Joseph Gordon-Levitt Interview For Rian Johnson’s ‘Looper’
In the futuristic action thriller ‘Looper,’ time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson and also stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels. ’Looper’ is released in cinemas September 28th. Look out for in-depth interviews with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Rian Johnson and Emily Blunt for ‘Looper’ next week.
‘Looper’ re-teams you with writer/director Rian Johnson, who you‘ve remained good friends with since filming ‘Brick’ almost a decade ago. How was that experience of working with a friend, and working on something I can imagine he told you the idea about a number of years ago?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah. Rian and I first met nearly ten years ago. It wasn’t too long after we shot ‘Brick’ that he started telling me about his idea for ‘Looper.’ He ended up writing the lead character for me, which is the first time that’s ever happened to me as an actor, so to play that was a great honour. It’s a treat to work with a true friend, and Rian and I….it was 2003 that we shot ‘Brick,’ it didn’t come out until 2006. We’ve done even little things together before we started on ‘Looper,’ making little videos and songs all the time. For years we’ve been talking about this idea, about ‘Looper.’ And the standard for an actor in a movie is that you get the script a few months before you start shooting – which is just a different process, I’m not saying ones is better or worse, but it is out of the ordinary and really special to have this much investment in the material and have such a personal connection with the director.
Playing younger Joe, the younger version of Bruce Willis’ Joe in ’Looper,’ what was the approach of bringing that to life?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I didn’t want to do a Bruce Willis impersonation – that’s not really my forte. I wanted to create a character that felt like it could be a younger version of this guy – just give it a bit of that Willis flavour. Bruce is a really understated guy, so to see him to a little double-take when he looked at me was really thrilling. At one point, he said, “Man, you sound like me.” I tried to play it cool – “Oh, thanks, dude” – but inside, I was thinking, “YEAH!” (Laughs)
In preparing for the role, what sort of things did you do to capture Bruce Willis‘ mannerisms?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I studied Bruce Willis’ movies, and I would take the audio from some of his movies and put them on my iPod so that I could listen to him. Bruce actually recorded himself doing some of my monologues and sent me the tapes so that I could listen to that, and that was all really useful. But I think the most important thing for me was just getting to know him, hanging out having dinner, talking about whatever, that was where I think I really learned what I wanted to do with the character.
What sort of background did you have with his movies before ‘Looper’?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I think every guy my age idolises Bruce Willis a little bit (laughs). I was a kid when the first ‘Die Hard’ came out and I would always want to see the new ones when they came out. But then beyond ‘Die Hard’ he’s the star of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ he’s in ‘Sin City,’ he’s in ‘Twelve Monkeys’….I don’t know how many other huge action stars there are that have also been in some of the greatest movies of recent times. And that’s Bruce for you – and he is, I think, actually even more impressive in person. He’s huge, I never thought he was so big (laughs). Bruce is actually a really big, broad, imposing dude. Which is interesting because his attitude is the opposite of that, he’s the most gentle, understated, just graceful, chilled out guy.
You went through nearly three hours of makeup and prosthetics every single morning to adjust your nose, upper lip and lower lip to play the younger Joe. How was it working with the special effects makeup designers on this transformation?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I had the pleasure of working with Kazuhiro Tsuji, who is arguably the best special effects makeup designer in the world. He’s a magician. You can’t tell that there’s make-up at all, but I spent three hours in the makeup chair every morning getting a nose, lips, eyebrows, ears, and contact lenses. We were never going to be able to make me look exactly like Bruce Willis, because we just look completely different, but I think we did enough that the audience doesn’t have to think about it – they just have to feel, “Yep, that character is the same guy as that other character, 30 years later.”
For me, ‘Looper‘ has the dual elements of being incredibly entertaining, yet at the same time emotionally involving and smart…..
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: That’s my favourite type of movie, one that will give you a good time – and this is a rocking sci-fi movie, but it also asks some really important questions that get to the heart of the human condition. And that’s what I want when I go to movies, I want a fun time and something to talk about when it’s over. I don’t want to be just walking out of the cinema and be like, “Ok, cool, what are we going to eat?” I like to have something to have a conversation about, something to think about – something maybe I’ll keep thinking about for a while. And ‘Looper’ has really got both of those elements.
The crux of ‘Looper’ is what would you say to your future self or past self if you were sitting across from each other and have a conversation. Obviously that can never happen in real life, so that’s what is so great about science fiction – that can happen. And kind of the centre piece in the movie is the diner scene where Bruce’s older Joe and my younger Joe, the same character, are sitting across from each other talking.
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