With “Before Midnight” being readily clasped to the bosoms of audiences and critics alike at the Berlin International Film Festival, and having missed the talent when on their promotional rounds at Sundance last month (where the film was similarly well-received, our review is here), we jumped at the chance to sit down with the film’s co-creators last week. We ran our Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy interview earlier, but up next we have director Richard Linklater -- a filmmaker we’re quite the fan of and of whom we ran a retrospective last year -- talking about bottling the lightning of the beloved “Before Sunrise” not once, not twice, but now three times over.
How do you account for the films’ success?
Richard Linklater: [laughs] Are we successful? We always say they are the lowest-grossing films to ever spawn a sequel -- that’s what we said about the second one. And certainly the lowest grossing films to ever be a franchise, or whatever we are -- a trilogy.
It wasn’t that hard to get the money. I think because the previous two films existed, they kind of knew what they were getting. Most films you’re asking them to take some huge leap of faith into the unknown that words on a page don’t adequately describe and they’re very skeptical and fear-based. This one, it’s not that much money and they know the characters, that all helped…
[But] this one felt in a way the hardest. We were more relaxed with each other and more trusting, but it felt like we had to work twice as hard because the bar was higher. It was more difficult to make this subject matter compelling.
One of the notable differences in ‘Midnight’ as opposed to ‘Sunrise’ or ‘Sunset’ is the absence of a train or a plane to catch.
Yes, the finite-ness of those give them that little edge, but here it’s like, once you’ve dedicated your life to someone, inertia sets in… So yeah, I think we all have to ask that about our lives, what’s compelling us forward? I just think [here] the ups and downs of their lives are heightened, you know, they’re on holiday and it’s trying to be a special evening, they’ve been given this thing away from the kids.
So can we expect another installment in 9 years’ time?
You know, it just happened that way. We realized when we were shooting last summer it was also the same time period as between one and two -- it wasn’t a plan but now if there were ever to be another one, it would have to be in nine years. Also, who does nine years? It’s always ten or five.
...I told [Berlinale Director] Dieter Kosslick last night, “I’ll see you in 2022.” And he’s like “Oh, I won’t be alive then.”
That was 18 years ago… We couldn’t have imagined, just like right now we can’t imagine what the next one would be; it’s impossible. We have to live a little more, 5 or 6 years more maybe. I’m older than Ethan and Julie but you kind of have to get there to understand.
So the process is organic, but how does it come together?
Once we sort of decide to do it, at that 6-year mark where we kind of go, “Ah yeah, we’re thinking seriously now, not just joking,” then we spend a year and a half just kind of throwing out these ideas, and maybe for a few months we’ll entertain an idea and keep talking about it, and then it just goes away -- it’s not practical or something else intervenes.
For a while we were thinking that maybe it was just their workaday lives, we pick up with them on a Thursday, she’s at her job and he’s doing his thing and they meet and they eat, you know, kind of what life is for a lot of people in domestic [situations]. And then we were like, that’s kind of depressing.
We get there eventually, but we have the luxury of a couple years to think, and that gestation time is really important to us.