July 12, 2004 12:00 PM

Playing a French student who spent a romantic night with American Ethan Hawke in 1995’s Before Sunrise, Julie Delpy was so reserved that she wrapped a big shirt around her waist to conceal her figure. Filming the sequel, Before Sunset, the Paris-born actress has become a lot more free-spirited. After starting a brief affair with a man who had the same name as Hawke’s Before character, “I called Rick [Linklater, who directed both films] and Ethan right away,” says Delpy. “I was like, ‘I had a one-night stand with a guy named Jesse!’ ”

In Before Sunset, Delpy and Hawke’s characters cross paths again nine years later and take stock of their lives. For Delpy, in real life, being 34 beats being 25 any day. “I feel better in my body than I did then,” she says (oh, to be French: “I eat mostly carbs”). “In my 20s I was a disaster. I was totally insecure.” A few years ago she re-evaluated her life (“like a midlife crisis, but I had it at 30”) and began pursuing directing (2002’s Looking for Jimmy) and music (she released an album in Europe and composed three songs on the Before Sunset soundtrack). “She’s so ferociously intelligent,” says Hawke, “that I don’t think just being an actor was ever going to make her happy.”

And romance? “I have a lot of luck with men,” says Delpy, who declines to name her current beau. Marriage is something “I never wanted, never ever. But people change. Maybe in three years, all I’ll want is a kid.”

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