If “Unlikely Hit Films with a Quirky Ensemble Cast” were a category on Netflix, director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) could probably fill most of the slots from the last ten years of his filmography alone. His latest film Before Midnight, which closed the San Francisco International Film Festival earlier this month and opens in SF tonight, is itself the sequel to, as Linklater tells it, “the sequel nobody asked for.” Written once again in collaboration with its two stars, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, it–paradoxically–has more people excited than ever. Midnight revisits the love story of the previous films (Before Sunset and Before Sunrise), between an American author named Jessie and his inamorata Celine, while also reprising the realism and immediacy that set the first film apart and made it a touchstone for hordes of Daria-loving 15-to-20-somethings upon its release in 1995. We were blessed with a wild, wooly conversation with the director and its French star shortly before the film closed the fest. Below are some of the highlights:
Julie Delpy on writing Before Midnight:
We think a lot about the progression of what’s going on, since the dramatic arc of those films are so based in the dialogue, and what they’re saying to each other and emotional progression. It’s not something like this happens, then this happens, it’s not like a thriller or a even like a romantic comedy where this and this are formalized. The formalized does not exist in this film, so it has to be a dramatic arc of what they’re saying to each other. So we’re really careful of what’s placed where.
Richard Linklater on the collaborative process:
It’s super X-rated. It’s NC-17, our process. We’ve gotten more pervy the longer we’ve done this—you know, as we get more comfortable with one another. But that fits the characters in the film. They’re more comfortable. You’re more comfortable in your own skin. At 23, you’re still constructing yourself in terms of “what kind of adult am I going to be.”
Julie Delpy on Ethan Hawke:
It's really when we did Waking Life, we realized that it really doesn't come along that often, to have this work relationship. Even though I have good work relationships with other people, it's a different dynamic. It's not like we're only happy when we work together but it's true that it is a fun and special thing that we have and so, we realized that on Waking Life and were like "OK, maybe we should look into a second one."
Linklater on getting outside of Texas:
I think my first time out of the country was 1990. I couldn’t afford it and wasn't that inclined to travel the world or anything, but I made a film and started going to festivals. That's why I kind of started to think of that film as having an international element to it, and just the notion of travel. I enjoy it. You know, you're kind of a citizen of the world [as a filmmaker] in terms of what you do, but I tend to go back there. To Texas. It's just where my brain sort of works from, just kind of how it plays out.
Julie Delpy on Sci-Fi:
It's almost like people are... they want to make it so pragmatic. I think it needs to be more open. I think what really wins in 2001 is that you don't fucking know what it's about, in the end. Sci-fi is always trying to be too rooted in reality. Because financiers are businessmen and to make a good sci-fi film you need alot of money, so you need those businessmen. They would never have understood the end of 2001 if you explained it to them, and they would have killed the film. Too many pragmatic people involved.
Linklater of his next film:
The next thing I want to do is maybe a college comedy. I'm realizing after Dazed and Confused I came into something that was really intimate, and after this I want to do another big, rambling ensemble. Something I have in mind is a story about college life that I've been thinking about a long time.