The Stranger Things actress, 25, told Variety that she felt self-conscious at times while collaborating with her dad on the pair's passion project surrounding the life of Southern gothic writer Flannery O'Connor because of its optics. The film, which was co-written and directed by Ethan, sees Maya star as O'Connor and several other characters from the author's short stories. (The pair are able to do press in promotion of the film due to its SAG-AFTRA interim agreement.)
"I had moments of insecurity about it while we were shooting the movie," Maya, who also serves as a producer on the film, admitted. "But the internet doesn't have a lot of nuances. My dad has been a massive teacher for me, and we want to work together. We like being with each other."
"If someone wants to criticize us for working together, that's totally fair," Ethan added. "You have to let people have their opinion. You just have to try to do a good job when you're onstage."
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images Maya Hawke and Ethan Hawke
Still, Ethan maintained that Wildcat was all Maya's idea. The actress, who's been a fan of O'Connor's work since high school, used the author's work as inspiration for her Juilliard audition and was later accepted into the prestigious arts school. Ethan noted, "Famous parents can help you get an audition, but they're not going to get you in."
She later successfully pitched her idea for an O'Connor biopic to her dad's production company Under the Influence, citing the similarities between the author's writings and Ethan's previous work on the 2020 Showtime series The Good Lord Bird and his 2018 Blaze Foley biopic Blaze.
"Put simply, I'm a nepo dad!" Ethan joked. "And I'm not embarrassed about it."
While Ethan may feel fine working alongside his daughter, Maya acknowledged that it was only after starring in several high-profile projects like Stranger Things, Wes Anderson's Asteroid City, and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that she felt comfortable enough to step into the spotlight alongside her dad. (She'll also star opposite mom Uma Thurman in the upcoming crime thriller The Kill Room later this month.)
"As a teenager," she said, "I wouldn't have been in the place to have enough confidence to do it publicly…"
Ethan, however, swiftly shut down his daughter's qualms. "You're saying we could have done this earlier," he explained, "but the temperature in the room changed because Maya now has every right to be the lead of something. It's different than if she were 17. This movie is being financed because she's in it, not because I'm directing."
"Well," Maya noted, "a little bit of both."
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