It’s been two years since we first noted the surprise resurgence of Ethan Hawke. His name doesn’t lend itself to a catchy, mellifluous sobriquet like “the McConaissance,” but the Austin actor’s career has taken a similar late-bloomer pivot. This—the Hawkeceleration? The Great Rehawkening?—kicked off in earnest with 2017’s First Reformed, a haunting performance that presaged Hawke’s equally electrifying turn in Showtime’s recent series The Good Lord Bird. Those projects, along with Hawke’s 2018 directorial effort Blaze, seemed to neatly cleave his filmography into eras, separating his sensitive, soul-patched early years in films such as Reality Bites and Before Sunrise from the more scraggly and bold roles he’s assayed here in middle age. Hawke has acquired a new aura of gravity, becoming a sought-after leading man. And last week, this Ethaniphany reached the true and inevitable apex of all modern acting careers: Hawke has finally been subsumed by the Marvel Universe, as all stars eventually must be.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hawke has joined the upcoming Disney Plus series Moon Knight, for which Oscar Isaac is on board to play the titular superhero—a mercenary millionaire who sufferers from multiple personalities and a slippery grasp on his identity, even beyond his superficial resemblance to Batman. And he will face his greatest threat in Hawke’s as-yet-unidentified supervillain, who’s been rumored to be everyone from Moon Knight’s archnemesis in the comics, Raul Bushman, to more supernatural beings like the redundantly named Werewolf by Night and even Count Dracula himself. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter which comics character Hawke is playing within the Disney-Marvel machine, which at this rate will eventually get around to casting them all.
In fact, Hawke is just the latest in a growing line of Texans who are already part of the Marvel Universe in some way—many of them also playing villains. In just the next couple of years, we’ll see Jamie Foxx’s Electro return for the latest Spider-installment, Woody Harrelson’s Carnage in Venom 2, and Lovecraft Country breakout Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man 3. There’s also Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, who popped up in both Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel. We’ve also seen several Texans lending superheroes their mortal human support: Forest Whitaker in Black Panther, Tommy Lee Jones in Captain America: First Avenger, and soon, Owen Wilson in the Disney Plus series Loki. That’s a pretty decent percentage—although, in a universe of characters that’s scattered across dozens of films and TV series, it’s notable that not a single Texan has been cast as a superhero. It probably doesn’t help that the only Marvel heroes we can really lay claim to are the Rangers, a silly, Southwestern spin on the Avengers led by a guy who makes tornadoes with his body. There’s also the Armadillo, a hideous armadillo-human hybrid who’s prone to depression. But let this rediscovery of Ethan Hawke be the first step toward Marvel realizing that we, too, have range.
Luke Wilson Coaches Fort Worth’s Mightiest Orphans
In the meantime, Texans have to console ourselves with playing smaller, more homegrown sorts of heroes, like the Depression-era Fort Worth football team the Masonic Home Mighty Mites, who are the subject of the forthcoming film 12 Mighty Orphans. Adapted from the book by legendary Texas sportswriter Jim Dent, it finds Dallas’s Luke Wilson stepping back in time and across the Metroplex to play Coach Rusty Russell, who led a group of scrappy, shoeless foundlings all the way to the Texas state championship game in 1940. Orphans was shot in late 2019 all around Fort Worth, Cleburne, and Weatherford to give it authenticity, and it got a dose of extra prestige with the addition of Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall, who reunited onscreen for the first time since 1979’s Apocalypse Now. And this week, 12 Mighty Orphans received a major boost when it was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, which plans to distribute it to audiences that could similarly use some uplift during so much uncertainty.
Dennis Quaid Drafted for Yet Another Football Movie
Given the climate, it’s possible we’re in for a rash of underdog sports movies in the coming months, as we attempt to vicariously recover some of our own all-American grit. In fact, one of them is literally titled American Underdog, and it, too, is a true-life football story: a biopic of NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, chronicling his nigh-mythological rise from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming one of the sport’s most celebrated quarterbacks. Deadline reports that Houston native Dennis Quaid has signed on to the film starring Zachary Levi as Warner, with Quaid playing St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil, who handed Warner the team in its 1999 season, then led him to a Super Bowl win. Strangely, this is Quaid’s second time playing a real-life football coach—he previously portrayed Syracuse University’s Ben Schwartzwalder in 2008’s The Express: The Ernie Davis Story—as well as his fourth football movie overall. Anyway, I don’t really know what you’re supposed to do with this information, but maybe its constancy will provide you a similar anchor in these turbulent times.
Don DeLillo’s JFK Assassination Novel Libra Heads to TV
On the opposite end of uplifting American stories, Deadline reports that Don DeLillo’s JFK assassination novel Libra is being developed as a limited TV series by Spectrum, the cable operator that, like every other corporation, is now making a move into original programming. DeLillo’s 1988 book is a hybrid of historical fact and speculative fiction, reimagining the events that may have led to the president’s murder in Dallas, telling a surprisingly sympathetic (if still condemnatory) tale of Lee Harvey Oswald’s life, and touching on the American obsession with conspiracy that still lingers. That said, it’s not immediately clear what would differentiate Libra from similar movie and TV retellings like JFK, or 11/22/63, or even that Quantum Leap episode in which Scott Bakula leaped into Oswald’s body. The appeal of Libra was that it offered rich, interior lives for Oswald and others, something that doesn’t always translate to the screen. Still, Libra remains one of DeLillo’s greatest works and the JFK assassination one of the most morbidly fascinating events in our history. We can probably stretch that out for another four episodes or so.
Elizabeth Wetmore’s West Texas Best-seller Valentine Heads to HBO
More explicitly fictional, yet no less traumatic, Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel Valentine hit the New York Times best-seller list last year, instantly enthralling a rapt and already uneasy pandemic audience with its gripping tale of a Mexican teenager who is found beaten and raped in a 1976 West Texas town. The book made such an auspicious splash, it’s no surprise that HBO has already picked up Valentine for a limited series adaptation through Salma Hayek’s production banner. Although Valentine is set in a world of racist, roughneck oil men, it’s centered on a group of strong women whose lives are changed by the incident, offering a still-timely feminist critique that seems bound to attract the kind of Emmy-grabbing performers seen in the network’s other literary adaptations of late, like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies. And given that the book is inextricable from the big skies, unforgiving sun, and tumbleweeds of the Permian Basin, it seems a safe bet that at least some of it would be filmed there.
Jonathan Majors, Margo Martindale, and Kelly Clarkson Nominated for Critics Choice Awards
We have officially moved into awards season, even though I’m pretty sure it’s still only late April, possibly May, or whatever name we’ve given to this endless day we’ve been living since the last awards season. In a year in which audiences were more captive than ever—yet most new movies were indefinitely delayed or dumped directly onto streaming networks—agreeing on which films deserve our accolades will probably be a little more difficult than usual. But fortunately, the Critics Choice Awards kicked things off with some nice, easy nominations for the year’s best television, something we can all agree was plentiful and even occasionally pretty good, beyond just its ability to distract us from our phones. This year’s crop of nominees includes several Texans, with Metroplex native Jonathan Majors earning a best actor nod for his work in Lovecraft Country, Jacksonville’s own Margo Martindale up for best supporting actress for Mrs. America, and Burleson’s Kelly Clarkson squaring off against Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers for best talk show—neither of whom, it must be noted, had a digital audience of video torsos gyrating to a Vin Diesel song. Winners will be announced March 7, which was a couple of weeks ago or maybe tomorrow?
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
Our last week in Matthew McConaughey represented a rare stumble for an actor who’s always ambled so confidently, even through an apocalyptic plague. After the cancellation of his anticipated return to prestige TV, and surrounded by a growing discomfort about his increasingly friendly attitudes toward, according to the Daily Beast, people who could be described as alt-right alt-right alt-right, it seemed the Greenlights author had finally seen a stop sign, or accidentally turned into a cul de sac. So you can’t blame the guy for lying relatively low this week. McConaughey was all but invisible, and—according to his wife’s Instagram—mostly spent the whole dang week playing with puppies. Camila Alves revealed that their family brought home two new rescue dogs just days apart, and perhaps because he has crating and house training and so many other things to keep him occupied, McConaughey himself has been more or less silent. In fact, his sole social media post this week found the man saying nothing, instead sitting pensively, notebook in hand and pen in mouth, under the cryptic caption “trust.”
— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) January 21, 2021
It’s not clear exactly what we’re trusting, or even who’s meant to be doing it. Is this McConaughey’s reminder to trust in himself and his process to lead him to another best-selling book, or even a masterfully completed shopping list? Or is he asking us to put our trust in Matthew McConaughey, to ignore all that recent scuttlebutt and renew our faith that McConaughey will always find time to drape himself in rumpled linen, gaze out at his enormous swimming pool, and dream up more motivational platitudes to inspire us? Or was he trying to type out “Trust NO ONE,” right before the CIA hauled him off? I don’t know, man. Maybe we should just trust that there’s yet more weeks in Matthew McConaughey to come.