Hawkes was born John Marvin Perkins in Alexandria, Minnesota, the son of Patricia and Pete Perkins. He graduated from Jefferson High School and moved to Austin, Texas, where he was a member of the band Meat Joy, with Gretchen Phillips. He is also a member of the musical group King Straggler with fellow actors Rodney Eastman and Brent Gore.
Hawkes played the role of Greg Penticoff in season 1 of 24. He portrayed Dustin Powers, brother of the protagonist Kenny Powers, in the first season of the HBO series Eastbound & Down, and recently played Lennon on ABC's Lost.
In 2011, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Winter's Bone, as well as for a number of other awards, including the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role and won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. Also in 2011, Hawkes was honored with a Rising Star Award by the Texas Film Hall of Fame.
Graduate of Jefferson High School (Alexandria, Minnesota), 1977.
Cites Robert Duvall as the actor he most admires.
In an interview in Fade In magazine, Hawkes revealed that while hitch-hiking around America, he would play various characters when he was getting a ride.
When Hawkes was cast as Sol Star, a Jewish merchant, in "Deadwood" (2004) he told the show's creator, David Milch, that there was one catch, however: "I'm not Jewish," Hawkes frankly told Milch upon their first meeting. "David asked me, 'Have you ever felt shame or sadness or ostracized?' I said, 'Every day.' And David said, 'Then you're Jewish.'".
Inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame on March 10, 2011 in Austin, Tx.
[on being an actor]: You never really forget who you are. If you did, you'd need to seek some professional help.
(2010, on filming Congo) The best part of the job, I think, was the other actors. A lot of people I admired a great deal and got to know and hang with. I didn't have much to do in the movie, and the main thing I had to do-which was die-we did in Los Angeles, simulating the African jungle. Then we went to Costa Rica, which was why I took the job. We went to Costa Rica for nearly a month to do the rest of the movie. For myself and Taylor Nichols and Bruce Campbell, our function in Costa Rica for three months was to work about five days total, and that was mainly just shots of us hiking along with backpacks, heading into the jungle. We had a ton of time off there, so Bruce Campbell and I would rent cars, and his wife was there for a while, but when she went back to America, he and I toured around the country and went to pay phones every couple of days and called the production office and said, "Do you need us yet?" And they'd say, "No." And we would drive somewhere else and hang out. He was such a funny, funny man, Bruce. I've lost touch with him over the years, but we had a ball. That was a lot of fun. Tim Curry was in that cast, who was a hero of mine from his stage and screen work and the Rocky Horror stuff. And Ernie Hudson and Laura Linney. They were all really nice people. I was kind of intimidated, being on a big Hollywood movie like that and not having much to do, but those people were... It's one of those times where you realize that these are just normal people, and they're also really kind to their underlings, which I thought was pretty nice. So yeah, not much to do on the acting side of it, but more the experience of going to Costa Rica and hanging out. It's a lovely country.
(2010, on making The Perfect Storm) That was a big deal for me, because that was a good part in a Hollywood blockbuster. And yeah, I died, but so did everyone. At least I got to stay to the end. The actress, Rusty Schwimmer, and I met at an audition, and they put us in touch and said, "We want to screen-test you guys for the parts." So she and I went and had a beer or two and worked on the scene without anyone knowing we were doing it. We went in the next day, and it was one of those rare occasions where two actors screen-test together and both get the part. She was terrific. Again, there were a lot of people on that movie who I really admire. Mark Wahlberg, I didn't know what to expect, although I'd seen him be good in Basketball Diaries. I'm not really a fan of those pop-music videos he was doing, but man, what a dedicated, sincere, just really quietly supportive person to those around him, and a really, really dedicated and hard worker. George Clooney was a practical joker who nailed us all several times. Very funny. And John C. Reilly, Bill Fichtner, who are wonderful actors. It was cool being invited into the club, just for starters. To start playing better roles. Not bigger movies-I wasn't so interested in that. Although that one made sure I didn't have to have a day job. I was in pretty good shape after that. But for a studio movie, it was an amazing set, a lot of work, and really great.
(2010, on Deadwood) I think that was the best job I've ever had...It was just an unbelievably great job. I don't have anything but positive things to say about that cast and that whole experience. Great cast and great stories and great crew. The Perfect Storm was an impressive set-and I've worked on a lot of Hollywood movies with bloated budgets and big sets-but Deadwood was a set unto its own. It was several blocks of deer carcasses hanging and bleeding, and horseshit everywhere. People would come to the set to visit, and if they wanted to watch a scene, they had to walk through mud and urine. A lot of people made short visits. It was just fantastic. We shot, I think, 25 miles north of L.A. on the old Gene Autry Melody Ranch, and I never once drove onto that set without a smile on my face.
(2010, on his small part in Lost) I never knew much about the show. When I got cast, I thought, "Well, I should watch it," but then I realized it was like 99 hours of television, and I didn't really have that kind of time, so I approached it more like a movie and just read the script and played the character. I still haven't even... I've seen just one of the episodes that I was in. And that was only because I was visiting my father in Texas, and we had a family thing, and I didn't really watch it. I was just coming in as a guest. It was a big machine, I'll put it that way. I was helping turn the cogs...It was a money gig, really. I'm sorry if you're a huge fan of the show, but I just don't really know it at all. I heard it was like Gilligan's Island, and I really loved Gilligan's Island, so I figured...No, no. But yeah, man, it's tough for an actor. It's not always autographs and sunglasses, as they say. A lot of times, you just don't get the jobs you want to get. You try for them, and you don't get them, or you don't have a chance to try for them. It was slow here in town, honestly, for a while. I look at my favorite actors, like Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman, and those guys didn't partway through their careers start guest-starring on TV shows, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it.
(2010, on American Gangster) I'm proud of that credit. There's some good people in that. For a Hollywood movie, that was a decent film, I thought. That's hard to do when you have movie stars and a huge budget. Harder, almost. I don't know how I got cast. I just got sent a script. They said, "Do you want to play this part?" I don't think my manager and agent even really know for sure how it all happened. They must have seen something, I don't know. It was amazing to live in New York for a few months and work. Ridley Scott was an interesting director. Not only did I not receive any acting direction from him, I didn't see him directing any other actor over three months. I think he just casts people and trusts them. It was more like, "Try it again," as opposed to "Do this, specifically." And when he liked it, it was done. Pieces of the set were walking away, and lights were moved, and all that stuff. You'd say, "You got it? Can I have one more?" He's like, "Nope, we've got it." I do think he cares a great deal about actors. I don't think he's just a camera director, although he is a genius at figuring out shots and how to maximize each shot. But it's the actor's dream, in a way, to be left alone. There's always part of you that needs some hand-holding now and then, but you have to figure that if they're moving on, then what you did must be good.
[on working with Daniel Day-Lewis] I spent 10 hours with Abraham Lincoln, which was thrilling in and of itself. But it never felt weird to me. I don't have a problem with an actor's preparation or process. Anyone who's put off by his intensity is probably afraid of their own shortcomings. He's the character when you meet him and work with him, but it's not weird to me, or silly, or obsessive in the least. It's his way to do extraordinary work. I don't have actor training myself. I've been accused of being a Method actor, not even quite knowing what that is, but I loved his commitment to the project.
[on 'The Sessions', playing Mark O'Brien, a real-life man who has been partially paralyzed from polio since childhood] Ben [Lewin] had written a great script and I thought the character needed to fight self-pity at every turn. It's really boring to watch a character wallow, even if they have every reason to. It's much more interesting to watch them try to solve their problems, especially if they're ill-equipped to do so. I also thought we should seek out humor, wherever we could find it. I didn't want Mark to be a saint. I wanted Mark to be a pain in the ass and an asshole, as we all are from time to time. Just a human being, really.
[on filming 'The Sessions'] It was unusual to be lying immobile with a beautiful naked woman on me, but it was not a bad thing. And, as an actor who often misses his mark, it was easier in a way to be immobile. The DP [ director of photography] was never angry with me.
[on filming 'The Sessions'] Mark O'Brien used to say that disabled people are invisible to able-bodied people. In between takes, I'd stay on the gurney and crew members would set sandwiches and wardrobe people would lay coats on me. I got some idea of what it's like to be thought of as furniture.
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