If Ethan Hawke knew 15 years ago what he knows now, he might never have made it down the aisle. Reflecting on his past in a new interview for the September issue of Elle magazine, the Before Midnight actor, now 42, admits that he probably wasn’t ready to make a commitment as big as marriage when he said “I do” to ex-wife Uma Thurman in 1998. But at the time, he thought it would give his increasingly hectic lifestyle some stability.
“Success when you’re young is really overwhelming,” he explains to Elle. “The world felt out of control. And I wanted to stop it from spinning so fast. I thought marriage would decrease my variables or something. I was absolutely wrong.”
Hawke — 27 when he wed Thurman, with whom he shares daughter Maya, 14, and son Levon, 10 — notes that he was likely too immature, both emotionally and biologically, to make such a huge decision. “There was this discovery that the male brain isn’t done until 28. I definitely think my frontal lobe was not finished,” he confesses. “I had no business taking vows that would last more than two weeks.”
“My personal opinion? The guy who’s got it right is Derek Jeter,” he continues. “He lives his life like, ‘Hey man, I play shortstop for the New York Yankees. And I’m not going to get married until I’m no longer a shortstop for the New York Yankees.’ Which is incredibly smart.”
Hawke and Thurman were married for five years before separating in 2003. Two years later, in August 2005, they finalized their divorce. Since then, the Taking Lives actor has remarried; he and wife Ryan Hawke (nee Shawhughes) wed in 2008 and have two young daughters, Clementine and Indiana.
The father of four also opens up to Elle about life before Thurman. One particularly fond memory? His first time having sex.
“I was very, very lucky,” he recalls. “I lost my virginity to someone I cared for very much and who cared very much for me. The thing that’s so important for young people to know is that, if you use protection, sex is one of the few vices you can have as a young person.”
That said, you should choose your partners wisely. Hawke tells Elle he struggled early on to find women who liked him for him rather than the romantic characters he played in movies. “I can’t tell you how many times in the ’90s I’d meet somebody, we’d be having a nice time, and they’d sigh and go, ‘This is exactly like Before Sunrise,'” he says. “And I’d have to get up and leave.”
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