''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.