Ethan Hawke’s on a bit of a roll lately. Sure, he chewed up scenery in Moon Knight and terrorized little kids in Black Phone but more importantly, he’s been on the talk show circuit, showcasing his keen mind. Earlier this week, he dropped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to shoot the breeze about some easy, vanilla topics like his plan to send Pope Francis into Ukraine and bring an end to the war. Sound a little wild? Well, Hawke explains his reasoning and, honestly? Not bad!
“I had this idea that I wanted to write the Pope,” Hawke told Colbert. “And say to him that Francis of Assisi marched across the desert to the battlefield in the fifth crusade to try to have audience with the Sultan. And he did this huge act of peace. And he should have been killed, but the Sultan didn’t kill him.”
“Pope Francis should take his namesake,” Hawke continued. “And if he would do it, if he would lead a march from Belarus to Mariupol, and we would all go. And we could bring the refugees to their homes. And, like, priests and rabbis, and we could all go and say you have to stop killing children.”
Hawke is an Episcopalian and Colbert is a Catholic, so we’ve already got a little ecumenism going on here. But Hawke’s got another reason for thinking Pope Francis is the man for the job.
“The reason why him, I keep thinking about where the voice for non-violence is,” Hawke explained. “Where is Martin Luther King? Where is Mother Teresa? Where is Nelson Mandela? Where are the voices of people to ask us to join together? And I feel like he’s one of the very few people I can think of that has that moral authority.”
Hawke’s history is on the money. In 1219, during the height of the Crusades, Francis of Assisi sought an audience with the Sultan of Egypt, Muhammad Al-Kamil. Francis hoped to bring an end to the war and marched across the battlefield, surrendering himself to the sultan’s guards. By all accounts, what happened next was pretty miraculous, as the two towering men of different faiths had a loving, respectful conversation and Francis even stayed the night at the camp as the Sultan’s guest.
When Francis returned to the Crusaders, he tried to convince the Cardinal to abandon war, explaining that he’d been treated with kindness and respect. But it was to no avail, and the Crusaders continued on towards Cairo. However, their advance was badly bungled and they ended up trapped in the muck of the Nile, unable to get their supplies and horses unstuck. Al-Kamil’s forces had the Crusaders surrounded and could have easily finished them off then and there. But, moved by compassion, he instead delivered food and water for several days while the Crusaders got their business figured out. In turn, they were so moved that they surrendered the territory and went home. You can read the full story here.
It’s a pretty remarkable story, and maybe a little hard to duplicate, but Hawke correctly intuits that people need a leader to take radical steps to disrupt violence. “The choice shouldn’t be whether to escalate the war or for democracy to fail,” he said. “I feel like the grown-ups of the world need to stand up and say, ‘You’re not allowed to bomb and kill children. You’re not allowed to do it. You gotta behave like a grown-up.’ And that way we could focus our energy on taking care of the planet and address the real [issues] that are happening right now, instead of making them up.”