How Ethan Takes Direction from Uma
05/03/2002 AT 01:00 PM EDT
Ethan Hawke's directorial film debut, "Chelsea Walls," tells five stories set in a single day at New York's Chelsea Hotel and involves an ensemble cast of more than 30 actors. They include Hawke's wife, Uma Thurman, 32, as well as Steve Zahn, Robert Sean Leonard, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isaac Hayes and Natasha Richardson. (The movie opens in L.A. this weekend and around the country next week.) Directing his spouse proved to be a terrific challenge, Hawke, 32, tells PEOPLE. "She was the one person who didn't take me seriously as a director. That's just the way it goes. I'd be like, 'Okay, we've really got to get the shot of you coming out of the hotel at sunset,' and she'd say, 'No, let's do that tomorrow.' I'd keep going, 'We're doing the shot at sunset. Do you want to work on this movie or what?' And she'd say, 'I really want to go home. I'm tired, (daughter) Maya's tired. Let's do the shot tomorrow.' So I'd turn around to the crew and say, 'Okay, tomorrow sunset.'" Another perceived hurdle for the production proved not to be a problem at all -- the inclusion of a performance of the John Lennon number "Jealous Guy" by jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott. Concerned, however, that securing the rights to the song would eat up his entire movie budget, Hawke initially tried to dissuade Scott from using the song. Only Scott wouldn't budge. So, to the rescue: Lennon's widow (and keeper of his estate), Yoko Ono, who let Hawke use the song for free. Ono "loves Little Jimmy," says Hawke. "It had nothing to do with me or the movie . . . She heard his (version) of the song and thought it was magical."