It will surprise no one who followed the film’s extremely positive reception at Sundance earlier this year, that Richard Linklater's “Before Midnight” (our review here) has been creating quite a stir on the other side of the pond following its European premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. With many of the journalists we met citing the film as one of their favorites of the festival so far, we got to sit down in a small group with stars and co-writers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke for what proved to be a fairly riotous interview, in which, while they both maintain repeatedly how unlike their onscreen counterparts they are, certainly the chemistry of old friends was there in spades.
The pair jostle and joke and talk over each other in a very endearing way -- we’ve tried to catch a flavour of that below, as they discuss the film’s gestation, their writing process and address some common misconceptions about how “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight” came to be the beloved suite they are. Mild spoilers ahead.
So are we going to check in with Celine and Jesse every 9 years from now on?
Julie Delpy: Oh, I don’t know… I think Rick [Linklater] is going to outlive both of us. It’s kind of disturbing to do these films, time wise, I mean. We joke about it all the time, about death, but one day it won’t be so funny. Though I’m probably less scared of death now than I was in my 20s..
Ethan Hawke: Eh? It was all you talked about in your 20s and it’s all you talk about now.
So how do you think you have changed as people since the first film?
EH: Well, Julie’s become a passionate Muslim, she’s dedicated her life to Allah…
JD: Don’t joke about that shit! That’s the only thing you can’t joke about of all subject matter. Just say I’m a devoted nun.
EH.: Would be awesome if that was true though, if you came in here…
JD: No don’t joke about this! Don’t even say the word Allah. You could get in trouble.
EH: Why not, it’s a beautiful word…
JD: Well I do say "Inch Allah" all the time so… Anyway with the first film, we weren’t friends, we were just meeting.
EH: So we liked each other a lot better.
JD: Yeah, we loved each other then. But now we don’t like each other.
EH: [serious for a moment] Just like the characters, our relationship is deepening. We’ve now written three films together -- that’s an incredibly intimate thing to do.
JD: Yes, when we work we really open ourselves to all our thoughts all our feelings, we express a lot of things to really find something very true. We have to dig through a lot of stuff. I mean we’re not a couple in real life, we’ve never been… we never even…well, if we did I have forgotten…
EH: Finally! Been trying to get in her pants for 20 years.
JD: Yeah, but it doesn’t really get that far.
EH: You know, I somehow didn’t notice that when you come back in to tell me that you don’t love me...
JD: I take off my underwear?
EH: Yeah, you still have your underwear in your hand.
JD: I made that on purpose, because I think it’s funny, I mean you’re fighting, but with your underwear in your hand [hears Ethan mumble something]. What? You were going to make a joke?
EH: Yeah, I was going to make a joke. [thinks about it] Wasn’t funny.
How much of you is there in Jesse and Celine?
EH: We work together to try create something that feels authentic and to do that a wonderful thing to do is to blur the lines between character and performer to the extent that some people believe that Julie and I are couple.
JD: You know, in the second film it almost hurt us, I think some people thought we were really together and they thought "Oh, they are not really acting you know? They’re just together and in love." A lot of people thought like that.
EH: Yeah, they feel the movies were improvised, we were just being ourselves, but the truth is whenever that happens it means that what we were doing worked, it’s a victory.
JD: It’s a compliment.