Director Richard Linklater's teaming with actors and cowriters Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for 1995's Before Sunrise created a uniquely charmed working relationship and spawned a beloved film series – the "accidental trilogy" (as Linklater calls it) of 2004's Before Sunset and 2013's upcoming Before Midnight.
Fans of the films fervently adore the chemistry between Hawke's Jesse and Delpy's Celine, the romanticism of the series’ overseas locales, and the intimate, honest, poignant dialogue that drives Linklater's sweeping long shots. The films have charmed legions of dedicated followers, many of who were in attendance on Monday night for Tribeca Film Festival's Tribeca Talks: Directors Series with Linklater, Delpy and Hawke.
The unmoderated conversation put the trio's incredible chemistry and deep admiration for one another on full display -- they joked, bantered, reminisced and answered audience questions for almost two hours prior to Before Midnight’s New York premiere that evening at the festival. Here are 10 things we learned at the event.
Julie Delpy Was… Compromised… When She First Met Richard Linklater
Linklater: "The first film started, at least, conventional -- you know, a film trying to get made. I met you, Julie, in L.A. You were one of the first people I interviewed."
Delpy: "Yeah. I was drunk."
Linklater: "I met this drunk French girl! But then I look at the resume, I'm like -- oh my God, she's been in all these great movies, she's worked with Godard and Kieslowski, so -- despite her drunkenness, she must have something!"
Before Sunrise Wasn't Originally Set in Vienna
Hawke: "[When we first met] we hung out all night talking and he told me all about this movie -- it was about a couple and back then it was San Antonio? It was just, across America."
Major Plot Points Got Personal
Hawke: "We struggled most with the kind of essential scene in Before Sunrise, which is: my character is supposed to talk Julie's character into getting off the train. Like, they met, they had a nice time on this train, what would make a young woman get off the train? And I remember Julie had these rules about, 'Well, you have to kind of come on to me because I just want to make sure that you're for real, but you can't come on too strong because that would be gross. And so essentially you have to be extremely funny, but not…' Like, she was not impressed with my personal experience."
Delpy: "You have to be smart!"
Hawke: [in Julie's French accent] "'Not like some American teenager!' So we kept trying to do these things where I'd say, 'Well I said this kind of thing and that impressed a girl once' and Julie would go [shakes head no]."
Before Sunrise Is the Only Film in the Trilogy Shot Chronologically
Linklater: "We were working on that to the very final scene -- we shot it chronologically, that was also another rule of the film."
Delpy: "That was the only film we shot chronologically."
Linklater: "Yeah, it was the only one that allowed it."
Delpy: "It was the first time we were doing that process of coordinating work in the writing and everything, so it was new to us."
Julie Delpy's Agent Fired Her for Pursuing Before Sunset
Linklater: "The second film was the scariest leap."
Delpy: "I got fired by my agent. He said, 'Why are you writing a sequel to a movie that will never be made, and if it's made no one will see it?' He fired me. He was like, 'You should focus on getting sexy Latinas.' I was like, 'Okay.' Parts! In movies! [Laughs] I was auditioning for Rush Hour 2. [Long pause] I didn't get it."
One of Linklater's Ideas Has Yet to Make It into a Before Film
Linklater: "There's a lot of stuff on the floor that -- I think the three of us still like a lot of this material."
Hawke: "We'll just put it in the next movie! Or not!"
Linklater: "There's probably been things we've been trying to get into three films, now."
Hawke: "Oh -- Tolstoy's brother! He hasn't been in any of them! It's this idea Rick has about Tolstoy's older brother that I thought is brilliant, but he got cut from the first movie, we put it in the second, he got cut, put it in the third one, [cutting noise]."
The Before Films May Seem Improvised, But They're Heavily Scripted
Delpy: "The idea is to make it feel real, but it's actually very written and drafted and even the scenes, like -- for example, when you see the new film, you'll see these very long scenes and they seem pretty natural. It's actually scripted, every line. And it's a shot that's not cut, so it's impossible to do it any other way. If a scene has been improvised, for example, you need to have a lot of jump cuts to take out the fat. Here, there's no fat possible."
Hawke: "What it requires is just weeks and weeks of rehearsal."
Linklater: "At some place, the cowriters here -- I'm directing a movie, they're acting in a movie -- they realize just how much dialogue they have. Even though we've all participated in the writing of that, they have to perform it. … I can't emphasize how much hard work goes into that."
Okay, Maybe One Scene Was Improvised
Linklater: "The technical answer is, we've never really improvised."
Hawke: "We did it one time, on the first film, and you used it to prove a point that we can't do it."
Linklater: "It was the listening-booth scene -- this is the closest we ever came to improving -- the lyrics to that song, that was in the script. But you had never heard it. That was the only time I tried to manipulate you guys.
Deply: "Did you use the first take of that?"
Linklater: "We did two takes and I kinda forget -- they were both pretty similar. I think we might've used the first one."
Hawke: "You used the first one! I say that because I remember the song was not what I thought it was gonna be at all. And I was like, 'Well I guess I have to keep acting. Is he playing a joke?'"
Hawke and Linklater Have Essentially Become Jesse and Celine
Hawke: "It's like a parallel life now. There's certain things over the last few years -- like, a moment that would happen to me, and I would think, 'Oh - I gotta tell Rick and Julie about this, this moment might be right for those movies.'"
Delpy: "I can't make the difference between fiction and reality anymore. It's all the same to me. [Laughs] But seriously, we have great chemistry because we're actors. We don't live together, we don't have sex. We all love each other, we do."
Linklater: "I would say we're all close to all the material."
Delpy: "I mean, we write the screenplays all together."
Before Midnight May Not Be the Last of the Before Films
Linklater: "Did we ever think this is the end of our little accidental trilogy, here?"
Delpy: "No, we didn't write it like that. We capture that moment."
Linklater: "We're in this moment in time that is a real focus. There were threads to the others -- you can't see the film and not know that that's conscious, we were tying it loosely to the other two. But it wasn't a summation, when you see the ending. People will have different opinions, but it's definitely not a final vibe, I don't think. I don't want to give away anything, but they're both still alive at the end. There might be another one, who knows!"