The True Stories Behind 10 Directors’ Most Personal Films

Many people believe that all art is shaped by our personal experiences. In the case of these ten directors, that certainly seems true. After reading a heartbreaking story shared by Richard Linklater, which became the inspiration for his 1995 film Before Sunrise (featured after the jump), we went searching for more true stories behind directors’ most personal films. Some created their movies as a way to cope with the struggles of their past and document an experience, while others used the platform to ponder their future. The stories provide a snapshot of the private lives and creative minds of some of cinema’s greatest filmmakers.


Before Sunrise is one of cinema’s greatest romantic dramas, but many people don’t know that the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) was inspired by a real experience director Richard Linklater had in Philadelphia. It was only recently that the filmmaker revealed the details of a special night he spent walking through the city with a woman in 1989. During press rounds for the final chapter in the Before series, Before Midnight, Linklater finally told his story:

“It’s personal and I don’t talk about it, but I met a girl in Philadelphia in 1989, and we ended up spending the night walking around, flirting, doing things you would never do now. I was at that stage in life where I was open, so we just walked and got to know each other. I remember, even as we were walking, thinking, ‘This could be a movie. Not the intrigue that happens after people kiss and sleep together, but this, this period of learning about another person.’ Which is probably what makes me a boring partner and boyfriend in the real world — throughout history! I’m never quite there for people, I’m never quite present. I’m always somewhere else.”

The director went on to explain to the interviewer that he met Amy Lehrhaupt in a toy shop. They kept in touch for a time, but eventually lost contact. He hoped she would show up at a screening of Before Sunrise, so she would finally understand how profound the evening was for Linklater, but he learned that she died. Lehrhaupt was killed in a motorcycle accident a few weeks before the movie started shooting. Linklater dedicated Before Midnight to his muse.