Ethan Hawke Says He Hated Gen X Label After Reality Bites (Exclusive)


Ethan Hawke did not always love being associated with one of his most iconic roles.

In an interview with PEOPLE about his new movie Wildcat, the actor, 53, recalls his 1994 classic Reality Bites, a comedy-drama about recent college graduates that cemented Hawke’s status as a Generation X star.

“There was a time when it annoyed me because I was worried it was going to somehow be prohibitive of growing up, but now I kind of love it,” he now says. “I like Gen X.”

Reality Bites costarred Winona Ryder, Ben Stiller and Steve Zahn, and made for Stiller’s feature directorial debut. Hawke portrayed musician Troy Dyer in the film, which follows four friends as they navigate relationships and jobs some time after graduating college.

“The thing about Reality Bites that I’m amazed by is I think Ben turned into one of the best directors of my generation,” Hawke says. “I think he’s brilliant, and that was his first film, and that movie exists as kind of a great — I’m proud of it as it’s representative of its moment.”

Ethan Hawke on Sept. 30, 2023.

Ferda Demir/Getty Images for ZFF

Despite Reality Bites‘ status as a cult classic, Hawke says most fans don’t recognize him from the film.

“The weird thing about my career is there’s certain people that just think I’m the guy from Moon Knight,” he says, referencing his 2022 Disney+ superhero series for Marvel Studios. “There’s certain people that don’t know I was in any other movie besides Training Day.”

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“There’s a certain connectivity between the Reality Bites fans and the Before trilogy fans, and then I have horror movie fans that [know] Sinister or Black Phone, they don’t know I was in another movie,” Hawke adds. “And I’ll get the odd person that doesn’t think I’ve done anything with my life since Dead Poets Society.”

Ethan Hawke on Sept. 11, 2023.

Jeremy Chan/Getty

While speaking to his early experiences making movies like Reality Bites and Dead Poets Society, Hawke says he remembers “everything.”

“They were so pivotal when you’re young like that and getting an opportunity to do what you dreamed of doing and every day. It’s how I imagine what an athlete might feel about their first professional season,” he says. “Sometimes you can’t believe how much of every game they remember.”

For more on Ethan Hawke, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands now.

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