Happy to be able to discuss his movie "Before Sunset" rather than his personal relationships, Hawke talks about how hes changed since making the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise, the process of bringing the characters from the first film to life for the second time, and even touches a bit on an upcoming project, Assault on Precinct 13, co-starring Laurence Fishburne.
INTERVIEW WITH ETHAN HAWKE:
How difficult was it to revisit this role? Did you have to rethink it?
It wasn't difficult. It was something we really wanted. We worked hard to try to make this happen. It wasn't like some movie where people were dying for us to make a sequel. It was one that we had to kind of scratch and beg for a few years to be able to do it. So for Rick [Linklater] and Julie and I, I think we all felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to try this. To make such a personal film, they are making less and less of these kinds of movies. It doesn't fit into any genre of filmmaking. So I was thrilled to be back doing it. Also acting with Julie is so easy for me. I enjoy working with her so much.
How have you changed since the first movie?
I am a much better person. Im kidding. I think that the primary way I have changed is I became a father. Thats the only thing. The external things are the things you think of.
Julie says you matured a little bit. She says you were a "puppy" on the first one.
She used to tell me that all the time while we were doing it. It's funny because they show a little clip in the beginning of the movie of the first film, I couldnt believe what a puppy I looked like. (Laughing) I look like my feet are too big. But I felt so old. I wonder if that is what I will feel like 10 years from now watching this one? Will I think I look young in this one?
How was the acting different?
This one was harder because the first one had time cuts, it had montages. We met strangers and had other scenes and we were in amusement parks and on Ferris wheels and trains. This one is so stark and so naked that while the first one was considered incredibly naturalistic, this one takes naturalism to a whole [new] level compared to the first one. So it was much more difficult. It was the kind of thing where we knew if we did our jobs really well, it would look like we weren't acting at all. But it is very hard to do that to not have any plot to lean on. Theres no, Lets go over here. Theres nothing to entertain you in the movie. Its simple. It's like an elegant documentary.
You and Julie didnt improvise anything?
We would work on the script, writing it, and then we would go to these locations. We had these things like, "Okay, how long does it take us to walk from the bookstore to the cafe?" We'd have to figure out like, "Okay, we can't use that street. We are going to have to go around over here, so we need an 8 1/2 minute scene." We would have to go, "Ok, weve got to cut those lines," or All right, well, lets pick that thing that we thought was going to be in the café and bring it in here, so that we can get from there to there to there, at the same time not just have any of it be filler. We basically kind of wrote it as one scene and cut it apart to fit these locations. For example, we knew we needed to get from that stairway down to the sand. The first couple times we were rehearsing it, I would just goof around and ride down the thing and Rick said, Hey, lets do that.
How much of your own personality did you write into the character?
I have always seen Jesse as kind of like 1/3 me, 1/3 Rick and 1/3 Julie Delpy's fantasy man. That's really what it is. In a way, it is a parallel life of mine. I remember on the first movie, Id just met him and stuff, so Im pretty much just doing a Richard Linklater impersonation in the first movie. Thats what I was doing and I dressed exactly like he dressed and just imitated him in that. And I get a little bit of that in this movie, too.
Toward the end of the movie your character starts talking about the troubles in his marriage. How close to home did that hit for you?
Well, I don't know. Julie likes to say that oddly enough my marriage was going great, I was just so method I destroyed it. (Laughing) I had to get into character. Whatever. If the movie has any value, it has value beyond its relationship to my personal life. If it is good because it has a relationship to it, then it is not any good.