January 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” world premiering at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. The movie, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as two young travelers who meet cute on a train to Vienna and spend the evening together walking around the Austrian city, received glowing reviews from critics and would kickstart one of cinema’s most beloved trilogies. Two sequels followed, each nine years apart: “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” (2013). Fans have spent the last 7 years wondering if a fourth “Before” movie will arrive on schedule in 2022. Linklater and his cast have gone back and forth over the years on a new “Before” film, expressing interest and casting doubt on a possible reunion. In a new oral history of “Before Sunrise” from The New York Times, Hawke and Linklater appear to be warming up to the idea of a fourth film serving as a franchise epilogue.
“There was a feeling I had in my gut when we finished ‘Before Midnight’ that I’d never had before, which was that we were done,” Hawke says. “‘Sunrise,’ ‘Sunset,’ ‘Midnight’ is one work in its own strange way. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another work, like an epilogue. I would be curious about an ‘After’ series, about something where you really deal with the second half of your life.”
Linklater adds, “Maybe we’ll wait until they’re in their 80s and do a comic remake of ‘Amour,’ where one euthanizes the other in old age. I’m not ruling that out.”
The idea of breaking with the “Before” trilogy’s nine-year pattern and returning to Jesse and Celine later in life, “Amour”-style, is certainly intriguing and would put a fresh spin and perspective on a potential fourth movie featuring the characters. Hawke has often said that if he were to return to Jesse it would have to require “a new burst of energy” and the franchise would “have to change shape.” An epilogue film shot decades after “Before Midnight” might fit the bill.
The New York Times’ oral history also reveals that actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston auditioned for the role of Celine. Aniston was a newcomer at the time and the audition took place before “Friends.” Linklater wanted to keep the casting search open to as much fresh talent as possible so it was never locked in which character would be American and which would be European.
“It wasn’t clear if it was going to be a European male and American female [or vice versa],” Linkater said. “In the first draft, we named the characters Chris and Terry because both are kind of genderless. It was that open.”
Linklater settled on Hawke and Delpy, and the three would go on to rework the script before and during production. Hawke and Delpy earned screenwriting credits with Linklater on “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” both of which earned Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay.