At Fête for Ethan Hawke, Actors Justin Long and Billy Crudup Recall What It’s Like to Be Laid Off

As the U.S. economy goes ever more deeply down the rabbit hole, the attendees at Monday evening’s benefit at Chelsea

As the U.S. economy goes ever more deeply down the rabbit hole, the attendees at Monday evening’s benefit at Chelsea Piers for The New Group theater company were in the mood to share their stories of past financial woe. 

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"I’m a Mac" actor (and former Drew Barrymore dater) Justin Long, who is in town filming After.Life with Christina Ricci and Liam Neeson, has had quite a bit of experience with getting laid off. “Once, I was fired from Carvel for giving out free ice cream. I was like the Robin Hood of ice cream!" said Mr. Long. "But then I got fired and developed lactose intolerance, which kind of sucked. It was like getting dumped and getting an STD at the same time. Well…maybe not quite that bad.”

He continued: “Then I also got fired from a bagel shop for throwing bagels and I got fired from a film once, which was pretty heartbreaking. I guess I’ve been fired from a lot. But now, I’m great with rejection. In fact, I’m amazed when I don’t get rejected. This industry is a very flighty, fickle business—the minute you’re done with a job, you may never work again. But I’m a fairly flighty and fickle person so I’m just suited to it, I think.”

Actress Natasha Lyonne, dressed in a high-waisted gray skirt, a long striped sweater and ankle boots, was chatting with the cast of Kevin Elyot’s Mouth to Mouth, a New Group play that Ms. Lyonne said that she has already seen twice. Ms. Lyonne couldn’t recall ever being outright fired, though she’s come close.

“I always thought Woody Allen was going to fire me, but he never did,” Ms. Lyonne confessed, referring to her role in Mr. Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. “I thought he fired a lot of people.”  

Meanwhile, the actor Billy Crudup said that getting fired from a job at the beginning of his career was what ultimately led him to win a Theatre World Award in 1995 for his role in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at Lincoln Center.

“It doesn’t feel quite right to say what it was that I was fired from because another actor ultimately got that role so I don’t want to make them feel like they were secondary,” said Mr. Crudup. “But it was my first big job. I went and worked on it for two days, then I had two weeks off and during that two-week period, I got a call from the casting director saying that I was fired.”

The Daily Transom wondered what could have gotten the young Mr. Crudup fired back then.   

“I think I sucked, that was the main problem,” replied Mr. Crudup. “But a week later I got the call for Arcadia, which changed my career for sure. It was a devastating and exhilarating couple of weeks.”

When Ethan Hawke, who was being honored with a Michael Mendelson Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Theater, arrived with his mother Leslie, he was immediately surrounded and congratulated by fellow actors like Andrew Polk and Lili Taylor.

“I don’t know why they’re honoring me!” Mr. Hawke said, in a jaded sort of way. “I think the real reason they are honoring me is to help raise money for the theater company. Whenever the economy gets hit hard, one of the first thing to go is people’s giving, and last on that list of things people give to is the arts because they feel it’s not essential. I guess I’m here to remind people that the arts are essential to our mental health as a country.”

Glancing around the room, the Daily Transom noticed a poster from the French release of Mr. Hawke’s 1994 film Reality Bites—the title was changed to Generation 90 in France—and couldn’t help but tease Mr. Hawke about the 25-year-old version of himself staring at him from across the room. 

“Yes, that was from the Clinton days!” said Mr. Hawke, glancing towards the poster.

And has Mr. Hawke ever been fired throughout his acting career?

“Besides for drugs? Kidding!” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been fired. I’ve had many films canceled in production. I could have been a great actor if some of these jobs had happened.”

Mr. Hawke was interrupted by actor Vincent D’Onofrio coming over to say hello.

“Hey Vincent!” said Mr. Hawke, giving Mr. D’Onofrio a thorough handshake. “I’m being asked if there is any job I would have done if my career would be better. What do you think?”

Without pausing, Mr. D‘Onofrio replied, “The Matrix.”

At Fête for Ethan Hawke, Actors Justin Long and Billy Crudup Recall What It’s Like to Be Laid Off