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Did They Do It? Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke on One of Before Midnight’s Biggest Questions

Director and screenwriter Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke attend the Tribeca Film Festival 2013 After Party
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

If you’ve seen Before Midnight, you know that Jesse and Celine spend a good amount of time fighting in a hotel room, even though they are supposed to be having sexy times. At one point in their argument, each accuses the other of cheating. Their claims are never confirmed — but they’re devastating nonetheless. Jesse and Celine are supposed to be soul mates: Why would director Richard Linklater and co-stars and co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do this to us?? Why?? “We’re just being brutally honest,” Linklater told Vulture at the film’s premiere earlier this month. “I read a study that in long-term relationships 72 percent of the women have strayed, and 70 percent of the men. So I think Jesse and Celine are in the statistical norm.”

At this point, three films into their relationship, most of us don’t want to see Jesse and Celine break up over infidelities that may or may not have happened — Hawke included. “Everyone thinks [infidelity] is permission to end the relationship, or to treat somebody like they’re not even a human being,” Hawke said. “We wanted it to be as messy and complicated as possible, and to have no definitive good guy or bad guy. People love this idea that if it’s not perfect, it must be wrong, and I think what the movie is trying to drive at is that there is no perfect. This is true love. And true love is messy and sloppy.” Which is why he and Delpy won’t say whether they believe their characters’ accusations. “To answer that question would be to defeat the reason why it’s in the movie,” Hawke said. “If you’re with somebody for a long time, and you don’t wonder if they cheated, it means you really take them for granted in some strange way.”
Regardless of who cheated on whom, Delpy said, this doesn’t necessarily destroy Jesse and Celine’s relationship. “Maybe he didn’t really cheat, maybe he just made out a little bit? A little kissing — does it count?” she asked. “Was that really bad? Kissing is nothing. I wouldn’t even acknowledge that. The bottom line is whether people are good to you, you’re happy with them, they bring something to your life that no one else brings.”
“The truth is, they probably both strayed,” Linklater said, laughing. “They just deal with it differently. He kind of sort of wants to talk about it, and she runs out of the room.”

Delpy and Hawke on Before Midnight’s Big Debate