Few films rest as heavily on the chemistry, charisma, and equal work and commitment of two people as Richard Linklater’s Before movies, a trilogy of two-handers that simply wouldn’t function without either Julie Delpy or Ethan Hawke in their central roles. (Indeed, the two performers helped critically shape the characters of wandering might-be lovers Cèline and Jesse, to the extent that Linklater credited them as co-writers on the second and third films.) Which is what makes a recent statement from Delpy such a bummer, as she reveals she was paid roughly “a tenth” of what Hawke was on 1995's Before Sunrise, and “half” what he was paid on the sequel, Before Sunset.
Delpy opened up about the pay disparity during a recent conversation with Variety, in which she also noted that she only agreed to do the third film, Before Midnight, if she’d be paid the same as her co-star and collaborator at last. These kinds of discrepancies have, of course, become a hot topic in Hollywood in recent years—spurred on by multi-million-dollar differences in the paychecks brought home by Michelle Williams vs. Mark Wahlberg, or the eternally baffling reminder that Claire Foy somehow wasn’t the highest paid performer on The Crown. And all of these arguments can, of course, get extremely complicated, in terms of agents, deals, perceived value, comparisons of past credits, and the bizarre supply and demand system that so consistently seems to prize the status of “hot” young actors over their co-stars. But also it’s really not all that complicated, in so far as if you’ve ever watched Before Sunrise and thought “Obviously, Julie Delpy’s performance here is only as tenth as valuable as Ethan Hawke’s,” you’re out of your goddamn mind. (Ditto Sunset.)
Delpy is current promoting her new film My Zoe, which she wrote, stars in, and directs.