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Fans of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Richard Linklater‘s films co-starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as star-crossed lovers, will certainly be riveted by the director’s latest installment, Before Midnight, which delivers the same talky romance as the first two movies but with a giant — and brutal — helping of marital discord.
Although the trouble-in-paradise plotline exposes cracks within the facade of a seemingly perfect union of two soulmates, Jesse and Celine, Delpy — who co-wrote the film along with Hawke and Linklater — says she’s not worried about alienating Before devotees.
“This one is romantic too but in a different sort of way,” said the actress on Monday, joining Hawke and Linklater at a panel ahead of a Before Midnight screening at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“I think people want things that ring true and we tried to make this film ring true — keep it romantic but not in a romantic way that’s, you know, ‘Oooh, people are getting married!'” she noted. “Romanticism is not necessarily just one typical, ‘this happens, this happens, they get together,’ boom. End of film.”
The ending of Before Midnight echoes those of the previous films, which closed on notes of ambiguity and, in the case of 2004’s Before Sunset, longing and sexual tension as Jesse decides whether to stay in Paris with Celine or catch his flight home to the U.S., where he’s got a wife and son.
“I’ve always thought it should be erotica,” said Hawke of the trilogy, which rolled out beginning in 1995 with Before Sunrise and includes a raw and emotionally-charged love scene in the third act, which opens in limited release May 24.
“I’m like, 18 years of frustration!” declared Hawke, to which Delpy quipped: “On that level, you haven’t aged at all.”
(Throughout the discussion, life imitated art as the two bantered and bickered much like they do in the movies, but always with the joking rapport of longtime friends. “We have chemistry because we’re actors,” Delpy explained. “We don’t live together. We don’t have sex. … We love each other.”)
As for the possibility of another installment (which would see Jesse and Celine in their early ’50s), Linklater said: “There were threads to the others. You can’t see [Before Midnight] and not know that that’s conscious. We’re tying it, loosely, to the other two but it wasn’t a summation. … People have different opinions, but it’s definitely not a final vibe, I don’t think.”
He added: “There might be another one, who knows? At least we don’t have to think about it for five years.”
Chiming in to big laughs, Hawke — possibly alluding to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — joked: “It has to do with these Mayan temples. In Rome.”
The Greece-set Before Midnight, which Linklater secretly filmed last summer with cast and crew notified just three weeks’ ahead of time, debuted to massive buzz and critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Shortly afterward, Sony Pictures Classics acquired domestic and U.K. rights for somewhere in the ballpark of the mid-seven figures, making it one of the biggest deals of the fest.