Ethan Hawke got the wildest applause of the night at the Gotham Awards last night after his Best Actor win for his work in First Reformed. It’s his first win for that performance, and with the National Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle both announcing their picks this week, it could be the start of a win streak for him. If you’re talking word of mouth, Gold Derby reports Ethan now has stronger Best Actor Oscar buzz than Ryan Gosling does for First Man, especially given his Indie Spirit nomination too.   

But the Gothams are also totally Ethan’s crowd. Don’t forget that just two years ago, he had a Reality Bites reunion with Winona Ryder at the ceremony, when “Troy and Lelaina” reunited for his Gotham Tribute award. Ethan appears to be mobilizing his support base, getting the indie crowd and the New York crowd in his corner.

Before you get too excited (if at all), it’s important to remember the Gothams aren’t necessarily an awards bellwether. They’re pretty hit or miss, as they’re voted on by committee, and have only been recognizing Best Actor or Best Actress since 2013. But since then, it’s gone to Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) + Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) + Julianne Moore (Still Alice), so they do have the ability to help launch a campaign. Either way, Ethan looks to be securing that boost to up his visibility going into the Globe and Guild nominations in the next few weeks. He's maximizing his moment from the support he's getting.

It's not just bias talking — I namechecked Ethan last week as my favourite male performance of the year… and it’s still true — I think he has more of a shot than we're giving him credit for. He’s turning up the charm, and after moonwalking (!) at the Governors Awards last week, he walked the Gothams red carpet with his wife Ryan Hawke, and thanked her profusely in his speech (starts around the two-hour mark). When he wasn't giving credit to his wife, whom he dubbed his “partner,” he was appreciating his director Paul Schrader, and delivering a sermon his First Reformed character would be envious of... which was quoted by Ava DuVernay:

It was Ava’s only post about the event, and it’s a namecheck that comes with some weight. She’s giving this indie veteran his props. Ethan finished his speech with a paraphrase from his mom, saying, "You have to live in the truth, and it will protect you." 

Speaking of “living in the truth,” it wasn’t too long ago when Ethan lamented being a “professional” to GQ. Lainey wrote about it back in August, and his full quote was:

“My best movies are not the ones that paid me: the Before trilogy, Boyhood, First Reformed, Dead Poets Society. But I'm 47 years old. I pay my alimony with my acting. I pay my kids' health insurance with my acting. I pay everybody's tuition with my acting. I'm helping various charities with my acting. I've become a professional, and I never wanted to be a professional. I kind of hate professionals. And so when I get left alone in a room for a second and I get to be creative again, I'm like, Okay, Ethan, you get to make a movie.”

So, if Ethan was indeed “living in the truth” at the Gothams last night, was he happy that he was receiving this recognition for being creative? Or is he taking himself less seriously and enjoying the ride? Can it be both? It’s hard to read that GQ quote and not roll your eyes about how pretentious it comes off, that this tortured artist often struggles for his art, but who among us can’t relate to taking a job to pay the bills when your heart just isn’t in it? 

Regardless, Ethan’s certainly pivoting from his perceived self-importance well. He’s grateful. He’s happy. And he’s DEFINITELY hustling.

On the Gotham Awards red carpet, he told the Associated Press

Juliet, Naked, Blaze and First Reformed are three of my favourite movies I ever got to make, and they all happened this year, and they’re the result of longstanding friendships and longstanding commitments, and I’m really proud to be here.”

He's also playing to our affection for nostalgia, calling Dead Poets Society a "tattoo on his heart" to Sunday Today, about a week ago

Ethan last worked the campaign trail a few years ago while repping Boyhood. He’s never won an Oscar, yet he’s been nominated four times; twice for Adapted Screenplay, and twice for acting. So far, he seems to be a little less salty than he was in his initial wave of Juliet, Naked, Blaze and First Reformed press, and his rebound attitude is winning over his peers. Sure, he’s not Rami Malek or Bradley Cooper, but if he’s cashing in on his popularity, and if he’s making the right speeches, or working the right “friendships,” he’s easily making his case as the best “due” candidate this year.