A few weeks after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival (where it earned strong reviews and was quickly picked up for wide release by Relativity), Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Don Jon's Addiction" has made its way across the Atlantic to the Berlinale, where it's screening in the festival's Panorama section.
"I've always been fascinated with the way the media can impact our perspectives on things," Gordon-Levitt said ahead of the film's premiere. "So I thought a story about a relationship between a young man who watches too much pornography and a young woman who watches too many romantic Hollywood movies would be a really funny way to explore those themes."
His directorial debut, "Don Jon's Addiction" stars Gordon-Levitt himself as the porn-addicted young man and Scarlett Johansson as the young woman who watches too many rom coms (Julianne Moore also stars as an older woman who gives Don Jon some perspective, among other things). The film comes after the actor starred in a trio of much bigger budgeted films in 2012, though Gordon-Levitt said he was drawn to it just the same.
"I wanted to make it for the same reasons I wanted to be a part of 'The Dark Knight Rises' or 'Looper' or 'Lincoln,'" he said. "Because I believe in the story and because I think it's a good movie and because I love telling good stories through movies."
When asked about the difference between making studio movies and indies, Gordon-Levitt said in some ways there is no difference.
"To me what's most important is not the budget of the movie or where the money came from," he said. "Whether it came from Warner Brothers or whether it came from Voltage Pictures is not important. What's important for me is the intention of the filmmaker and the spirit on set and what the movie's about and why we are all making the movie."
Gordon-Levitt used "The Dark Knight Rises" as an example.
"It doesn't really get much bigger than that as far as productions go," he said. "But Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker is not just trying to make money. He's telling stories that he believes in and that are close to his heart. You can also find examples of filmmakers who are making indie movies with low budgets that are just trying to earn some sort of popularity. That only reinforces the point: The size of the movie isn't so important. It's who's making it and why they are making it."
Gordon-Levitt said Christopher Nolan was one of his biggest supporters on the project, and a big influence.
"I told Chris I was going to direct a movie and he was so supportive and encouraging," he said. "I can't tell you how much that meant to me. Just to have him say to me 'yeah, I think you could do that.' He would relay to me little things he learned. Mostly of a technical nature. The funny thing about directing a movie is while on the one hand it's a beautiful, romantic enterprise where you're taking something out of your head and making it real… There's also a lot of mundane technical things to get through and that stuff is very important to the process. Chris is excellent at that stuff"
When asked about why he chose to make a comic movie for his first feature, Gordon-Levitt said he simply didn't want to make a "heady or heavy" movie.
"It's a movie," he said. "I could write an essay if I wanted to make something heady. I find that humor is often times the best way to get at substantial themes and questions. But do so in a really entertaining and engaging way. Something everybody everyone can connect to. Take 'Dr. Strangelove.' One of my favorite movies of all time. And it's dealing with very serious issues… But it's hilarious."
Gordon-Levitt also cited "Django Unchained."
"I think Tarantino is brilliant at taking really serious issues of race and class and brutality and making it this incredibly entertaining and often funny movie. That's sort of the approach I was going for with 'Don Jon.' I wanted to make something heightened and fun."
He also made something quite explicit, with various images of hardcore pornography splattered throughout the film. Gordon-Levitt said he has full intentions to cut it down to get in a 'R' rating for its U.S. release.
"We do expect to make cuts," he said. "And I don't have a problem with it. I don't think it will really change the movie. I think it's important that those images are in there. But exactly what the images are is really less important. What's more important is the rhythm of it. It's the story of a guy who has a very set routine in life. So the repetition of it is important. But what precisely you see in those images… It won't effect the movie for us to go in and change that."