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Ethan Hawke Breaks Down One of the Creepiest Aspects of His Menacing Mask in ‘The Black Phone’

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.

The Black Phone is the latest horror movie from director Scott Derrickson, and it brings to life the horrors of the Grabber (played by Ethan Hawke), who preys on young boys and traps them in his basement to play deadly “games” with them. The film is based on story by Joe Hill and is named as such because of a disconnected black phone that rings to the main character Finney (Mason Thames) as he’s trying to escape the Grabber’s clutches.

One of the things that makes Hawke’s portrayal of the Grabber so menacing is his ever-evolving mask. The Grabber’s mask will shift, from showing a portion of his face to fully covering it with a frown, or splitting his face, and any range of combinations. And the fear of what mask the Grabber is going to have when he comes to see Finney is one that leaves you on the edge of your seat.

Tom Savini designed the masks, and Hawke had nothing but praise for the work that Savini did with them. “The man who designed the masks is a kind of brilliant designer, and he and Scott had the idea that the wouldn’t it be interesting if the mask constantly evolved?” Hawke said to me at the roundtable. “So it had one kind of iconic image, but that it was constantly changing, smiling, frowning, no mouth, the left side of the face, the right side of the face, the top, the bottom. And just any mask work gives you a sense of playfulness and it makes body language so important and it makes vocal work so important. But the idea that the mask itself was evolving and could say something about who the character was. It was so fun to have all these different masks out and decide which one to wear for which scene. And Scott always had really good ideas about what he wanted and it was so new for me.”

Hawke went on to compare the mask work to that of how a Greek tragedy would work and how it allowed him freedom. “I mean, playing this type of horrible human being was new,” he said. “And also, there’s an aspect of Greek tragedy at work, right? You know, those old fashioned Greek dramas where you are representing this evil id of the universe in this basement. I don’t know what I like about the first horror movie I did with Scott, Sinister, and with this one, there was a real sense of play. We were just playing and like it’s midnight and you’re sitting around a campfire and you’re just telling everybody a spooky story and you get really into it. You know, that’s the fun of this genre.”

You can see Ethan Hawke as the Grabber in The Black Phone, in theaters now.

(featured image: Universal)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.