Ethan Hawke’s Story About Shooting ‘Before Midnight’ Reveals the Movie’s ‘Mission’ — Watch

Ethan Hawke spoke to IndieWire about shooting "Before Midnight," as part of a larger reflection on his career thus far.
Ethan Hawke
"Before Midnight"
©Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Ethan Hawke is a deep well of analysis and information and that’s never more evident than when he’s talking about Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy. Though it’s been nearly a decade since the concluding film in the trilogy, “Before Midnight,” was released, there’s still a deeper mission to the narrative for the co-lead and co-writer.

In an interview with Hawke about his work on Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird,” the multi-hypenate took time to discuss a moment while filming “Before Midnight.” He recalls how a camera operator approached him, revealing how upset he was about Hawke’s character, Jesse, checking out a beautiful young woman.

According to Hawke, the camera operator believed “Jesse wouldn’t do that.” When Hawke asked him why, the cameraman responded that Jesse’s love for Celine (Julie Delpy) was so strong that he wouldn’t dare consider another person like that, equating it to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack checking out a woman on the Titanic.

“This is the mission of ‘Before Midnight’: to humanize romantic love,” Hawke said. “Our goal on that movie was, ‘Could you make a romantic movie about a couple who’s been together for 10 years and not tell one lie? To not goose the truth at all?'”

Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater wanted to capture the truth of long-term romance, or at least the truth for this couple. Refusing to acknowledge humanity, including its flaws, would undermine the story’s verisimilitude.

The “Before” series started in 1995 with “Before Sunrise,” following Hawke and Delpy’s characters who meet on a train to Europe and spend one night together under the presumption they’ll never see each other again. It was followed up by a sequel, “Before Sunset” in 2004. The characters would marry before the concluding chapter, “Before Midnight,” debuted in 2013.

Hawke can currently be seen on Showtime, playing abolitionist raconteur John Brown in “The Good Lord Bird,” an adaptation of John McBride’s novel of the same name.

“I became deeply immersed in the tone of the show, and it really helped me as a performer,” Hawke said in the interview. “When you come to set, both humor and emotion are allowed to be at a very high level. It’s like walking right up to the line of farce — but if you go too far in the comic [direction], then the emotion goes out, and if you go too far in emotional [direction], it can become kind of preachy, or do-gooder-y, or feel like it has an agenda with the audience. There’s something beautiful about McBride’s writing where it feels like he’s both in love with John Brown and making fun of him constantly.”

You can watch a clip from the interview above and the full video below.

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