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One more shot at romance in 'Before Midnight'

Thursday - 5/23/2013, 5:00pm  ET

In this Monday, May 20, 2013 photo, from left, actor and writer, Ethan Hawke, actress and writer, Julie Delpy and director and writer, Richard Linklater, from the film "Before Midnight," pose for a portrait in Los Angeles. This is the third drama film in the series of walking, talking European romances. The movie releases in the US on Friday, May 24, 2013. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

CHRISTY LEMIRE
AP Movie Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The hardest segment to watch in "Before Midnight" -- an extended, emotional hotel-room argument that comprises the film's final third -- was actually the easiest to shoot, say co-stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater.

The third film in the series, following 1995's "Before Sunrise" and 2004's "Before Sunset," finds loquacious lovers Jesse and Celine married and enjoying an idyllic Greek holiday with their beautiful twin daughters. Jesse, the easygoing American, is a successful novelist. Celine, the fiery Frenchwoman, is occupied with environmental concerns. They have a lovely life but, like so many couples, are struggling to juggle marriage, parenthood and careers. On what is meant to be a much-needed date night, long-held resentments bubble to the surface in a lengthy quarrel that's a tour de force of writing and acting.

The trio, who once again co-wrote the script (their "Before Sunset" screenplay earned them an Oscar nomination), sat down with The Associated Press this week to discuss their writing process and the challenge of keeping romance alive in your 40s. As you can imagine after 18 years of friendship and collaboration, they bounced off each other easily and often finished the others' sentences:

AP: The ending of 'Before Sunset' is so perfect and that's such a hard thing to achieve, but it left audiences wanting to know more. When did you guys realize you wanted to come back and do another of these?

Linklater: We've all paid the price for that ending over the past nine years because people have always asked us, it begged the question, "Will we be seeing Jesse and Celine again?" ... People wanted to know in a way that they didn't want to know after the first movie.

Hawke: A couple years after we finished, I really started getting that sensation that you get when there's a project left undone. I think it's the perfect ending, and I love it, but it's like a call that wants an answer. ... I wanted to know what happened to them, too.

Linklater: (In) "Before Midnight," that's really THE subject -- how relationships change, is it romantic. That was one thing hanging in our heads: Is this film romantic? What is romance at 41? How do you define romance?

Delpy: Ohhh, love.

Hawke: Arthur Miller has a quote about how it's pretty easy to write about falling in love and pretty easy to write about breaking up, but there's something un-dramatic about the minutiae of day-to-day romance that doesn't lend itself to drama.

Delpy: We catch them in the moment of drama ...

Hawke: But it's subtle drama. They're not in the throes of a divorce. It's not "Kramer vs. Kramer."

Delpy: That was the challenge, unlike the two other ones which are super romantic in essence. ... It's scary territory because of the complexity of how to make this, not wanting people to run off after five minutes.

Linklater: It was definitely a tougher assignment, for sure. But we were operating from this thing about, well, we're going to be very honest and go into some territory that might be uneasy but I think, overarchingly, we still felt that it was romantic because they're still communicating. They're still making each other laugh. They still kinda want to sleep together, so that's good.

AP: So why go in this very serious direction?

Linklater: It's age-appropriate.

Delpy: Well, what are you supposed to do? Like, oh, he took that plane and in the end they meet again!

AP: What are the odds?!

Linklater: Like, they're both married but they see each other at a restaurant.

Delpy: We had to go there, even though it was much more scary territory than, oh, they meet again. To me, to all of us, that seemed ridiculous. Now they are together. They are dealing with the real deal of meeting your soul mate and living with that soul mate.

AP: What were the various avenues you guys might have gone down as far as where you set it ...

Delpy: We explored millions of them: San Francisco, upstate New York ...

Linklater: Argentina. But you know, they weren't always on holiday. Initially, we were gonna jump really in: Let's pick 'em up on a Tuesday ...

Hawke: You were gonna see all that stuff ...

Linklater: You're working, you're writing, you've gotta go to a thing, who's gonna pick up the kids? Really domestic. And after all that, you really only get time at the end of the evening, right before midnight, so, oh, we'll build up to that. We hung with that for, like, six months. And you know what? That's kind of a grind. Once we got onto holiday we felt, we can still infuse it with all that domesticity: parenting and responsibility ...

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