Ethan Hawke shares bizarre story of his co-star having a heart attack on stage
Things don't always go to plan during live performances. You can practice for weeks on end and successfully pull off a play or musical in front of dozens of audiences, and yet still make a fatal mistake. This was the major thing that kept me away from contributing to school plays or trying to become an actor (aside from the fact I have absolutely no dramatic talent).
However, forgetting some lines or stumbling in front of hundreds of people isn't quite as disruptive as, say, having a full-on heart attack.
Actor Ethan Hawke appeared on The Graham Norton Show last week, where he recalled the time his co-star had a heart attack during a live performance. He was promoting his latest movie, First Reformed, before he continued the trend of great anecdotes being told on the British talk show. While it doesn't sound like it, his story about fellow actor Richard Easton collapsing during a performance of Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia in 2007 actually has a happy ending.
According to The New York Times, his collapse on the Lincoln Center stage came right after his character finished a lengthy speech, which ended with the sentence "That is my last word!".
Hawke explained the scene they were in the middle of before the unfortunate happened:
"I was on Broadway once and I was doing a scene with the great Richard Easton, a Canadian actor who was in the RSC for 25 years. We were doing a scene where he was playing my father and I have to ask him for money and he would get very angry and shout at me. He would shout, and shout, and shout, and shout.
"One day we were doing it and he was getting particularly mad, and particularly heated. He had a heart attack and fell down on centre stage. And the audience, unlike you, thought it was absolutely hysterically funny.
"I was absolutely terrified because I had done many plays with him and I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong. So, it turns out he died."
Hawke quickly reassured the audience that things weren't quite as bad as they seemed. As it turned out, there was help nearby to make sure that the Canadian actor made it through the ordeal, although his heart did stop at one point.
"There was a guy who did props on the show who was really good at CPR and he came out and he started working on him. We had to say 'is there a doctor in the house?' and somebody came out and the show stopped. We called an ambulance and the guys came, started his heart again, 11 minutes later.
"It was incredibly intense. We were all backstage praying."
However, only a few days later, Easton called Hawke up and asked him to run lines with him in his hospital room - proving to them all that he hadn't suffered any brain damage from the ordeal. They were doing eight shows a week at the time, so he took some off, but later returned to the stage, a day that Hawke referred to as one of his favourite performances. I imagine Easton probably took things easy for their remaining performances of the play.