Ethan Hawke thought the sun had set on the “Before” trilogy before it even hit theaters.
In a discussion with Daveed Diggs for Interview magazine, Hawke admitted that he “didn’t even know” if audiences would care about his trilogy of “Before” films, which began in 1995 with “Before Sunrise.”
“It’s not like I don’t want compliments and prizes and money and fire engines. I want everything, but I know how to listen to the river, how to listen to my own voice,” Hawke said. “I remember when I was doing those movies with Richard Linklater, for example, the ‘Before’ trilogy or ‘Boyhood,’ I didn’t even know if they would come out. One part of my brain thought, ‘Oh, people are going to love this.’ And another part of me thought, ‘Nobody’s going to be interested in this.’ I didn’t care. I knew that I was interested in it, and I can hear that voice.”
Hawke added, “But every time in my life I try to sell out, when I’m like, ‘Oh, that’ll be a hit,’ every time I try to do that I fall on my ass. Totally wrong every time.”
The beloved Richard Linklater film “Before Sunrise” later spurred sequels “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” with a fourth film teased as part of an “After” series in 2020. The revolutionary years-long filmmaking tactic for “Boyhood” is set to be replicated for Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Along” adaptation starring Paul Mescal and Beanie Feldstein.
Hawke noted that, like Linklater, he follows other aspirational figures like Bob Dylan and Spike Lee when standing his ground.
“I always feel like Bob Dylan’s being true to himself and millions of people happen to care,” Hawke said. “Spike Lee seems to always be working for himself and some of the movies hit big and some of them don’t, but you can tell they all kind of mean the same. It’s coming from the same creative force.”
Hawke previously shared that Linklater assured him audiences would “care” about “Before Sunrise” as the human connection at the center of the largely-improvised film co-starring Julie Delpy grounded the story.
“‘I don’t want you to worry too much about the script. I’m inviting you to be a filmmaker with me,’” Hawke recalled Linklater telling him. “‘My whole life I’ve gone to the movies and there’s espionage and shootouts and helicopters, all this action. Everything that I see is all this drama, [so much so] that you would think my life, our lives, have no drama. That’s not the way I feel. My life feels very exciting to me and I’ve never been involved in a chase or a gun shootout. My life is exciting to me. And what’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me? Connecting with another human being…If we can put that on screen I think people will care.’”
Hawke summed up in 2020, “Really what he is saying is that we are enough. It’s a hard thing for us, as people, to comprehend that. We are interesting. We are valuable. You are special from the moment you are born. At its essence, the movie is saying people witnessing each other has a huge power. Some times I leave ‘Harry Potter’ or ‘Avatar’ and I feel blue because I don’t have superpowers or magic. But I think Rick’s movies make you realize your life is magic.”