LOS ANGELES -- 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 "Be fore 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. Ce l ine, 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.
(Berkshire International Film Festival is screening the movie Sunday night at 6 at Tri plex Cinema in Great Barrington).
The trio, who once again co-wrote the script (their "Before Sunset" screenplay earned them an Oscar nomination), sat down with The Associated Press 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:
Q: 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.
L: 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.
H: 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.
L: (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?
H: 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.
D: We catch them in the moment of drama ...
H: But it's subtle drama. They're not in the throes of a divorce. It's not "Kramer vs. Kramer."
D: 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.
L: 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. Q: So why go in this very serious direction?
L: It's age-appropriate.
D: Well, what are you supposed to do? Like, oh, he took that plane and in the end they meet again!
What are the odds?!
L: Like, they're both married but they see each other at a restaurant.
D: 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.
Q: The scene in the hotel -- the big, huge fight -- it feels so personal, it feels so cutting. I wonder if there were moments when you were going beyond acting to actually cutting each other to the core.
H: You could say that about any serious, viable art. If you're not cutting to your core, even in a comedy, it's not funny. If you're not cutting to your core, you're not saying anything that might be worth paying 10 bucks to see.
D: But it feels good, too. There's something emotional -- you still feel something, like you grow from it.
Q: How exhausting was it just shooting the fight scene?
L: I don't know from your guys' perspective, I felt really in control. The scenes, they weren't 13-minute takes. So it was kind of a series of little things
D: I think we had more fun doing that scene than the rest of it
L: It was near the end, it was the last thing we shot
D: Here, we were in a room, blocked-out windows, you forget the pressure of other things. The acting was intense, but sometimes doing less is harder for an actor. We are trained as actors to be emotional, to be
H: Dramatic. The fight scene allowed us to access that ...
D: It's all of that and the rest of it is the opposite.
And that's harder.