Hey folks, Harry here --- this is the latest masterpiece from Richard Linklater... Truly - this has been the best film I've seen this year. It nailed me, fell absolutely in love. Saw it back at SXSW - but life has been so fast these past months, I've never found the time and the state of mind to just write what I felt... this is bliss... ever have a what if love? That one night WOW and a lifetime of HMMMs. Below you'll find Beaks flirting with Hawke and seemingly unphased by Delpy... he's obviously fascist!
Picking up where they teasingly left off nearly a decade ago at the end of BEFORE SUNRISE, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) go flirting once again in Richard Linklater’s intensely romantic BEFORE SUNSET. Shot in real time and, ergo, bereft of the amiable digressions of the previous installment, this film is less about the promise of youth than avoiding the tragedy of an unhappy adulthood, which is where, as the script slowly, expertly and quite organically peels back each layer of pertinent detail, both characters find themselves stranded. It’s not that life has been particularly cruel to either – Jesse has a popular novel, while Celine seems purposely committed to her public health advocacy – but, emotionally, they are horribly unsatisfied. Worse, in meeting again, they seem to realize that, by not fulfilling their pledge to meet six months later after their first encounter, they’ve deprived one another of a soul mate that might’ve alleviated their current unsettledness.
It’s a tribute, then, to the performances of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy that, when I got the chance to interview them separately, (albeit, in the accursed roundtable format) I found that their real-life personalities seem rather incongruous. Whatever bond is so palpably up there on screen would appear to exist solely between Celine and Jesse.
Happily, my room avoided the juicy Uma questions, and kept to the film, which enchanted most of the jaded junket crowd. If that’s not a rousing endorsement for the film, I don’t know what is.
Let’s start with Ethan Hawke, nattily dressed in a pinstripe suit and looking a tad gaunt. He walked into our room right as the loquacious Linklater, discussing (unspecifically) looking over deleted scenes for the forthcoming Special Edition DVD for DAZED AND CONFUSED, was being yanked out.
Was Rick entertaining or not?
Yeah. We were talking to him about films like DAZED AND CONFUSED and BEFORE SUNRISE, and how more people have seen them at home than in theaters. Do you appreciate that, and do you think people are dying to go see this on the big screen now?
Oh, I don’t know. I think that part of the reason why they’re seeing them on video and stuff like that is that we live in a marketplace where there’s no time for word-of-mouth. Every weekend, there’s another giant movie coming out, and a studio that’s spending $80 million on P&R. So, in the same way that, twenty-five or thirty years ago, you’d have a movie that would play for six months… it just doesn’t happen very often. It happens maybe once a year with something like THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But that’s how movies get seen. If it’s a good film that didn’t find its way on the opening weekend, that’s your only kind of prayer.
When BEFORE SUNRISE came out, and didn’t make huge money, did you say to yourself at the time, “This will find an audience”?
Yeah… I don’t know! I didn’t really care. I mean, I liked the movie so much. It had been such a powerful experience for me, meeting Rick and Julie. Rick was the first person I had met who was in my generation who… really has his own voice as a filmmaker. He’s the real thing, and I just knew it immediately. I mean, I knew it from watching SLACKER and DAZED AND CONFUSED. I was psyched to work with him. He was so confident at such a young age, so sure of himself. And that sureness manifests itself in being incredibly empowering towards other people, as opposed to some people who are very successful, and they’ve got to, like, ride around in a Ferrari and tell everybody how cool they are. Rick is a real sincere filmmaker. He just wants to make movies his whole life, and it was thrilling to be working with him. I knew the experience had been great for me, and we got enough… we won a prize at (The Berlin Film Festival), and we got some great reviews. I knew the movie was good, so I figured people would find it if they were interested in it. But you can’t control it whether other people are interested in it. I just felt good about the experience.
Did you first meet him when you were being cast for the film, or did you know him from before?
I was in a play with one of the kids in DAZED IN CONFUSED, so that guy, Anthony Rapp, invited me to a screening of DAZED. A couple of days later, Rick came to see our play, and we just met. Then, a year later, Rick was putting together BEFORE SUNRISE, and he asked me to come in and audition.
Do you think that Jesse’s progression as a character reflects how you’ve grown up in real life?
I feel like it’s some kind of alternate parallel universe. I mean, it isn’t reflective… it’s something else. I’ve always felt that Jesse was one-third me, one-third Rick and one-third Julie Delpy’s fantasy man. (Laughter.) That’s the concoction. We all try to put in things, in both films, things that were relevant that we were thinking about, or we felt friends of ours were thinking about that might be interesting to other people.
So is one-third of Julie your fantasy woman?
Yeah, I think so.
Would you have any advice for you or your character from ten years ago?
Oh, god. That’s an interesting question to ask anybody, isn’t it? What would you tell yourself ten years ago? All I can think of is: try not to worry so much. It just doesn’t seem to help at all. I feel like I spend so much of my life worrying about, obsessing about what the next couple of days are going to be like, and in a few years you’re not going to care. All of those things… spending time concerning yourself about stuff you have no control over.
That seems to be a lot of what BEFORE SUNSET is really about. It’s also about two characters that are maturing and still feeling, in a sense, that you two missed out on something pretty wonderful. How much more philosophical did the making of BEFORE SUNSET seem to you than the first one?
Well, the second film is a lot starker, and, by necessity, needed to reach a little deeper. The first film was kind of about hope and romanticism and possibility of the future. In a way, the best moment in BEFORE SUNRISE is the moment that Julie and I aren’t in. It’s at the very end of the film, when you see all the spaces that we were when we’re not there. You realize that the movie could be any two people. Human beings have these amazing moments, and then life just moves on; the world keeps turning. In this film… it gets more specific to us. The first one, I think we’re just kind of generic young people, and now you have to get rooted in who these people are. I forget what the question was now. (Laughs.)
I don’t know, but you’re on to something there. The two characters in the first one, they weren’t generic. These were two young people trying to make something of their lives.
It was about the future.
And this one—
This one is about the present. That was the whole idea about setting it in real time. It was about the present moment.
And who have Jesse and Celine become?
Well, you saw the movie!
And would the next one be about the past?
That’s a good idea. A prequel!
Are you pretty open to coming back to the story again? I mean, if the script is right?
I feel like I’m happy with this movie because it felt like the right time. It felt right. If this was a sequel like… RETURN OF THE JEDI, where people were just begging us to do it because there was so much money to be made. No one else cared, really. We just finally… the movie felt really important to us and our lives. And it’s a great forum to talk about romantic love. Using these characters and the situation, and should the three of us want to continue that dialogue, should we feel that we have something else to offer… it’d be fun to make five of them. You follow characters from their early twenties to their late seventies or something.
Have you given any thought to doing it every ten years, or would it pick up right away after this one?
I certainly doubt that it would be as symmetrical as every ten years, or something. I was always a big fan of those Antoine Doinel series with Truffaut; he’d do one after twelve years, then one after two, and… I think this movie probably has more in common with literary predecessors in some way. It’s not a sequel; it’s a continuation. I think the writing of it will happen when we have something to say.
I brought up Doinel to Richard, and he liked that, but he kind of preferred the Lindsay Anderson series.
I know he does.
But I really felt the Doinel in the there, especially with the flashbacks at the beginning, which was something Truffaut favored. Was that your input maybe?
No. Rick and I both watched… you know (Criterion) came out with those great DVDs, and we were both obsessed with it. But I’ve learned basically almost everything I know about cinema from Rick. He’s one of the more knowledgeable people about the history of cinema that I’ve ever met. He’s not a bombast about it the way a lot of the cinephiles are, but you’re hard pressed to find a movie that he hasn’t seen. And Julie is right up there with him. Julie’s got an incredible knowledge of cinema. Both of them much more than I do.
Do these movies kind of spoil you?
The only good news about these movies is that you don’t get paid any money, so you’re grateful for the other ones *because* they pay you.
What is something about yourself that you’ve learned by having to go back to this character nine years later?
They’re all exterior. In a way, I feel like the interior, the whole core of who I am, is so similar. I’m still the kind of person who would want to make this movie. The movies are so similar in tone and style… this is what I want to be doing. So, on a professional level, I haven’t changed at all. The biggest thing… what I always say when someone asks me that, is I’ve become a parent. That kind of alters how you look at the whole world. That’s shifted my whole train of thought.
So, are you the one who made the call for your character to have a kid in this film? How did that come to be?
It came to be that we came up with the idea of real time, and if one of us wasn’t married there would be no conflict. If you want to get into “Storytelling 101”, you know, if he’s married without a kid, then there’s no real problem.
But when your character starts talking about his child in the movie, did you find yourself saying, “Hey, I have this stuff I can tap into?”
I don’t know. What’s “Writing 101”? Write what you know. You have to hope that if you… talk about things that are personal and relevant to you that, for likeminded people in the world, it will have some value, and, for not-likeminded people, they won’t care. Either way.
Two part question: do you believe in love at first sight, and was it easy to re-create the chemistry from the first film?
The second one… that’s the thing about chemistry: you don’t create it; it just is. The first day about shooting with Julie, I realized why we’d been going through all this work. It was so much fun to act with her. I mean, we’d been writing the thing and hanging out, but I hadn’t acted with her in nine years. And it was so much fun. What was the first part of it?
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Oh, what’s The Beatles song? “Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time.”
What’s a tell-tale sign for you that you’ve found that spark that these two characters find in this one? Is the conversation?
I don’t know, man. I haven’t really experienced that “love at first sight” ideal.
The ending is beautifully understated, and as natural as can be. Was there ever a compulsion to say more?
Sometimes. Certainly, the conversation came up: were we going to drive people bananas by having a movie with the two of us, and never seeing us kiss? But that dialogue never went very far. We stumbled on that ending, and we all just felt, “That’s it! It’s over!”
Who came up with that?
Well, Richard certainly cut the movie together. If you ask any one of us, we would probably think it was our idea. I mean, I’m fairly certain I wrote that. (Laughter.)
The Nina Simone?
The Nina Simone is different. We were in there trying to write another scene, and Julie started doing that, and Rick and I looked at each other and were like, (whispering) “That’s the end!”
Collaborating on a script like this the way you did, and bringing some elements of your own personality into the character, do you feel that you know Julie as well as anybody you’ve ever worked with?
I know Julie very well, and I know Julie knows me about as well as anybody on the planet knows me. We’ve known each other for ten years now. These movies are very personal to us, and, so… we got to know each other real well the first time, and it’s only deepened.
I’d like to go back to the ending. I like the scene where you two are going up the stairs to her apartment.
The first time in the movie where we don’t talk.
I think that scene says more without the talking than…
That was the hope.
Who came up with that, and—
Like I said, I did. (Laughter.)
Tell us about it.
I always felt that the biggest strength of BEFORE SUNRISE was the scene in the listening booth where we don’t say anything. That was Rick’s whole conceit. That moment in that movie brings us together more than any of our dialogue or banter. So, we need some kind of non-verbal moment. And, then, we all kind of realized that it needs to be closer to the end this time. In the first one, it was in the beginning to bring them together. In this one, it seems absolutely perfect that, while they were incredibly playful with each other, they’re finally going to be in a private space. When a man and woman are behind closed doors the whole dynamic changes. That was the moment. He’s a guy walking upstairs, and you’re entering that no turning back zone, and so is she. That seemed like the moment. I always thought it was kind of great as they (mimics the rise of the stairs with his hand), that they’re taking their conversation to a higher plane. Then, as soon as they walk in the door, the first thing she says is, “Would you like some tea?” It gets incredibly domestic.
Is the idea of that scene romantic to you?
There’s a fundamental undercurrent that is deeply romantic, spinning around the idea that these two people are soul mates. I think the subtext of the movie is one of romantic destiny, which is a deeply romantic idea.
How much different does the idea of real time make being on-set, and, in terms of the actual production, how many extra headaches does it cause?
A ton. With lighting continuity, it’s just a big fat drag. But the biggest one is that you can’t cut anything out once you commit to that idea. It wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t moving, but we’re always moving in the movie, so it locks Rick in. He can’t cut a line out. Usually, when you shoot a movie, there’s four or five scenes that didn’t work it all, and it’s okay. You go home that night and go, “That didn’t work at all, but they can cut it out. They’ll find a way to include that line, or play music and make it part of a montage.” None of that was going to work in this movie. That was the biggest challenge. We knew when we were doing it that this was it. It wasn’t going to be saved in the editing room. Rick’s doing seven minute long static two shots; it’s not going to magically get better when they cut that together.
What’s your favorite movie that you wish they would make a sequel to, but they probably never will?
Oh, god. (Long pause.) I keep going to ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, but R.P. McMurphy died.
What about the further adventures of Chief Bromden?
And now… prepare to get Delpy’d!
Julie, I heard the shooting schedule for this one was fifteen days. How did that compare to the first one?
Twenty-five days for the first one. It was much shorter, but it was much more contained.
I would think a lot of actresses wouldn’t enjoy seeing footage of them now cut together with footage of themselves ten years ago. Did that bother you?
No, I don’t care! It makes me laugh when I see myself at twenty-three. I was a cute, pudgy kind of girl, and, you know, I’ve changed. But I don’t care so much about aging. It’s something I haven’t had a problem with. Ever. Maybe I will, but… that’s not my main priority. I’d rather see myself aging than dying, that’s for sure; my main obsession is death. So, aging is fine, actually. The oldest I look, the better it is because I’m still here.
So, if your main obsession is death, then maybe you have the most at stake with continuing this series.
It’s a weird thing. Sometimes we talk about it. It’s like, “What if we went on and on and on until one of us died?” It’s really depressing.
And *then* do one more with only one left.
Yeah. Let’s not talk about that, because I know I’ll be the one dying first. We keep saying that to each other. “No, I’m the one.” “No, *I’m* the one dying first.” No, I know I’m the one. I’m sure, because I’m full of horrible… I don’t know, something. (Laughing.) Full of horrible neurotic imaginary diseases. (Laughs.)
As far as something you’ve performed, is this the most you’ve ever had in terms of collaborative input?
Mm-hm. Well, we co-wrote the film, so obviously there is an input there. It was more than just actors being hired by a director. And on the first film, too, to a smaller extent. We wrote a lot of the dialogue in this one to a much more obvious extent.
How crucial was it to have a full year to think about these characters while you were writing it?
It was good. Each time I would have an idea that would fit, I would put it in. It was a good process of writing.
Do you think the character itself evolved over the year that you thought about it?
Totally. The whole thing in the car, where I talk about being numb, I had written something that happened to me that turned me into the opposite of a numb person, which is a super-emotional person. So, it was funny; I was acting something that I kind of felt, because, also, it was writing. You know, writing is taking something you kind of feel and develop it into a whole thing.
Can you talk about the song?
Actually, before we wrote the script, I had come out with an album in France and Europe, and it’s doing quite well. I think it came out in Japan, but I think we didn’t quite get a label, so it was a last minute thing. But, yeah, I wrote music. I picked up a guitar about four years ago, and I started writing songs after songs. One day, I sang on French T.V., a live T.V. show, just like that. Improvised. Someone said, “Do you know how to sing?” And I took a guitar and sang, and this label called me the day after. Then, I recorded my album. But, then, (Richard and Ethan) heard the music and they were like, “Okay, we’ve got to put this in the film.”
What was it about the song that you sang that was so appropriate to what your character was trying to say?
There were different songs that Rick was thinking about using. There was one called “Mr. Unhappy”, which is Rick’s favorite song on my album. It’s a song that I kind of play well, but it’s a song that plays well with a band. And, really, the waltz plays nicely just guitar and voice. One day, not long before shooting it, I was rehearsing playing “Mr. Unhappy” because he was going more toward that other song, which is a very funny song. Then, I played for them the waltz that was on the album, and they were like, “You know what, we can’t use anything else.” At first, they were a little scared that it was too much right on, because it is, on the album, called “One Night Stand for Jesse,” and it was not written for this character Jesse, but written for another guy named Jesse. (Laughs.)
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Yeah, I guess so. It’s happened to me, I think, where you sense something in someone, and usually I was right. It’s not a physical appearance, it’s something in the eyes that you just feel.
Where do you see the scene in WAKING LIFE in the lives of these characters?
I think it’s them dreaming about being back together.
What films and filmmakers and actresses have influenced you creatively?
Movie-wise, I love Cassavetes because I love the capturing of something so natural. But then I love Hitchcock, you know? But, also, I love Kurosawa, who, to me, is the master of filmmaking. It’s always about describing human behavior. Even if it’s plot-driven, like in Hitchcock, it’s so much about human behavior, and that’s why it’s so good. It’s not just plot; it’s beyond plot. VERTIGO… it’s a plot, but, above all, it’s about obsession and love. It’s crazy. For actresses… actually, I don’t really have a role model. I love Gena Rowlands, again, because of her natural, real truth. It’s very modern, especially at the time, what they were doing. But I love also people like Ingrid Bergman or Bette Davis. I like different types, but I wouldn’t say I’m trying to act like them.
The first film you ever did was with Godard.
Yeah. I love Godard also.
Although that’s a very different—
I love the playfulness of Godard, and the sort of philosophical ideas underlying things all the time.
They say that Hitchcock used to watch his movies with the volume down just to watch how actors and actresses acted together, and if he couldn’t see where it was headed silently, then it wasn’t going to work for him. This film seems like the same thing; you could watch it on mute. I love the scene with you guys in the car together, and Ethan talks about his dream, and you go to reach, to touch him for a second, but you don’t. You pull away. Beyond the lines, what did you try to interject into the film?
All of those things were rehearsed. All of this was very organized and rehearsed a little bit like choreography. When I bump into him, when I do this with my hair… it’s all rehearsed, all thought up, all planned. It’s funny what you’re saying, because my parents saw the film the other day – they’re in the film at the end – but they saw the film and they don’t understand a word of English. The film had no subtitles.
That’s them barbecuing at the end?
Yeah. It was like a private joke. Rick loves my parents. But they saw the film, and they totally loved it. I was like, “But you didn’t understand any of it.” And they were like, “But you see everything!” So that’s exactly it. They basically watched it with no sound.
When you go to be a part of a film, what qualities are you looking for? Was it the humanistic qualities of the film that appealed to you?
It’s to capture something about human nature basically. I’m fascinated by human beings, and how they function, and how complex they are, how beautiful they are, but how terrible they can be. I’ve written a script which is the opposite of this, which is exploring the worst in human beings. It’s quite interesting. I’m fascinated by the complexity and the perversity of the human mind. “Perverse” not in a sexual way—
Does that script have a name or a distributor?
Not a distributor, but it has a producer, and we’re shooting in the winter.
You’re going to direct?
And appear in it as well?
Yes. Hard work. I’m a megalomaniac. (Laughs.)
What’s it called?
It’s called BATHORY at the moment. It’s about Erzsebet Bathory, the Hungarian countess who used to bathe in young virgins’ blood. She inspired Bram Stoker to write DRACULA. But it’s all that cruelty.
When you came up with the dialogue for your character, when did it come to you? Were you just sitting there thinking about making the dialogue for this movie, or did it come from events in your life?
We worked on a structure together – the main storyline. Then, I went my way and wrote about forty pages; that’s when I wrote… all the dialogue I talk about in the car, and a lot of the dialogue earlier on. I’d leave space for Ethan to write certain things, and Rick to write, and we’d exchange things like that. But, for example, the dialogue that I talk about finding specific things in people, it’s actually something that I’d written in something else that I was never able to make as a film. So, I was like, “If they’re never going to make that film, at least it will be out there.” I like this idea of people who are obsessed with details and ideas. It’s true that people are made of specific details, and we have a tendency in our society to wash out all of those details, but it’s impossible to replace someone. I’ve always been obsessed with this idea, so that’s a monologue that I wrote one day when we were sitting and Rick was like, “We need a moment that’s quite emotional there.” I’m like, “Okay, let me sit at the computer,” and I wrote it in ten minutes.
I don’t know how you’re going to take this, but it seems like your English in real life is better than it is in the movie. Was that intentional?
Probably a little bit. I mean, I did use a touch more of a French accent. I’ve been here for twelve years; Celine hasn’t been in the U.S. for twelve years. We did it a little bit more French. I didn’t want to make it hard to understand, to “talk like ‘zat and act like a French per-zon!” I wanted it to be understandable, but, at the same time, not like me.
You said in the first film that you hate it when people go, “Oh, that’s so French!” Are there times, now that you’ve been living here for twelve years, that you’ve experienced people saying that?
That’s kind of over. I think people understand, especially people around me, that me has nothing to do with being French. I think people have realized that French people are not like me. I’m not very French, actually, I’m more… I don’t know. I was raised by total hippies, total free spirit “you can’t lie, you can’t pretend that your something you’re not.” Basically, this open book. People who would tell everything they thought, tell everything they felt, and I’ve become like that. That’s not typically French, that’s like my family. They’re pretty crazy.
So, it’s not typically anything, or typically “hippie”?
Well, it’s not typically hippie, either, because they were hippies, but… they didn’t like pot, they liked wine. They didn’t want to live in a commune. They flirted with anarchist ideas. But it was the sixties, they were really into the sexual revolution. My mom signed the treaty for abortion in 1968, and became one of the “364 Sluts”. Catherine Deneuve signed it, Jeanne Moreau… it was the first women coming out and saying we want to stop having our friends dying of major disease because of having an abortion with a coathanger.
Was using the Nina Simone song a tribute to her? I know she passed last year.
We wrote it in before. It’s actually my favorite Nina Simone song. “Just In Time.” It was lovely, because I love that song so much, and it fits in the film. And we’re lucky we got the rights, because it’s not easy to get a Nina Simone song.
Was she a big influence on your songwriting?
She is, but I can’t sing like her. No one can. Let’s face it; she was amazing.
What’s your favorite Gena Rowlands performance?
MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ, because it’s extremely dramatic, but it’s very funny at the same time. I love the combination.
If you’ve read the entirety of these two interviews, then you probably don’t need me to remind you that BEFORE SUNSET opens in limited release this Friday. It’s a fantastic film (and, incidentally, the first release from Warner Independent) that’s well worth your time.