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Why Was Ethan Hawke at Circle Cinema in Tulsa?


Why is Ethan Hawke in Tulsa?

Lately, the buzz around Tulsa has been impossible to ignore, with Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo turning heads as they parade around downtown, flanked by an entourage of film crews and fueled by an endless supply of coffee. But why exactly is Ethan Hawke such a fixture in Tulsa these days? The short answer: Ethan and Sterlin are working on a new television project! Ethan Hawke takes the lead in "The Sensitive Kind," a pilot for an upcoming FX series. 

film crew for the new FX pilot series "The Sensitive Kind" sets up infront of Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma for filming.

(Note: The Circle staff spotted Ethan enjoying Heirloom Rustic Ales' “Hand Lantern” Italian Pilsner.)

What is “Wildcat” and why did Ethan come to Circle Cinema?

The connection between the FX pilot and Circle Cinema might seem coincidental, but it's actually a reflection of a longstanding partnership with filmmaker Sterlin Harjo. Over the years, we have made it a priority to feature as many of Harjo's films as possible, nurturing a strong connection that extends well beyond mere screenings. This bond was particularly evident when we hosted the grand “Green Carpet” premiere for the cast and crew of “Reservation Dogs” Season 1, followed by free public showings of each episode throughout its second season.

Ethan Hawke's portrayal of Elora Danan's estranged father in the final season of "Reservation Dogs" not only brought him closer to Harjo but also sparked a new creative partnership. Shortly afterward, Ethan's daughter, Maya Hawke, proposed a new film project inspired by the works of Flannery O'Connor. 

Leveraging the resources of the Tulsa Film Collective—a venture Sterlin co-founded—and the platform of Circle Cinema, Harjo ensured that "Wildcat" would find its audience in our community. Thus, through the collaborative efforts of Ethan Hawke, Sterlin Harjo, and the Tulsa Film Collective , “The Big Night - Wildcat Premiere with Ethan Hawke & Sterlin Harjo” was born.

Planning “The Big Night - Wildcat Premiere with Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo”

When the Tulsa Film Collective (TFC) approached our team at Circle Cinema with the proposal to screen “Wildcat” followed by a post-film Q&A session featuring Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo, we agreed faster than you could say Flannery O'Connor! Collaborating with TFC, we swiftly locked in the date for April 28th, 2024, and commenced the planning process.

“The evening was such a wonderful start to our collaboration with Tulsa Film Collective,” said Circle Cinema Film Programmer Ryan Thomas. “Their passion for film as an art form aligns perfectly with our mission of using movies to spark community conversations. We are so grateful to Ethan and the entire TFC team for making such a successful event possible, and can’t wait to share more about future Big Nights in Tulsa soon!” 

The excitement wasn't confined to just our team; Jessica McEver, representing the Tulsa Film Collective, expressed her enthusiasm: “We are so thrilled to have partnered with Circle Cinema to bring our first Big Night event to Tulsa. From the insightful leadership team to stellar staff and attentive volunteers, the Tulsa Film Collective felt supported and like we were all a part of the same family. Can’t wait for our next event together!” 

The Tulsa Film Collective, born in 2018 from the vision of a group of dedicated filmmakers and cinephiles, aimed to elevate local talent and cultivate a cinematic community of excellence—a mission they flawlessly executed. Within twenty-four hours of posting the ticket link for “The Big Night,” 200 seats for theater number one SOLD OUT. The Circle Cinema staff could hardly believe how quickly tickets went. 

"I felt so bad!" says Circle Cinema Marketing Manager Bailey Hawkins. "I had just posted the ticket announcement for our followers when I received a text message that the theater had sold out! I was flabbergasted. I wanted everyone to have the chance to attend 'The Big Night' and hoped we’d open a second theater. I received so many messages from people who were so bummed, and I hate that. Selling out is such a blessing and a curse. But, that's why it's important to sign up for our weekly emails and to think about becoming a member so you always know what’s going on at the Circle to get first dibs at tickets!"

After the ticket rush, we regrouped with TFC, both realizing the necessity of opening a second theater and simulcasting the Q&A session to accommodate more Tulsans for “The Big Night.” Shortly after its announcement, the second theater sold out—another mind-blowing experience for both the Circle and TFC teams.

“The Big Night - Wildcat Premiere with Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo” - SOLD OUT

In the lead-up to “The Big Night,” Ethan and Sterlin were spotted filming at Magic City Books in downtown Tulsa, with some even catching glimpses of Ethan during their morning jogs around Gathering Place. Tulsa was abuzz! 

Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo in downtown Tulsa for the filming of "The Sensitive Kind"

As Sunday night approached, people began arriving as early as 5:45 p.m., eager to start lining up for theater number one. By 6:30 p.m., the line for that theater extended out the Circle’s back door and into the parking lot. Just as we began seating people, in walked Ethan, sporting a green trucker hat! Most people in the concession line didn’t even realize Ethan was in the building due to his laid-back attire; he blended right in with the rest of us Okies. However, it was his very special handmade beaded bolo tie that caught the attention of our staff.

Dana, the Cherokee mastermind behind beaded creations now worn by Ethan Hawke, Pat Vegas of Redbone, filmmaker Loren Waters, and Jade Puget, guitarist for the rock band AFI, told us that she had twenty-four hours to complete the bolo tie worn by Hawke, which was commissioned by the Tulsa Film Collective.

"All day Saturday, I was at a standstill, stuck between not wanting to do something overly traditional, but also ensuring that the color choice, the style of beads, and everything else was perfect," Dana explains. "I couldn't think of anything, so I decided to take a break. I started looking at beaded bolo ties for inspiration, but nothing clicked. I decided to take the dogs outside, and as I was out there, a hawk flew by. That was it—I knew I had to do it."

So Dana, also known as @__deejay.dee on Instagram, got to work! “Once I had the design finalized and gathered the beads, I opted for black and gold, accentuating it with a light background color to make the hawk stand out. Realizing I didn't have all the necessary materials to finish the bolo tie, I reached out to my friend Sydne Rain for help with the clip and the metal ends of the tie. Sydne generously gifted me the back piece, cord, end pieces, and clip needed to complete the project.” 

In total, it took ten hours to complete the bolo tie, and when it was gifted to Ethan, Dana and her daughter had the opportunity to meet him.

“My daughter and I decided to get a picture in front of the marquee, and Jessica from the Tulsa Film Collective found us. We went into a little hideaway, and Ethan came up to us, greeted us, and shook our hands. My daughter was so excited to meet him. I've watched him for a really long time, and I was honored when they asked me to do this. I used smoked buckskin on the backing, and Ethan loved how it smelled. He kept smelling it!” Dana joked with us. “My confidence has been boosted by teaching myself how to do beadwork and by getting involved in the beading community. To receive compliments that people find my work beautiful, from Ethan, my boyfriend, daughter, family, and people who follow me, has made me feel so confident. In fact, I applied for the Santa Fe Indian Market and was accepted! Overall, I was so thankful and willing to lose sleep to create this for Ethan and had such a great time at the event.”

Shortly after receiving the bolo tie from Dana, Ethan made sure to stop for some photo ops. He kindly signed our posters, grabbed a small bag of Circle Cinema popcorn, and even commented about how he loved our signed “Outsiders” poster. As latecomers lingered towards the theater, Ethan was right along with them as he entered Theater One to introduce “Wildcat” alongside Sterlin.

During his intro Ethan stated, “One of the inspirations for the movie, a very strange cat she is Ms. Flannery O’Connor, but she had this book that was very important to her. Which was when Joan of Arc was on trial and her jurors said 'Mademoiselle, you seem to be a victim of your imagination,' and Joan of Arc said 'Well, how else would God speak to me?' and this movie… Maya (daughter of Ethan Hawke & Uma Thurman) had this idea to make a movie about Flannery O’Connor and I was like ‘this woman, all she did was feed the chickens and write.’ And I thought, well what if you made a movie about imagination then that could be the movie about Flannery O’Connor.” And that was it! “Wildcat” was born.

Following the writing and production stages, Ethan Hawke shared a rough cut of the film with Sterlin Harjo. Although Sterlin had no direct involvement in the making of "Wildcat," through his recognition of a fellow filmmaker's vision and Ethan’s known love for “The Outsiders,” Sterlin devised a plan to help screen “Wildcat” at Circle Cinema. The movie theater location for the iconic opening scene of “The Outsiders.” 

"Sterlin knows what a huge ‘Outsiders’ crazed lunatic I am, and he brought me here, and we had this idea... wouldn’t it be amazing if we got to make this show together (“The Sensitive Kind”) and be here... and I had just shown him the rough cut of 'Wildcat,' and he said your movie will be done and we can screen it for y’all! And now it’s happened!” Ethan stated during his intro. 

Jokingly Ethan ended his intro with, "Now the movie, you’re not at some event you don’t have to say anything interesting after, it's a fever dream! So enjoy your time, if you hate it, don't let me know, I don’t care! I worked really hard on it and if you love it, let me know I am very sensitive and love the compliments and enjoy the screening!”

The lights dimmed, and just like that “Wildcat” began. 

A Thanks To You, Tulsa! 

Our staff shared the excitement, thrilled not only by Ethan Hawke's presence in our historic building but also by the opportunity for so many of our members and regular moviegoers to experience “Wildcat.” Yet, nothing could have prepared us for the overwhelming amount of feedback and the sheer joy from Tulsans attending this once-in-a-lifetime event.

“The Big Night” was a success not only because of Ethan Hawke and Sterlin Harjo but also because of Tulsa’s dedicated community of cinephiles! We want to thank everyone who came out to support “Wildcat” and to show Ethan Hawke just how amazing Tulsans are. Additionally, a heartfelt thank you is owed to Ethan for his graciousness; he generously took the time to ensure that everyone had the opportunity for photos and personal interactions throughout the evening including the TFC & Circle Cinema teams!

So, will we see Ethan again? Maybe! What is really important to note about the significance of “The Big Night” is the fact that Oklahoma’s film industry is making waves in Hollywood. The chances of Ethan going back to Los Angeles and talking about his experience in Tulsa are extremely high! And how humbling that he will probably mention how great our city is, how good the food is, how delicious the beer is, and how he could feel the love every time he stepped out onto our streets. So keep it up, Tulsa! We may see more familiar silver screen faces in the future.

There are a lot of resources available for those who are interested in the state of the Film & Music industry in Oklahoma: Oklahoma Film and Music Office, Tulsa FMAC, Oklahoma Motion Picture Alliance, and our wonderful friends at the Tulsa Film Collective

If you missed out on tickets for “The Big Night,” consider signing up for our weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on upcoming events. If you love Circle Cinema and frequent our lovely piece of Hollywood in Kendall Whittier, consider becoming a member! You will get first ticket access to special events like “The Big Night” and member ticket pricing on all regular films.


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