Ethan Hawke Gave 'The Greatest Screen Test' Of His Life For Moulin Rouge

2001's "Moulin Rouge" was one of those movies that just took over a section of pop culture in the moment. It was a gigantic financial success and went on to earn a great deal of critical praise, giving us the kind of musical hit that had been missing from Hollywood for a little while. It also was something of a turning point for Ewan McGregor, who plays Christian, as he demonstrated he could do so much more than wield a lightsaber on a blockbuster stage. But that role could have gone to another actor who was very much at a crucial stage in his career: Ethan Hawke.

Currently, Hawke is starring alongside McGregor "Raymond & Ray." During a chat with Screen Rant in honor of the film's release, Hawe addressed his near-miss when it came to landing the co-lead role opposite Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann's hit musical. As far as Hawke is concerned, it was the greatest screen test of his entire career ... yet he didn't get the part.

"Ewan doesn't like this because he gets embarrassed, but I gave one of the greatest screen tests of my life for Moulin Rouge. I did not get the part. I crushed this audition. And it just goes to show you how much I like Ewan's work. I still went to see the movie on opening day and loved it. So, I got over it. But I will say, someday that audition will be seen and people are gonna rethink. [Laughs]."

More than 20 years removed, it sounds like Hawke has a good spirit about all of it. And, to be fair, his career has worked out quite well in the last two decades, having appeared in movies like "Training Day" (which netted him an Oscar nomination), "Sinister," "Boyhood," "First Reformed," and this year's horror hit "The Black Phone."

What could have been

Despite the fact that things worked out incredibly well for both actors, it's hard not to wonder what might have been if Hawke played Christian instead. How would McGregor's career have been altered? Would he still have gone on to star in movies like "Big Fish" or "The Impossible?" And what about Hawke? Would that role have set him down a different path in the early 2000s? It's kind of fascinating to ponder.

Be that as it may, it's tough to argue against history as it exists. Both actors have gone on to have enviable careers over the last 20 years, starring in a mix of blockbuster hits and critical darlings making for a resume any actor would surely be proud to have. Beyond that, "Moulin Rouge" was a gigantic hit, taking in $179 million at the box office against a $50 million budget, to go along with two Oscar wins and a Best Picture nomination. 

Still, we can at least hope to see that screen test someday and add some more fuel to the fire of... what if?

"Raymond & Ray" arrives on Apple TV+ on October 21, 2022.