By EW Staff
April 21, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Before Sunset: Emilie De La Hosseraye
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”Before Sunrise,” Richard Linklater’s 1995 romance starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as students who meet on a train to Vienna, grossed $5.4 million — not bad for an indie, but not the kind of box office tally that signals a follow-up. ”We’re the lowest-grossing film to ever spawn a sequel,” laughs the director. ”It was just something we all felt. These characters were alive in us.” Though the trio had considered a sequel, it wasn’t until the actors reunited on Linklater’s 2001 ”Waking Life” that plans got under way. ”We worked out a specific outline over several days,” Linklater continues. ”Then over the next year, we were e-mailing and faxing and meeting when we could.” The story picks up nine years later, with Jesse (Hawke), now a novelist, and Celine (Delpy), an environmentalist, meeting again in Paris. (The $3 million movie was shot on location in 15 days.)

So far, buzz has been positive: Audiences raved at March’s South by Southwest fest. ”I find it touching for people who have grown up with these characters to make a leap with them,” says Linklater. ”For the three of us, it represents a kind of life project.” Meaning the team hasn’t ruled out future Jesse and Celine stories. ”It would be interesting to follow [them] through many, many years,” says Delpy.

THE GOOD NEWS Linklater is on a career high following ”School of Rock.”

THE BAD NEWS Hawke is no Jack Black.

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