Ethan Hawke was born the same year as me, just a few months later, so one of the ways I’ve used the “Before” series as milestones in my own life is watching the way he and Julie Delpy have changed over the years.
I still feel like the same person I was in 1995 when the first one came out. I was 25 years old and I was going through the first flush of success with some of my work being produced for live theater here in LA. My writing partner and I were working with some great people, and I was in a long-term relationship with someone, and Ethan Hawke was very much a surrogate for the experience I was having. When I saw that film, I was young enough to still believe in the grand sweep of romance, and old enough to have some life experience under my belt already. I felt like I had the answers. I had things all figured out. I was on my way. And that’s the attitude of that first film, almost exactly.
Looking back at 1995 me from the vantage point of today, I cringe. I wasn’t a bad person, but like a lot of 25 year olds, I was cocky for no good reason. And the answers I thought I had all figured out turned out to be wrong. That’s what I love about these films. Each time, we’re nine years down the road, and that’s long enough to see a whole new person arise from the ashes of whoever that younger version was. I think we reinvent ourselves constantly, and that life is merely a series of checkpoints. If you truly go stagnant, it must be awful. These films are about so many things, but in particular, they are about the passage of time and the ways it changes us.
When I walked into that room to talk to Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy together, I won’t lie… it was startling. I just rewatched “Before Sunrise,” and eighteen years vanished in a moment, dropping onto the two of them with real weight. Talking to them, what comes across most clearly is how much more comfortable they are in their own skins these days, how little they seem to worry. They’ve developed this really beautiful short-hand as collaborators, and this was by far one of the interviews I’ve enjoyed most this year.
I hope they check in every nine years from now till the inevitable end. I feel like they are old friends at this point, and I can’t emphasize enough that you need to see “Before Midnight,” which is in limited release now and rolling out wider.