How Ethan Hawke Relates to 'Boyhood' Role

Hawke plays a father in a movie that follows a family affected by divorce over 12 years.
7:10 | 11/27/14

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Transcript for How Ethan Hawke Relates to 'Boyhood' Role
So, Ethan Hawke is a low key movie star who has come a long way since his days as a teenage heart throb. Starring in this year's "Boyhood," he's earning Oscar buzz, playing a divorced dad. Drawing, of course, from his personal experiences. Tonight, the multitalented actor opens up in an intimate interview. He talked to me about life, love, divorce and surprising sources of happiness. All the time he's mumbling. What is he mumbling? Jimmy: He was a fresh faced teen in "Dead poets society." Ethan Hawke star income his first film opposite robin Williams. The moment he leave dying, it will just cover your face. As you wail and cry and scream. Don't you forget this. Reporter: It was that intense teacher/student dynamic both on and off the screen that touches him to this very day. I had a particular unique moment with him, you know, to have him as a teacher in this unique experience of "Dead poets society." It changed my life. What if I told you a story about this giant sea mammal? Reporter: Now, more than 25 years later, it's Hawke who is the father figure, playing a divorced dad in the new film "Boyhood." You think that's pretty magical, right? Yeah. Reporter: It's a coming of age story unlike any other. Filmed over 12 years, using the same cast. Hawke's son, played by Eller come train, morphed over time. From innocent child. What are you, 2 years old? You don't want the bumpers. Reporter: To surly teen to young man. Funny thing for me, I've known Eller since he ease's 6 years old. Now he's going through the same experience I went through when I was 18. Reporter: To make it work, all the actors agreed to film every year for more than a decade. It's the passion project for famed director Richard link latter. And a talented cast of kak or thes including Patricia Arquette, who plays his ex-wife. Say good-bye to that little Attitude, okay? We're not taking that in the car. The first couple years, it felt so experimental. I told people, I'm going to do one or two scenes in this movie. What is it? Well, I don't know, it's going to come out in 11 years. What do you want from me? Reporter: Back in the '90s, Hawke seemed destined for block buster typecasting, after playing troy, the smoldering gg gen-xor in "Reality bites." You kind of consciously went away from the super hero roles. I didn't know who I was. If you get celebrated as a young person, when you're not sure who you are, you know, when you're still discovering yourself and people start keeping money and prizes and it throws off your growth as a human being. Reporter: Instead, he took a more eclectic path. To singer/song writer in "Boyhood." ? My son paints pictures of a family ? Reporter: You're really like the renaissance man. Is there anything you can't do? Tell me you're really bad in bed. I'm not really bad in bed. I wish I could say that. Fortunately that's an area in which I excel. Reporter: Thank you. Appreciate that. All the women out there are going nuts. No, no. Reporter: He and his lucky wife have been married for more than six years and have two young daughters. What makes our family work is, you can't have one person be creative inside a couple and traveling a lot and expect to have a home life if somebody isn't taking care of a sense of balance. Reporter: He may be happily married in his real life, but in "Boyhood," Hawke says he draws on the turmoil from when his first marriage crumbled. He met uma Thurman on the set of "Gattica." I have this crazy idea. Reporter: They were married for five years with two kids. Was it hard to go through it publicly -- yes. Yes. That is where the rubber meets the road, you know? What I tell my kids, what I tell myself is, these are the moments that define us. You know, and we're not defined by what's easy in our life. Reporter: When the couple accept rated, his daughter Maya was just five years old. It was really hard for her. She's now a junior in high school and she helps her friends. She ain't the only one anymore, you know? Reporter: Let me tell you what's going to happen. Tell your mom this. Are you seeing a therapist? Okay. Is it a good therapist? Reporter: In an effort to be a more hands on dead, he turned back to the theater. Most recent it will playing Macbeth at New York's Len consec Lincoln center. Theater lets me do something I love and be at home. Reporter: He's a movie star who wrote a serious novel and courted serious roles in gutsy movies, like his performance in "Training day." You be dead by now. That was the art is of my adult relationship to acting. That was a big deal for me. Working with Denzel. That was as big a deal, in a way, as "Dead poets society" had been. Reporter: And it earned him an Oscar nomination. Despite all his success, Hawke says he began quietly suffering from heart-stopping stage fright. Professionally acted since I was 13 and here I was 40, 41, having full-blown panic attacks before I went on stage. And it had always been so easy. Reporter: What does it feel like? Just feels awful. Reporter: I bet. Most people should be a lot more nervous. Reporter: After sitting next to Seymour Bernstein, it all changed. He gave up performing at the height of his career to teach. The two shared the same dark secret. Performance anxiety. And it was Seymour who soothed Hawke's anxiety. He and his wife teamed up to produce a documentary about his accidental life coach. You will get nervous when you learn how to act. His reaction was very funny. He thought all of this was great news. He said, you know -- Reporter: Why? Because more artists should be more nervous. Reporter: That was his line? More people should be -- it's important. Reporter: It's important to be nervous. He said that, yeah? It's important to care about what you do. Reporter: The low key actor just moved to Brooklyn and considers himself a regular dad. Even dropping his kids off at school, which we see play out in "Boyhood." Talk to me. Samantha, how was your week? Ah, I don't know, dad, it was kind of tough. Billy and Ellen broke up. She saw me talking to Billy in the cafeteria. Reporter: Art imitating life. I love dropoff. I have this really fancy new bike that I can get both kids in the back of. Reporter: Oh, my gosh. We can ride them both, the little ones to school. Reporter: For him, fatherhood has been the role of a lifetime. There's only one thing in my life that's really been consistent, and that's them.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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