Movie columnist Jason Weiler attends an interivew between “Looper” director Rian Johnson and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
In a business based on networking and constant change, it isn’t often that you find lasting creative relationships, yet that is exactly what actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and writer-director Rian Johnson have had for many years now. First coming together in the film “Brick” (released in 2005), the two friends find themselves working together once more on “Looper”. As Gordon-Levitt proudly states, “We’ve been really close friends since [Brick], and to get to work with someone who’s your friend like that is rare.” Johnson echoes his statements, “it’s always good to work with friends.” The idea for Looper started 10 years ago, when Johnson first wrote it as a short story. Since then, he has crafted the story into what has ultimately become one of 2012’s most anticipated films.
For Gordon-Levitt, the film marks the first time he has executive-produced a feature film, something made possible through his friendship with Johnson. “I saw the script years ago, and we’ve been talking about it since then and working towards making it come together in the right way,” says Gordon-Levitt. While there are many facets of Johnson’s story and direction that make the film compelling, the most striking is the physical and mental transformation that Gordon-Levitt underwent for his role, in order to portray a convincing younger Bruce Willis. “Joe wrapped himself around Bruce. He didn’t study the young Bruce Willis, but the modern Bruce Willis” states Johnson.
And study he did. Gordon-Levitt went to great lengths to achieve a convincing younger counterpart to the legendary actor, both physically (he spent hours in the makeup chair each day of filming) and mentally. Like a senior calculating their final project, Gordon-Levitt was very creative in his preparation methods. “I watched his movies, ripped the audio off them so I could listen on repeat, and he even recorded some of my monologues so I could hear what they’d sound like in his voice” Gordon-Levitt states humbly.
While Looper is certainly not lacking in the science-fiction department, both appreciate how much deeper the film is, especially given the genre. Says Gordon-Levitt, “”Looper” is ultimately a drama….It’s a movie that uses time travel but it’s not about time travel.” Johnson agrees with that presumption. “I think of Looper as a noir film that is tamed by Sarah’s (Emily Blunt) character.”
In addition to the great special effects, the film features lavish cinematography that is reminiscent of past science-fiction classics such as “The Terminator” and “Blade Runner”. Johnson recalls the time he spent working with his production crew, saying “I storyboarded with cinematographer Steve Yedlin before production began”, and this kind of preparation is noticeable given the beauty of the final product.
Though it is much too early to predict the success of the film, what is most important for these two friends is that they are doing what they love to do. Getting to do that with a close friend makes it all the sweeter, as Gordon-Levitt perfectly sums up: “We are making something that we think is cool.”
FOGHORN GRADE: A