Born Sept. 11, 1959 in the small rural town of Alexandria, MN, Hawkes' first love as a youth was wrestling. From the time he was three, Hawkes wrestled competitively, qualifying for the nationals at the AAU level when he was in junior high. Size, however, proved to be a factor - he remained rather small compared to his competitors when he reached high school and failed to get along with his coach. While a sophomore, he happened to see a performance of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and discovered what he really wanted to do with his life. After graduating from Jefferson High School in Alexandria, he attended St. Cloud State University, but found the acting courses wanting and dropped out. He made his way to Austin, TX where he spent more time working as a waiter and carpenter than as an actor.
Frustrated with a lack of job opportunities, Hawkes and several of his out-of-work actor friends formed Big State Productions, a theater group that gave him the chance to write and direct as well as act. The troupe wound up being a critical success, affording the opportunity to perform a show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Hawkes began nabbing small parts in features shot in and around Austin, including Dakota (1988), D.O.A. (1988) and Rosalie Goes Shopping (1990). Returning to theater, Hawkes and friend Brent Briscoe starred in a revival of the popular play, "Greater Tuna," at the Halsted Theatre Center in Chicago. A sketch satire written by Ed Howard, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears - who over the years performed the play numerous times across the nation - "Greater Tuna" allowed Hawkes and Briscoe to play 10 characters each in various skits and vignettes that take place on a late summer day in Texas' third smallest town.
In 1990, Hawked decided to increase his chances for making the big time and moved to Los Angeles to further his career. He found consistent work, mainly on television, though he did appear in his share of features, including small roles in Scary Movie () and Flesh and Bone (1993). Guest starring roles on "Nurses" (NBC, 1991-94), "Civil Wars" (ABC, 1991-93) and "Wings" (NBC, 1990-97), where he played an unhinged waiter in love with Helen (Crystal Bernard), helped pad his résumé. Hawkes managed to score several movies-of-the-week as well, including "Sweet Poison" (USA, 1991) and "Nails" (Showtime, 1992), the latter being about a detective (Dennis Hopper) scouring the underworld of drug smugglers and crooked politicians in order to find his partner's murderer. Returning to theater, Hawkes wrote and starred in his one-man show, "Nimrod Soul," playing nine characters of differing genders and backgrounds drifting across America to the promised land of California.
Hawkes continued appearing regularly in films and on television, including as a liquor store clerk who has an unfortunate run-in with the murderous Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). He nabbed roles on episodes of "Dangerous Minds" (ABC, 1996-97), "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) and "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1995-2001), before appearing in major movies like Rush Hour (1998) and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998). Hawkes next appeared as Mac in "Deep in the Heart (of Texas)" (1998), a comedic drama based on Big State's play, "In the West," about two married documentary filmmakers from England who try to capture some local Texas flavor while their marriage is on the verge of disaster. In "A Slipping-Down Life" (1998), Hawkes had a prominent co-starring role as the manager and musical collaborator of a musician (Guy Pearce) who falls in love with an obsessed fan (Lili Taylor) after she attracts media attention for carving his name into her forehead. He next made a memorable impression upon audiences as a slow-witted fisherman in Wolfgang Peterson's equally dim The Perfect Storm (2000). Hawkes' slow, but steady rise was accelerated with stronger guest roles on "24" (Fox, 2001-2010) and "The Practice" (ABC, 1996-2004), and a supporting role as a high-strung motel manager in the murder thriller, Identity (2003).
In 2004, Hawkes was approached by writer David Milch to co-star in his revisionist Western, "Deadwood" (HBO, 2004-06), about the real-life mining town in South Dakota that attracted miscreants, murderers and opportunists of all stripes thanks to being home to the largest gold strike in North America. Set in 1876 as the town is first settled on sacred Indian land, "Deadwood" focused on murderous saloon owner, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), a laudanum-addicted newlywed Alma Garret (Molly Parker), and a reluctant, but violent former marshal, Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), who wants to stay away from law enforcement to concentrate on making money. Though much of the critical attention was showered on Milch and McShane, Hawkes more than held his own as Bullock's best friend and business partner, Sol Star, one of the few characters who exhibited a consistent moral center, despite being surrounded by sin and vice. Meanwhile, Hawkes starred in the low-budget indie, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), a quirky drama about a lonely performance artist (writer-director Miranda July), who forges a relationship with a single shoe salesman (Hawkes) trying to raise two sons; one young and precocious (Brandon Ratcliff), the other on the verge of adolescence (Miles Thompson). Meanwhile, Hawkes starred in the low-budget indie, "You, Me and Everyone We Know" (2005), a quirky drama about a lonely performance artist (writer-director Miranda July) who forges a relationship with a single shoe salesman (Hawkes) trying to raise two sons; one young and precocious, the other on the verge of adolescence.
After three critically acclaimed seasons, "Deadwood" was suddenly canceled by HBO for reasons that remained murky at best. Despite promises from Milch that there would be two two-hour movies to wrap up the remaining storylines, the show's sets were torn down and the actors were released from their contracts. Nonetheless Hawkes continued working unabated, logging in an episode of "Monk" (USA Network, 2002-09) and "Without a Trace" (CBS, 2002-09) while landing a supporting role in Michael Mann's feature version of Miami Vice (2006). Following a small part in American Gangster (2007), he landed a regular role on the comedy "Eastbound & Down" (HBO, 2009- ). Hawkes played the dedicated, but weary brother of a washed up Major League baseball player (Danny McBride), who returns home after his career is over to become a middle school gym teacher. Hawkes also showed up in recurring fashion for the final season of "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010), playing Lennon, one of the Others taking refuge at the Temple, where he serves as the translator for their leader (Hiroyuki Sanada).
He next co-starred in Winter's Bone (2010), a critically acclaimed indie drama about a 17-year-old Ozark girl (Jennifer Lawrence) who tries to track down her deadbeat dad before she loses her home and custody of her two younger siblings. For his work in the film, Hawkes was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. After joining an ensemble cast that included Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow for Contagion (2011), Hawkes earned rave reviews for his portrayal of a cult leader in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), a role that earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Following a small role in director Steven Soderbergh's medical thriller Contagion (2011), Hawkes found himself in the thick of awards buzz once again for his performances in two very different movies. First he starred in the indie drama, The Sessions (2012), where he played a poet paralyzed from the neck down who decides to lose his virginity by hiring the services of a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt). The role brought him universally great reviews and and Indie Spirit, SAG and Golden Globe nods for Best Actor. Later that year, he played Union colonel and later Congressman George Robert Latham in Lincoln (2012), director Steven Spielberg's epic look at the final months in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis).
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