TODAY   |  December 31, 2013

Ethan Hawke reads Shakespeare with KLG and Hoda

The actor, who is currently playing the title role in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” on Broadway, performs a mock reading of the Bard with the ladies.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it was nearly 25 years ago when we first saw ethan hawke on the big screen starring in the highly acclaimed "dead poet's society." now the director, the novelist, the father of four and all around hunk is back on broadway, this time starting in the title role , it's a really easy thing to do, of shakespeare's " macbeth ."

>> such an easy thing.

>> once you rehearse for that for a couple of days.

>> i said we didn't need any rehearsal, just threw it up.

>> but you love the baird , as those of us --

>> i love the baird .

>> it's not your first rodeo with the baird , is it?

>> it's not often people refer to the baird as a rodeo but yeah, it's not my first. i've done it a couple times. but the truth is, as an american actor , you know, you don't get that much of a chance to do it. these brits grow up doing this stuff. they've seen the stuff 15 type times --

>> it's not fair is what you're saying?

>> no, i actually haven't done it. this is my third shakespeare play but people think i've done it a lot.

>> i remember reading it as a kid, trying to understand what they were talking about.

>> the big mistake is i think people think they're supposed to understand every word. you know, if you listen to a rap song or something like that, you don't sit there and try to break down --

>> hoda does.

>> when you let the language just kind of flow and some of what you get and some of what you don't. you just listen to the rith themes. you just kind of enjoy the playful use of language. and what --

>> right.

>> we do the play every wednesday for high school kids. it's the most incredible experience of my life. and they get it. after about five minutes -- five minutes, they're struggling. and then the poetry of it just takes over. by the end they're cheering and screaming.

>> is it because they've never seen anybody else really do it, you know what i'm saying?

>> that's true. a lot of the theater people. my wife came to see it on the first preview and she said the people in front of her -- afterward, i said, how was it? she said, the people in front of us kept saying he's no patrick stewart . just know you're up against it, okay.

>> wow. how much do you wrestle with that, even attempting something like this? because it is a brave thing to do. was hamlet harder or macbeth ?

>> yeah, which one to you want me to answer?

>> take your time.

>> okay, as soon as you sign up for something like this, you are kind of signing up for that. i mean, it's funny, even great actors, peter o'toole, sadly, passed away, in his obituary, they talked about his terrible reviews for " macbeth ." it's tough all over, you know.

>> eight academy award nominations --

>> and they still give him a hard time . so which is harder, for me, acting in film is a lot easier. "hamlet" as a movie, you can create an intimacy with the camera a lot easier than performing it live for 1,200 people every night.

>> you want to give us a little screen test or something? you want to do that?

>> yeah. stay with me here, okay. i've come prepared. this is " macbeth 's" first speech. this is his first speech. i'm going to play the role of the witches. i don't say anything.

>> okay.

>> that is long. that's a lot of stuff.

>> we're going to do it together. it's going to be kind of like --

>> tell us when to talk.

>> one of those talent shows. so what happened is i'm playing this witch and you don't understand what i've been saying, right, you don't understand. what's that witch mean? you say, go.

>> stay, you imperfect speaker, tell me more.

>> good, keep going.

>> by final death, i know i am feign --

>> fame.

>> fame of famous --

>> glom.

>> keep going with that line.

>> but carter.

>> carder, good, nice tension there.

>> a prosperous gentleman --

>> what, a prosperous what?

>> prosperous gentleman.

>> there's that "t," there it is.

>> and to be a prosperous gentleman and to be king stands not with the prospect of belief.

>> well, you're getting a little english accent here. you don't need the english accent .

>> what was macbeth , scottish, i forget.

>> yeah, you don't need that.

>> we got to run, babe.

>> oh, no, this is fun, i was so much better than you.

>> i had harder words!

>> can i say something, the truth is, she won hands down. i don't want to make anybody uncomfortable, but --

>> that's all right, she's got longer leg, god is fair.

>> ethan, absolute pleasure to be with you. great run. and you can catch him in " macbeth " at the vivian beaumont