Not two hours had passed since he landed at Athens International Airport with a long day of interviews ahead of the official premiere of “Before Midnight” before him, but American actor Ethan Hawke was full of energy and obviously excited to meet up again with director Richard Linklater and on-screen partner Julie Delpy at the Hotel Grande Bretagne.
His excitement may also have been due to the fact that he wasn’t in Greece just for the film’s premiere but also for a family holiday in the Peloponnesian region of Messinia, where the romantic drama in which he stars is set.
Linklater, Delpy and Hawke spent a few minutes chatting away like old friends do, oblivious to the cameras and the journalists waiting to bombard them with questions.
“We have so much to talk about. We don’t see each other every day,” Delpy apologized, as Hawke quipped: “We’re not a couple in real life. We don’t have kids together.” Linklater could not hold back his enthusiasm about the film’s location in the southwestern Peloponnese, describing the entire experience as “amazing.”
“It has never happened to me before to be working in a foreign country and not feeling the urge to jump on the first plane back home,” he said.
According to the helmsman who directed Hawke and Delpy in the first two installments of the trilogy, “Before Sunset” and “Before Sunrise,” “Before Midnight” is “very much a Greek film.”
“It could have been filmed anywhere,” he conceded, “but we decided to do it in Greece. We looked around for the right place to convey the impression that the protagonists were in paradise, and we found it here.”
After finding his ideal location, Linklater went on to write the screenplay, incorporating pieces of local history and culture.
“We knew that wherever we made the film, we would use the location as an integral part of it,” Hawke added. “It could have been set in Italy or Argentina, but this particular location really grabbed our fancy.”
There is a scene in the film where Celine, played by Delpy, expresses some concern about the current situation in Greece.
“When you watch the news abroad you get the impression that a revolution could break out at any minute,” Delpy said when asked about that scene. “But when you come to Greece you see that it is all happening in one small part of Athens. We know that the crisis is real and that people are suffering, but this is not a country on the brink of collapse.”
A refreshingly “real” film that does not try to wow nor project an idealized version of human relationships, “Before Midnight” raises the question of why so many films go to such lengths to replace reality with cliches. “I have often wondered about that myself,” answered Hawke. “For example, every time I have seen a birth scene in a film, it is completely fake – it has nothing to do with reality. I would imagine that at least half the people working on these productions have been in a delivery room. Yet they keep up the lie, indifferent to whether the end result is overly dramatic. The same goes for love scenes. We like to maintain myths,” he added. “Ultimately, everyone else needs to feel that their lives are totally boring.”
A clean, optimistic and simple image of Greece
By Dimitris Bouras
It is lunchtime on the Messinian leg of the Mani peninsula in the southwestern Peloponnese. A couple, Jesse and Celine, drink a toast as they sit in the courtyard of the home of the late famed British travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Later that night, as they look over Navarino Bay, the dust starts to fly as the two get into an almost comical argument about their marriage and love in general.
Present at the official Athens premiere last week of “Before Midnight,” the third part of a trilogy directed by Richard Linklater about the romance between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) – which sees them first in Vienna, then in Paris and now in Greece – were many of the people who contributed to the film, including Hawke and Delpy, as well as local talents Haris Alexiou, who sings over the opening credits, and Christos Constantakopoulos, the co-producer of the Greek-American project. Other local actors that participated in the cast include Panos Koronis, Athina Rachel Tsangari and Xenia Kalogeropoulou, and together they all appeared on stage at the film’s unveiling.
The participation of Walter Lassally was also touching, as the veteran director of photography who captured the Greek light so beautifully in “Zorba the Greek” – and received an Oscar for it – appears here in a role inspired by Fermor, as a friend of the couple who invites them to his Greek home during their summer holiday.
When “Before Midnight” was first screened at the Berlin International Film Festival, critics lauded the natural settings, all filmed in the southern Peloponnese. One of the reasons why this aspect of the movie has been stressed so much by the press is that it presents such a clean, optimistic and elegantly simple image of the country.
“Before Midnight” was produced jointly by Sara Woodhatch of Castle Rock Entertainment and Constantakopoulos of Faliro House, a local company that has already participated in other Hollywood productions such as “Take Shelter,” directed by Jeff Nichols, and “Only Lovers Left Alive,” by Jim Jarmusch.