Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater reunited in Berlin this week for the international premiere of "Before Midnight." The second sequel to "Before Sunrise" (which won the Golden Bear for best director in Berlin 18 years ago — and the festival is the only one where all three films screened), the film went over just as well here as it did a month ago in Sundance (where it topped Indiewire's critics poll and was picked up for a May U.S. release by Sony Pictures Classics). It also allowed all the members of the "Before" trio to join together, with Hawke having been in Europe during Sundance.
"It was awful," Delpy deadpanned when asked what it was like working with her onscreen love interest Hawke a third time around. "Every time it gets worse."
Hawke shot back with a bit more sincerity.
"The truth is that Rick brought us together," he said. "I met her on 'Before Sunrise' and I've never met someone of my generation that was as knowledgeable, passionate and talented — and really knowledgeable about cinema in the way that she was. Even at 23, she had already worked with Godard. She was a deeply wise person at 23 and I certainly was not. I feel like I've been playing catchup with her for about 20 years… And now I've surpassed her."
Linklater explained that the film — which meets back up with Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) 18 years after they first met on a train bound to Vienna (though try to avoid learning anything more about the plot than that… all you need to know is that it's great) — was not necessarily planned when they finished 2004's first sequel "Before Sunset."
"We realized these characters are still alive in us every six years or so and start thinking about maybe they something to express about where they are in their lives," he said.
"Each segment is in the moment, within this period of 18 years," Delpy added. "It's special to do that as actors or writers."
Hawke did say that it was a bit more difficult this time around because of the great expectations placed on a potential third film if it ever were to happen.
"One of the things that was most difficult about the third one is that people were not expecting a sequel to 'Before Sunrise,' so nobody had any agenda or opinion about what that sequel should be," he said. "But once you do two… When it was announced we were making this movie, I saw online that people were blogging about what they thought the movie should be. I haven't met a film director in the last 9 years who hasn't told me what he or she thought what the third film should be."
Hawke knew they were up against a lot of people having an agenda about where Jesse and Celine should be.
"That agenda is stiffling," he said. "You obviously would like to make people happy. But what's good about 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset' is that they are both something that is very personal to the three of us. So we just decided to just continue on that path. And write things that were meaningful to us… And hope that a like-minded person might be invited in. There were so many possible scenarios that were discussed."
As for a potential fourth film?
"The fact that we've made two sequels, I guess it begs the question [whether there would be a fourth]," Linklater said. "But I think I speak for all three of us when I say we have absolutely no idea right now what that could possibly be. And we probably won't for 5 or 6 years. Usually we joke about it, maybe. And then at some point our jokes become a little more serious. And we realize that Jesse and Celine are maybe saying 'hey, we're at a new phase in our lives… you have to deal with us.' And there might be something. But who knows about the future."
"Everytime I try and push Julie into doing a full-blown erotica film," Hawke joked. "That's what I want to do. Jesse and Celine — we really push the boundaries of cinema in a pornographic way. We really explore all their relationship."
"I resist," Delpy hit back. "Maybe in the 7th part. When I'm 80."