‘Moon Knight’: How Ethan Hawke Brought Arthur Harrow to Life
"When you get a chance to get Ethan Hawke, you take it.”
The stories you’ve heard are true: it was a sheer coincidence that Ethan Hawke ended up in Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight as pious antagonist Arthur Harrow. But thanks to sheer chance and an unplanned run-in with Oscar Isaac, he’s now balancing scales for those worthy — and unworthy.
“It was one of the simplest, most organic things that has ever happened to me in my career,” Ethan Hawke explains to Marvel.com. Hawke was actually already talking to Moon Knight director and executive producer Mohamed Diab about another project the director was working on, but Diab then had to break the bad news to him that he was going to do something else first. As Hawke puts it, Diab was going off to do “this big Marvel job.”
“I said to Mohamed, ‘Look, that's great. You got to do that. Call me when you're done, we'll meet again,” continues Hawke. Later, Hawke took a walk to get coffee in his neighborhood and ran into Isaac — an actor he had never actually worked with before — who made a suggestion. “[Oscar’s like], ‘Hey, you know, I'm doing this Marvel show. You should play the villain.’ I'm like, ‘Who's directing?’”
The rest, you could say, is history. “Before dinner, I'd gotten a call from my agent saying, ‘Hey, we just got this offer from Marvel,’” Hawke says with a laugh.
Behind-the-scenes, the creative team bringing Moon Knight to life were not betting on getting an actor like Ethan Hawke for the role and were working on a different version of the character.
“I pitched and wrote a draft where he was much [older],’” series creator and head writer Jeremy Slater says. “In that version, it was very much someone looking at their own mortality, reaching the end of the road, being terrified of that, and desperate to do anything to capture it.”
But, as Slater continues with a laugh, “The second Oscar came to everyone and said, ‘Look, I think I can get Ethan Hawke in this.’ We quickly abandoned the idea of an older Harrow because when you get a chance to get Ethan Hawke, you take it.”
With Hawke now onboard with the role, the character evolved into who we see on-screen, thanks in part to a lot of input from Hawke himself.
“Ethan came in and had a really fascinating take,” Slater continues. “He had a lot of ideas of things he hadn't necessarily done yet in his career, and things that he could really bring to the character.”
As viewers learn over the first few episodes, it turns out Arthur Harrow actually used to be one of Khonshu’s avatars himself. However, he has now set his sights on another Egyptian god: Ammit, a feared deity of "divine retribution.” Harrow wants to release her back into the world so she can judge evildoers before they ever have a chance to commit any crimes.
“I was listening to Ethan talk the other day — and obviously he's the ‘villain,’ quote, unquote, of the show, he's the antagonist,” explains executive producer Grant Curtis. “Ethan was saying, ‘I can make a very good argument that Harrow is actually the protagonist of the show. He's the good guy.’ There's [a theory] that what Arthur Harrow’s talking about is actually not that diabolical. There are actually some really interesting things in his theology.”
In Episode 2 of the series, Steven Grant visits Harrow’s compound, and sees what he’s actually doing for his acolytes — feeding them, housing them, making sure everyone is well taken care of. But come Episode 3, with Marc Spector in charge of the body once again, he knows just what evil lurks beneath the surface.
“[Steven] doesn't know if [Harrow] is someone that he can trust, because he seems to be scary and doing nefarious things, but at the same time, there's also a lot of good,” star Oscar Isaac adds. “There are people that seem to be happy. There's a community that's forming around him. For Steven, it's about figuring out if his intentions are good or is he out to do real evil? And Marc sure thinks that Arthur Harrow is a villain, and needs to be stopped at all costs.”
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.
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