(CNN)For nearly 30 years, Ethan Hawke has done the same job -- without ever repeating himself. He began his career as a poetry-loving kid in prep school and went on to be the poster boy for Generation X in "Reality Bites." He's played a cop, a cowboy and a dreamer, all in service of his most important role -- "creator."
Ethan Hawke's breakout role shaped his views on fame
Where it started:
Hawke was called to become an acting maverick after watching "Top Gun" as a teen with his stepbrother. "We walked out, and he enrolled in the military and I decided I wanted to be an actor," Hawke remembered. "We were both profoundly moved."
"River Phoenix was one of the brightest of my generation, but if you don't take care of yourself, it doesn't matter. Punishing yourself does not hurt the people that hurt you or the situation that hurts. All it does is hurt yourself, and so that would be my biggest advice : love yourself. It sounds corny to say, but it's incredibly hard to do -- to really believe that you're worthwhile and that it does matter what you do."