Ethan Hawke's Chet Baker biopic 'Born to Be Blue' melds fact, fiction | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Ethan Hawke's Chet Baker biopic 'Born to Be Blue' melds fact, fiction

Actor Ethan Hawke attends a premiere of "Maggie's Plan" on day 3 of the Toronto International Film Festival at the the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto on Sept. 12, 2015. Famed trumpeter Chet Baker is credited with creating some of the most romantic music of the 20th century -- but it's unlikely the new biopic "Born to Be Blue" will have viewers falling in love with the prickly figure. "What he really, really wanted was what he considered a jazz life -- which is that he wanted to do drugs and play music," said Ethan Hawke, who plays Baker, during September's Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie debuted. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Invision, Richard Shotwell
March 09, 2016 - 1:20 PM

TORONTO - Famed trumpeter Chet Baker is credited with creating some of the most romantic music of the 20th century — but it's unlikely the new biopic "Born to Be Blue" will have viewers falling in love with the prickly figure.

Renowned both for his tuneful playing and sensitive — if not exactly note-perfect — singing, Baker was also a devoted heroin user who sometimes seemed to care about little else, and the film certainly captures that.

"What he really, really wanted was what he considered a jazz life — which is that he wanted to do drugs and play music," said Ethan Hawke, who plays Baker, during September's Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie debuted.

"That's what he wanted to do in his life. He liked that more than his relationship with his friends and family."

With "Born to Be Blue," Canadian writer-director Robert Budreau dials in on the formative if challenging period in Baker's career in the mid-60s, when he was subjected to a savage beating that left his mouth — and thus his career — maimed seemingly beyond repair.

What followed was a period of arduous recovery, along with one of Baker's longest stretches of supposed sobriety, during which he leaned on methadone and slowly re-learned how to play the trumpet.

The timeline is significantly compressed in the film, to about a year — and that's hardly the most prominent liberty taken with Baker's biography.

Carmen Ejogo plays Jane, an actress and love interest who becomes the fulcrum of Baker's recovery, weathering his anger and occasional relapses with impossible patience.

In actual fact, Jane never existed, and is instead a composite of the women who floated in and out of the thrice-married Baker's life.

"There was absolute liberty to do what I wanted on this," said Ejogo, who was more bound to historical accuracy when she portrayed Coretta Scott King in "Selma."

"He was a bit of a (expletive) when it came to women. I mean, he really was quite abusive and he really expected them to bend to his whims, and I've just heard some crazy horror stories — cornering girlfriends in bathrooms and forcing them to inject. Really horrific, awful stuff, and we don't go that far with this film.

"But I think to reveal the darker side of any mythological legendary heroic type is the most interesting space to explore," she added.

Hawke threw himself into the role with his typical enthusiasm. He had been interested in playing Baker for years and once discussed a possible project with his frequent partner-in-crime Richard Linklater.

A devoted fan of Baker's music with a keen interest in his life story, Hawke nevertheless saw no issue with swirling fact and fiction in "Born to Be Blue."

"You take the grand strokes of things you heard. You heard he's a junkie. You heard he got his mouth broken. And you just imagine the rest," Hawke explained. "I feel that's totally fair because the facts are all out there. He's passed away. You're doing it in service.

"In telling his story, hopefully you can get at a spiritual truth," he added. "You go see 'Ray,' and that's not what Ray (Charles's) life was like, but hopefully it's worth doing because it's in service of a story."

Hawke was so invested in the role that he routinely conjured on-the-spot tweaks to the script based on some new piece of trivia he'd just unearthed — to the occasional chagrin of his co-star.

"In some situations, that's just like the greatest gift ever, and in some cases, it's not the easiest thing to digest all of that new information and incorporate it on the spot," conceded Ejogo.

"Ethan would come in excited about a new anecdote he'd heard, or a new story from a musician that used to play with him out West that he'd just spoke to on the phone, and he'd want to find a way to incorporate it.

"I love him for that. But the actress on set in me would be pissed regularly."

Hawke's dedication extended to learning to play the trumpet (though he admits he's pretty much abandoned the horn for his instrument of choice, the guitar).

Overall, Ejogo appreciated his passion.

"I am really a sucker for anyone who has that much dedication to their craft," she said. "I'm not saying he's any good. But I'm just really in awe of the fact that he was so determined to be as authentic onscreen as he could.

"And it paid off, in my opinion."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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