Interview with Julie Delpy

Multi-talented JULIE DELPY tells Pierre de Villiers about returning to the role of Céline in the film Before Midnight

Julie Delpy is a workaholic. When the French star is not in front of the camera, she is giving orders from the director’s chair, writing scripts, producing movies and even composing soundtracks.

“I need to be driven,” the 43-year-old explains. “I suffer from a lot of anxieties and if I don’t work a lot, I become restless and miserable. When I’m working and have interesting projects down the road, it makes me happy in that kind of creative spirit.”

No role has provided Delpy with more joy over the years than Céline, the charming, smart Parisian who spends an evening in Vienna falling for fellow traveller Jesse (Ethan Hawke) in the 1995 romance Before Sunrise. After their night together, the characters catch up in Paris nine years later in Before Sunset, a sequel co-written by the actress. With the 2004 film proving as popular as the original, the pressure was on the star and the director, Richard Linklater, to continue the story in a convincing way with this year’s Before Midnight.

“One of the most difficult things about the third film is that audiences were wondering what had happened to Jesse and Céline after the previous film,” says Delpy. “That was not the case with Before Sunset. People were not expecting a sequel to Before Sunrise, so nobody had any agenda or opinion about what that sequel should be. But once you do two, you set the stage where audiences are anxious to know what happens next.”

As it turns out, Jesse and Céline are now a couple and have twin girls. In what is a superb third instalment, they head for Greece to discuss parenthood, career choices and their future together. Delpy, who has a four-year-old son Leo by German composer Marc Streitenfeld, has had to do a lot of growing up over the past 18 years – just like her character.

“I went through a very difficult time, probably the worst of my life, when my mother was dying of cancer at the moment that I was about to give birth,” says the actress. “I also felt very insecure when I was pregnant because I gained 60lbs and felt so fat and ugly that it was hard to look at myself in the mirror. I was very depressed and would start crying in front of strangers on the bus in Paris. But then I calmed down and was able to write, finance and direct [the romantic comedy] 2 Days in New York and that kind of resurrected me.”

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Having made it through tough times with a little help from the profession she adores, Delpy, who lives in Los Angeles, is keen to keep piling on the work. Fans will hope that includes another return for Céline, something she has not ruled out. What’s certain is that if the character does make a comeback in another decade or so she, like Delpy, will have aged gracefully.

“I think the obsession with youth is very difficult for women, particularly in my profession, where there is so much pressure to look as young as possible,” she says. “But that’s crazy. Why should we be afraid to age? I don’t care. I probably should because it becomes harder for many women in their forties to find work, but I honestly don’t.”

Before Midnight is released on DVD on 28 October.

Our Review by Pierre de Villiers

Starring: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

Director: Richard Linklater

Certificate: 15

Running time: 109 minutes

Release date: 28 October

The last time we saw Céline and Jesse – the lovers in Richard Linklater’s beguiling ‘Before…’ series – they were in a Paris flat wondering what to do next.

Would Jesse (Hawke) catch a plane back to America and try to mend his marriage, or stay with Céline (Delpy), a woman for whom he has been pining after they spent a magical night in Vienna? Nine years later we have our answer with Before Midnight, a poignant, brilliantly acted film that looks at the consequences when infatuation gives way to the pressures of a proper relationship.

Jesse, as it turns out, stayed in Paris with Céline, who became pregnant with twin girls. Nine years after Before Sunset the two are on holiday in Greece with their daughters and Jesse’s son Hank from his marriage, which ended in a bitter divorce. Having gone to the airport to see off Hank, who is flying back to his mother in America, Céline and Jesse start their familiar verbal jousting, talking about parenthood and career prospects. As the day wears on, festering bitterness and resentment cause their discussions to become more heated.

With Linklater, Delpy and Hawke again writing the script, Before Midnight has the same authentic dialogue and pitch-perfect delivery as Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The ease with which Delpy and Hawke interact is remarkable, with the French actress doing some of her finest work during an explosive finale. The film, like its predecessors, ends on an ambiguous note, leaving the door open for Céline and Jesse to return. Those who have been under the couple’s spell for 18 years will hope that they strike up a conversation sooner rather than later.