Watch: Ethan Hawke talks ‘ruthlessly honest’ Linklater follow-up ‘Before Midnight’

First off, a confession: “Before Sunset” made me cry.

The scene that did it: Former lovebirds Jesse and Celine ride a Bateau Mouche along the river Seine on a sunny afternoon, the afternoon wind blowing through their hair. As before, they are open and vulnerable with one another, albeit now a little older and a little wiser. Jesse (Ethan Hawke), now in his early 30s, is trapped in a loveless marriage. Celine (Julie Delpy) is an environmental advocate living in Paris, with a photojournalist boyfriend she hardly sees. Reflective, she talks about the impact each of her past romantic relationships has had on her, in a moving monologue about love lost and the memories that are left behind:

“I feel I was never able to forget anyone I”ve been with, because each person has their own specific qualities. You can never replace anyone. What is lost is lost. Each relationship, when it ends, really damages me. I never fully recover. That”s why I”m very careful with getting involved – because it hurts too much. Even getting laid. I actually don”t do that, because I will miss of the person the most mundane things. Like I”m obsessed with little things.

“Maybe I”m crazy, but when I was a little girl, my mom told me that I was always late to school. One day she followed me to see why. I was looking at chestnuts falling from the trees, rolling on the sidewalk. Or ants crossing the road. The way a leaf cast a shadow on a tree trunk. Little things.

“I think it”s the same with people. I see in them little details, so specific to each of them, that move me and that I miss and will always miss. You can never replace anyone, because everyone is made of such beautiful, specific details.”

Reading that passage, it’s not hard to see why Hawke, Delpy and director Richard Linklater scored a surprise nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2005 Oscars for co-writing the film together – indeed, “Before Sunset” is full of insightful moments just like the one described above, naturalistically delivered by actors who in some ways seem to be reflecting on their own lives through their characters.

So it was a pleasure when I had the opportunity to sit down with Hawke (at the recent junket for his upcoming horror film “Sinister”) to ask about “Before Midnight,” the upcoming third entry in the romantic drama series that began in 1995 with the low-key, critically-acclaimed “Before Sunrise,” made when both actors were in their mid-20s.

The new film, which reunites Hawke with Delpy and Linklater, picks up where “Sunset” left off, and I was curious to hear from the horse’s mouth about the hush-hush production, which recently completed a secretive shoot in Greece to the delight of fans who fell in love with the first two entries.

“The expectations have risen so much [with] these movies,” said Hawke. “When we did the first sequel, nobody really cared. I mean, you know, there weren’t any expectations.”

This time around there are expectations, of course, and while Hawke told me he absolutely cares about pleasing the fans, he also knows it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

“Obviously we wanna make the fans happy, you know, and give them what they want,” he said. “And at the same time, you can’t make everybody happy. You just can’t do it. So we have to try to just have the same attack and just kinda try to be ruthlessly honest and really tell the story about where we think these people are in their lives right now.”

And where might that be, pray tell?

“I don’t wanna be the one to tell you what’s gonna happen with Jesse and Celine,” he said. “The truth is, it’s just…it’s all just as mysterious as it’s always been. …The point about life, you never know what’s gonna happen.”

You can check out the entirety of Hawke’s comments in the video above.

Follow me on Twitter @HitFixChris