Ethan Hawke was admitted to the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University to study theatre but his studies were interrupted when he won his break-through role opposite Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (1989) and he did not complete his degree. He then appeared in numerous films before taking a role in the Generation X drama Reality Bites (1994) for which he received critical praise. He starred in the romantic drama Before Sunrise (1995), and its later sequels Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). His subsequent acting career was a mix of theatre work (earning a number of awards and nominations, including a Tony Award nomination for his role in “The Coast of Utopia” at the Lincoln Center in New York), and a mix of serious and more commercial movies, notably Gattaca (1997) (where he met his first wife, Uma Thurman) and Training Day (2001). His role as the father in the coming-of-age drama Boyhood (2014) earned him multiple award nominations, including the Academy, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Hawke next starred in the Off-Broadway premiere of a new play, Tommy Nohilly’s Blood from a Stone, from December 2010 to February 2011. The play was not a critical success, but Hawke’s portrayal of the central character Travis earned positive feedback; The New York Times said he was “remarkably good at communicating the buried sensitivity beneath Travis’s veneer of wary resignation.” A contributor from the New York Post noted it was Hawke’s “best performance in years”. Hawke won an Obie Award for his role in Blood from a Stone. The following year Hawke played the title role in Chekhov’s Ivanov at the Classic Stage Company. In early 2013, he starred in and directed a new play Clive, inspired by Bertolt Brecht’s Baal and written by Jonathan Marc Sherman. Later that year, he played the title role in a Broadway production of Macbeth at the Lincoln Center Theater, but his performance failed to win over the critics, with the New York Post calling it “underwhelming” for showing untimely restraint in a flashy production. In 2019, Hawke returned to Broadway in the revival of Sam Shepard’s True West, co-starring Paul Dano. The show was met with critical acclaim. It received the Critic’s Pick from The New York Times. The show’s previews began on December 27, 2018, and officially opened January 24, 2019, closing on March 17, 2019.