With his efforts to campaign for “Boyhood” almost complete, Ethan Hawke is turning his attention to the promotion of his latest film, “Born to Be Blue,” in which he plays jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. The film, which is being sold in Berlin by K5 Intl., is in post production.
Hawke is keen to explain that it is “not a conventional biopic, but rather a reimagining of Chet’s life.” He told Variety the film portrays “not what was, but what could have been.” He added: “I have been hypnotized by Chet Baker since I discovered him in Bruce Weber’s ‘Let’s Get Lost.’ Having lost River Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman — two friends, two of the best minds of my generation — the tragedy feels particularly fresh to me.”
The film focuses on a period in Baker’s life in the 1960s when he loses his teeth in a violent attack. It looks like his career is over. The film follows his efforts to make a comeback, aided by the tough love of his partner, played by “Selma” actress Carmen Ejogo.
“At its essence, it is a comeback story and a mature love story,” the film’s director-writer Robert Budreau told Variety.
Baker struggled with heroin addiction for most of his life. In the period covered by the film he is clean, but the threat of a relapse is constant. His self-destructive streak could have pushed the film in a nihilistic direction, but Hawke’s portrayal guards against that.
“One of the things Ethan brings is that he is an enormously sympathetic person, and his interpretation of Chet is quite sympathetic, and there is a lot of humor, lightness and pathos. There are both dark and light moments,” Budreau said.
“One way to do the story would have been to do a dark, doomed and moody jazz piece, but we tried to fight against that,” Budreau said.
Hawke learned to play the trumpet for the film, and all the singing in the film is his own.
Budreau said the film “has a free-form indie feel to it appropriate to the type of music.” He cites as inspirations films such as “Raging Bull” and “Walk the Line.”
Race plays an important underlying aspect in the film, Budreau said. Baker was “a beautiful, white West Coast icon” married to a mixed-race woman, and “trying to get the respect of his black idols,” such as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.
Pic is produced by Jennifer Jonas and Leonard Farlinger of New Real Films, Budreau of Lumanity Productions and Jake Seal of Black Hangar Studios.