This week at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Richard Linklater and actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke exchanged occasionally racy banter, not unlike their characters in Before Sunset, Before Sunrise and now, Before Midnight, which opens May 24.
The trilogy, which follows Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), who first met on a train to Vienna (Before Sunrise) and reconnected in Paris nine years later (Before Sunset), has attracted a cult following with it's romantic verisimilitude built though a wandering intellectual dialogue so free-form it almost seems improvised. Often finishing each other's sentences, the three screenwriters talked about their approach on Midnight, which picks up with Jesse and Celine nine years after Sunrise (warning: spoilers ahead).
"We sit in a room and we bullshit for 12 hours straight," Linklater said. "That gives us room to free associate."
Eighteen years after the first film's premiere, we find an older and ostensibly wiser Jesse and Celine navigating the complications of lives complete with careers, kids, and long-term partnerships.
"These films just keep getting harder," Linklater said. "It's a tougher phase of life that we find their characters. Things are deeper. They are not in this romantic bubble that we created in the first two films. This one is romantic, too, but in a very different way. You get into the core of the relationships."
Despite the emotional tolls of scripting the dark corners of maturity, the filmmakers said they needed to "get to that core" to write another romance.
"I love the notion of blurring the line between performer and performance," Hawke said. "One of the ways to do that is to make it real for us. Some of the time, Jesse and Celine are born out of things Julie and I are going through. But Richard's a big part of Jessie and Celine, too."
Added Delpy: "You will see these very long scenes, and they seem pretty natural. But it's scripted, every line."
To prepare, the collaborators wrote, rewrote and rehearsed for weeks.
"We had to do some scenes with other actors, and that was new," Hawke said. "I think it was very hard for them, because they loved Before Sunrise and Before Sunset but thought the movies were improvised. Then they found themselves in three weeks of rehearsal. It makes making other movies seem like a vacation."