According To Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset Almost Had A Completely Different Ending

"Baby, you're gonna miss that plane." 

Has there ever been a more perfect way to close a film than the cheeky exchange in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset"? Without context, those six lines of dialogue might not mean much. But within the world of the film, and of Linklater's "Before" trilogy, it means everything. It's the perfect way to confirm that, after one fateful meeting in Vienna, and nine years apart, Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) might actually be meant for each other. Sure, Jesse's got a plane to catch, a wife and child waiting for him back home. Celine's got a life of her own, too. But as their reunion stretches on, Jesse turns down every opportunity to head to the airport, until he ends up at Celine's apartment. And it's there, with a Nina Simone album on in the background, that they both admit it: No, there's no way Jesse's actually going to catch that plane. He didn't really want to anyway.

The ending of "Before Sunset" has since immortalized the film as one of Linklater's best — not just because it indulges in a bit of fantasy, but because it does so through a realistic lens. But not everybody loved that final scene at first glance. According to star Ethan Hawke, Warner Bros. (who were distributing the film) wanted the scene completely rewritten.

"People had a huge problem with the end of 'Before Sunset,'" Hawke told IndieWire. "If I've felt sure about one thing I've done in my life, it's the end of 'Before Sunset.' That was Warner Bros. They wanted us to reshoot that. It was amazing."

'You don't have to do their notes'

Hawke didn't go into detail about the exact changes the studio requested from Linklater — or whether their request was actually more of a demand. Either way, the director and the cast managed to keep their preferred ending for the film. But how? According to Hawke, it was all a waiting game:

"Rick is cagey and when he wants to be, he's an immovable object, but he never squares off with anybody. He lets their own energy defeat them. He'll talk about it until they get bored of talking about it. He just runs out the clock. You don't have to do their notes, just listen to them, because they're saying it for a reason. Scorsese says that, too."

It's impossible to imagine how "Before Sunset" might have ended if Warner Bros. had a bigger say. Would they have wanted Jesse to actually catch his flight, and close the chapter on his and Celine's story for good? Were they crossing their fingers for a dramatic and heartfelt admission from either party? Maybe the studio wanted something a bit more gratifying, more tangible. Maybe they wanted one of those dramatic running-through-the-airport endings. Either way, that's not the kind of story that "Before Sunset" is telling. Again, the series is kind of a fantasy, but it's full of real-life nuances that make it feel like a grounded romance. It might not be all that orthodox, but it's great that Linklater was able to preserve his vision in the long run.