Sunday May 19, 2024

Ethan and Maya Hawke considered dropping 'Wildcat' after Flannery O'Connor's racist letters

Ethan Hawke reconsiders project after New Yorker article exposes Flannery O'Connor

By Web Desk
April 25, 2024
Ethan and Maya Hawkes eevelation during production.
Ethan and Maya Hawke's eevelation during production.

Ethan Hawke, director of the upcoming biopic Wildcat, has a personal connection to the works of Flannery O'Connor, having been introduced to the acclaimed writer by his mother. 

However, it was his daughter, Maya Hawke, who brought him closer to a more intimate side of the author's life. 

While preparing for her Juilliard audition as a teenager, Maya explored O'Connor's Prayer Journal, which contained deeply personal reflections written by the yet-to-be-published author and addressed to God.

As Maya's acting career gained momentum with her role in Stranger Things, she found herself at a similar age to O'Connor when she wrote those journal entries.

This connection inspired Maya to acquire the rights to the "Prayer Journal," proposing to her father that they adapt it into a film in which she would play the role of O'Connor. 

With this shared vision, the father-daughter duo embarked on the journey of bringing Flannery O'Connor's introspective writings to life on the big screen.

It wasn't until the scriptwriting process was well underway that Ethan Hawke discovered a more disturbing aspect of Flannery O'Connor's legacy. 

In Paul Elie's 2020 article for The New Yorker, titled How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?, there were references to bigoted quotes from the writer's personal correspondences.

He discussed this unsettling discovery in an upcoming episode of IndieWire's Toolkit podcast. 

"I didn’t know about any of the darker elements of people finding letters and some really ugly things," he said, referring to the racist content in O'Connor's personal letters. 

The director revealed that this newfound information made him question the project's viability. 

"I didn’t know any of that until we were deep in this project, and I said to Maya, Well, do we quit? How afraid of this conversation are we?”

Hawke admitted to having a knee-jerk reaction to the troubling revelations, contemplating whether to abandon "Wildcat" altogether. 

However, he also recalled writer Alice Walker's perspective: “People do not throw their geniuses away.” 

"If you talk about the history of America honestly, you’re going to talk about America’s crimes and America’s wounds," said Ethan Hawke, director of the upcoming film Wildcat. 

The movie, which explores the life and work of author Flannery O'Connor, has faced controversy due to the discovery of racist remarks in the writer's personal correspondence. 

In discussing systemic racism, Hawke highlighted a common misconception.

"People, if they want to talk about racism, they generally like to do it in the framework of this racist is really bad. They have horns on their head. They’re doing terrible things.

Whereas the real history of systemic racism is it’s a lot of alleged nice people going along with the ride that’s very hurtful to other people, taking advantage of their privileged position."