Before Sunrise came out in 1995. Before Sunset followed in 2004. Before Midnight opened in theaters in 2013. Exactly nine years passed between each of the films featuring star-crossed lovers Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) — which means if Delpy, Hawke, and director Richard Linklater were going to make a fourth film, it should ideally come out later this year. And that’s not happening.

So is that the end of one of the most beloved film series in history? Linklater himself concedes that it might be. In a new interview with Collider, he says the thinks they “missed [their] window” to make a fourth film.

“It should be coming out now,” Linklater admitted. “The great idea didn't really gel. I think the last one took a lot out of us. I don't know.”

Linklater also said “never say never” but added that if the Before trilogy winds up being just that, he’s okay with that.

A trilogy, if it ends up that, that's good, but it's hopefully a long life. You know? And if the second Jesse and Celine are talking to us...that's how it worked the other two times. We realized they were still alive and talking to us. And a great idea emerged that was worthy of the effort that it takes to make a film like that. So that just hasn't quite happened yet. But when it does, who knows?

The way Linklater talks about the project, it seems pretty clear Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke did consider making a fourth movie; they just didn’t find a concept they could all agree on. Given the lovely progression of the three films, with Celine and Jesse meeting as strangers and sharing a magical night in Vienna, to reconnecting in Paris, to living together as a couple and finding the realities of middle age often do not live up to the dreams of youth, it’s tough to see what comes next. Another movie where they’re together and even more unhappy? Or they’ve broken up but they meet to finalize a divorce? Or they’re just a happily married couple with no major issues? None of those sound like appealing options. And if Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke couldn’t crack the concept, it’s better not to force a fourth movie.

Linklater’s latest film, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood, is now available on Netflix.

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