Oregon and I found Sam sitting on the floor reading "Spanish for Dummies." He's a legend, and legends are bigger than life.

TS: Have you ever worked with Paul Dano before? Was this a project you brought to Roundabout together—or were you both cast without one another’s knowledge? EH: I first met Paul Dano when I was directing Jonathan Marc Sherman's play Things We Want. Paul came into the audition room and blew us all away, and he's been an immense talent since he first arrived on the scene. I loved directing Paul, and watching his career unfold has been thrilling. When our director James Macdonald first called me to discuss True West, his idea was to move away from what the Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly production did, which was to create mirror images of Lee and Austin. James Macdonald wanted to go back to how the play was scripted, with Lee in his 40s and Austin in his 30s, at least a decade apart. This felt exciting to us and Paul was the first name we discussed after going forward in that direction. Luckily, I had his phone number.

TS: What do you look for from a director when working on a revival of a play? What are the challenges of working with a director when you’ve directed plays yourself—or does it make it easier? EH: Interestingly enough, I saw James Macdonald direct Sam Shepard as an actor in Caryl Churchill's play A Number. It was brilliant and simple, and I know Sam loves simple. He loves clean lines. In truth, I've worked often with a small number of people. I'm very excited to get the opportunity to work with a director I've never worked with before, who is a director that Sam really admired. I also had the luxury of being directed by two of the greatest Sam Shepard interpreters ever, Gary Sinise and Joe Chaikin, and their voices will always be in my head when I work on this material.

TS: How do you keep yourself inspired as an artist? EH: Any answer I can give to this will probably seem cliche. But the truth of it is I love telling stories, and using stories to make sense of our lives. Stories have great value.•

Paul Dano and Ethan Hawke in True West



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