In 1995, when a baby-faced Jesse (Ethan Hawke) talked a charming French girl named Celine (Julie Delpy) into spending the night meandering through Vienna with him while discussing love and death, the audience had no idea the star-crossed lovers’ 12-hour romance would blossom into almost 20 years and three films. At the end of Sunrise, the couple agrees to meet again at the exact same train station six months later. Would they really reunite? It took nine more years for fans to find out, but Celine, Jesse, and director Richard Linklater rejoined for two more films: 2004’s Before Sunset and 2013’s Before Midnight, where we find out Jesse and Celine sort of lived happily ever after. Here are some things you might not have known about the original film.
1. IN THE OPENING TRAIN SEQUENCE, THE ARGUING COUPLE ACCUSES EACH OTHER OF BEING ALCOHOLICS.
Linklater left out subtitles, so unless you’re fluent in German, you’re not going to understand their fiery exchange. Luckily, the script translates the quarrel. The man reads in his newspaper how 70,000 women are addicted to alcohol. “You’re one of them,” he says to his wife. She volleys back, saying he’s the alcoholic. “I have a reason to do it. I’m married to you!” he retorts.
2. THE RECORD CELINE AND JESSE LISTEN TO IN THE LISTENING BOOTH IS “COME HERE” BY AMERICAN SINGER KATH BLOOM.
3. LINKLATER, HAWKE, AND DELPY KNEW CELINE AND JESSE WOULD SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN.
“I always said that the movie was a litmus test for how you view romance,” Linklater told The New York Times in 2004. “Some people would go: ‘It’s so clear. They will never get back together.’ People were so sure.” He said the viewer’s interpretation depends on their romantic history. Apparently Delpy, Linklater, and Hawke are romantics—they knew Celine and Jesse would come back together.
4. CELINE AND JESSE SHOW UP IN LINKLATER’S WAKING LIFE.
In Linklater’s first rotoscoped (a type of animation) movie, Jesse and Celine appear in bed together and have a dreamy, cerebral Sunrise-esque conversation.
5. THE MOVIE TAKES PLACE ON BLOOMSDAY
Every June 16 in Dublin and other cities worldwide, people celebrate James Joyce’s Ulysses; the events in the book take place on June 16, 1904. The Joyce references don’t end there: Jesse’s real name just happens to be James.
6. THE MOVIE FEATURES CAMEOS FROM LINKLATER, ADAM GOLDBERG, AND THE FILM’S EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, JOHN SLOSS.
Goldberg, who previously worked with Linklater in Dazed and Confused, is the guy asleep on the train in the opening sequence. Fun fact: Goldberg and Delpy later dated and starred together in 2 Days in Paris, which Delpy also wrote and directed. Linklater has a Hitchcockian-like cameo in the Arena bar scene, where he plays foosball and wears a Shonen Knife T-shirt—a prolific Japanese band that released their 19th record last year. Finally, producer John Sloss, who would go on to work with Linklater on the rest of the Before films and also Boyhood, plays the complaining American in Café Sperl, the scene of Celine and Jesse’s faux telephone conversation.
7. THIS WAS THE FIRST OF 10 COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN HAWKE AND LINKLATER.
Hawke and Delpy continued working with Linklater on the Before sequels and Waking Life, but Hawke was the only one of the pair who continued to act in Linklater movies where he wasn’t a part of Jesse and Celine. Three years after Sunrise, Hawke starred in Linklater’s The Newton Boys, along with Linklater’s other muse Matthew McConaughey. Hawke also has roles in Tape, Fast Food Nation, and last year’s Boyhood. Linklater appears in Hawke’s feature directorial debut, Chelsea Walls, and Hawke’s second feature as a director, The Hottest State.
8. JESSE MENTIONS THE WRONG MISS JULY PLAYBOY PLAYMATE.
During a conversation about the first sexual feelings he had growing up, Jesse explains to Celine that he had an “obsessive relationship with Miss July 1978,” and then refers to the playmate as “Crystal.” Well, Miss July 1978 was actually Karen Morton, not someone named Crystal. Miss July passed away a year ago.
9. DESPITE THE NATURALISTIC DIALOGUE, NONE OF THE SUNRISE FILMS ARE IMPROVISED.
In a 2013 Reddit Ask Me Anything session, Linklater talked about “non-acting acting.” “It’s a compliment when people think it’s [the Sunrise trilogy] improvised, but I don’t think anyone could ever understand how much work it is for them [Delpy and Hawke].” Delpy also explained the lack of improvisation. “The truth of these movies is, they are tediously rehearsed, every detail planned, every overlapping line scripted,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2013. “It’s so precise that it’s almost a joke when people think we are acting off the cuff.”
10. THE ACTORS HAD A DIFFICULT TIME COMING UP WITH A REASON WHY CELINE WOULD GET OFF THE TRAIN WITH JESSE.
In 2012, Hawke told The Guardian he and Delpy performed “controlled improvs” about what Jesse could say to convince her to come with him. Delpy mentioned Celine would only get off the train for someone who was funny and smart. “We finally came up with this idea that I was a time traveler,” Hawke said. “She was like, ‘OK, that I would get off the train for.’”
11. BEFORE SUNRISE HAD TWO FEMALE WRITERS —KIM KRIZAN AND JULIE DELPY—BUT THE SCRIPT HAD A GENDERLESS VOICE.
Linklater told The Guardian in 2013 that Dazed and Confused “had been commandeered more by a male voice. There was such testosterone and that’s where my head was at.” He didn’t want to play favorites to one sex over the other, which is one reason why the on-going collaboration between Hawke, Delpy, and him worked so well. “Ethan and I do have this feminist side, and I think Julie has a very strong male side, so that’s the way it works: Ethan writes plenty of Julie’s dialogue, Julie writes for Ethan, and I’m the swing vote.”
12. HAWKE, LINKLATER, AND DELPY JOKED BEFORE SUNRISE WAS THE LOWEST-GROSSING FILM OF ALL TIME TO GARNER A SEQUEL, BUT THAT’S INACCURATE.
Sunrise only grossed $5 million domestically (but with inflation, it becomes the highest-grossing of the trilogy, with $10.5 million), but it got a sequel—even though no one but them wanted one. There are actually several franchises with much lower grosses that received sequels, including the V/H/S horror films.
13. A SAD ORIGIN STORY INSPIRED THE MOVIE.
In 1997, Linklater told The Morning Call that Sunrise was based on a real-life 1989 encounter he had with a woman in Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until 2013 when a Chicago Tribune article further revealed the true story: Her name was Amy Lehrhaupt, and unbeknownst to Linklater, she died in 1994, before he began filming Sunrise. Before Midnight is dedicated to her.
14. DELPY AND HAWKE WEREN’T CREDITED AS SCREENWRITERS.
They contributed to the script as much as Linklater did, but weren’t credited because “screenwriting guild rules gave authorship to the originators.” But, Hawke and Delpy did receive writing credits for the sequels, and as a result, they got nominated for two WGA awards and two Oscars.
15. DELPY INTIMIDATED HAWKE.
In a recent Reddit AMA interview, Hawke was asked: If the Sunrise trilogy came out as a Criterion Collection, what bonuses would he like to see? “My hope is to finally get to see my screen test with Julie, you know?” he told the fan. “I’ve never even seen that. And I remember it because if you want to meet an intimidating 23 year old [sic] woman, Julie Delpy is certainly one of the most intimidating I’ve ever met. But I’d love to see our audition together, you know?”