When he was a teen, he wanted to be Holden Caulfield, the fictional character from J.D. Salinger's classic, The Catcher in the Rye.
Ethan's closest friends gave him the nickname "Goat" which is a shortened version of "Goateed Love Boy." This name was given to him because he sports a Goatee.
Ethan made his film directorial debut in Chelsea Walls (2002.)
Ethan was distantly related to Tennessee Williams. He was Ethan's great-uncle, on his father's side.
Ethan greatly admires Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 2002, Ethan was nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for the movie Training Day.
Ethan has been nominated for two Oscars. In 2002, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Training Day. In 2005, he was nominated for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset.
He got $12,000,000 for his performance in Training Day (2001).
His mother Leslie, is a charity worker who lives in Romania.
He is a big fan of the Star Wars movie series.
Ethan is close friends with actor/director Frank Whaley, whom he met while filming A Midnight Clear (1992).
Ethan remains close friends with Dead Poets Society (1989) co-stars, Robert Sean Leonard and Josh Charles.
When he was in the seventh grade, he played "Lon" in West Windsor-Plainsboro junior high school production of the play "Meet Me in St. Louis".
He met and became friends with River Phoenix during the making of Explorers (1985).
He was the original choice to play FBI Agent Will Graham in Red Dragon (2002), but turned the role down to take time off from making movies.
He is a childhood friend of director Bryan Singer The Usual Suspects (1995) and X-Men (2000)).
His step brother, Patrick Powers, is a Green Beret.
He was in a production of "Great Expectations" at West Windsor Plainsboro High School.
Ethan: I grew up in a household where there was such anger and resentment towards anyone who had any money, that I never really had any desire to make any money. And I had the idea that a real artist wouldn't have any money. That's been problematic.
Ethan(On one thing that he would like to do): I'd like to be a professional athlete. And I wish I were more active, to be honest. I admire people that really act on what they believe in. I admire the courage of conviction. That's what I admire in athletes sometimes: the dedication.
Ethan: (on his failed marriage to Uma Thurman) To be married to another famous person was a huge pressure - one I didn't enjoy. And it had nothing to do with her. She's my children's mother. You have to keep that in mind above anything else.
Ethan: The kindest compliments I have ever heard are when cops tell me Training Day and Assault on Precinct 13 inspired them to become cops. The funniest compliments I have ever heard are when people tell me that "I love your band Sugar Ray."
Ethan: A lot of these movies, they're really enjoyable to see. Really, it's like smoking crack or something: you walk out, and you feel diminished by it. It's eye candy, just violence and sex. Definitely lots of sex, people making out or showing their tits, which is always fun, but it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I tried it - I tried doing this Angelina Jolie movie Taking Lives (2004), a popcorn movie, the first movie I did that's about nothing. And I didn't like it, because I do ultimately feel there's enough crap like this. It's so much more fun and harder and more challenging to try to make something that's entertaining but isn't wasting your time.
Ethan: Actors write movies all the time - but you try fiction and you're an asshole. Everyone wants to try new things, or almost everyone. Really great supporting actors want to play the lead, and lead actors secretly wish they could be character actors. Brad Pitt doesn't want to be pretty! You know what I mean? Everybody in the world wants to look like Brad Pitt, and Brad Pitt wants to look like a regular guy.
Ethan: The devil is seductive, and so guns are glorious in the culture. I understand there's a case to be made. For instance, Spike Lee said something like this, that you can't have a scene with drugs in a film that doesn't secretly make you want to do drugs. In the same vein, it's hard to make a movie that's anti-violence because the very nature of photographing violence eroticises it. But I'm not so sold that that's true.
Ethan: People look at your life and see things as a big deal that aren't a big deal to you. What I mean is, the chapter breaks are different for me. I'll read about my divorce, and what people think about it, and, well, it's so inaccurate, usually, but the fact is, I wouldn't want it to be accurate. Because it's my truth. When I was younger, it was more important to me to come off well. Now, I just want to try to be good at what I do.
Ethan: ... the truth is, I've never wanted to be a movie star - and I've been pretty clear about that
Ethan: I think most people are good at more things than the world gives them the opportunity to do.