for inventing devices in electric power generation, became a household name but Tesla was almost lost to history. Elon Musk changed it in a peculiar way by naming his car company after him and now the biopic seems like a wonderful way to freshen up his contributions in people's minds. 

Chalking out Musk's connection with Tesla, Hawke said,  “People know about Nikola Tesla because Elon Musk named the car after him but that's where the connection ends, aside from the fact, I'm sure that he must admire him. We owe so much to Tesla for wireless energy and the Internet. He was the first dreamer who dreamed up this stuff that is now the reality.”


At the Sundance Film Festival 2020, Hawke was also a jury member. Talking about the 'responsibility' of being a jury member here at Sundance, he said, “I do feel a [huge sense of] responsibility. It's thrilling to be on the jury and I realized there's a great depth of talent that's out there. I haven't seen a movie that hasn't been wonderful."

Calling it an eye-opening experience, he added, “you kind of hear about our independent cinema's dead or it's all about television now. I'm like no, it's not, people are making very powerful films that need to be seen. So it's exciting to be here.”

After its premiere on January 27, 2020, at Sundance Film Festival, the movie has opened to positive reviews and good word of mouth on social media. Hawke stars along with Kyle MacLachlan, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross and Josh Hamilton. 

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