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Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Becoming Bruce Willis for 'Looper' and Whether his Upcoming Directorial Debut About a Porn Addict is Autobiographical

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire September 9, 2012 at 11:21AM

Unless you've been living under a rock this past year, you're well aware that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's stock in Hollywood has risen.
1
"Looper"
Sony "Looper"

Unless you've been living under a rock this past year, you're well aware that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's stock in Hollywood has risen.

The former TV star has been cultivating a varied and impressive body of work since impressing critics with his turn as a male hustler in Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin." This year Gordon-Levitt had his busiest yet: reuniting with his "Inception" director, Christopher Nolan, for "The Dark Knight Rises;" leading both "Premium Rush," and Rian Johnson's high concept sci-fi spectacular "Looper;" playing son to Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Oscar hopeful "Lincoln;" wrapping principal photography on his directorial debut, "Don Jon's Addiction" (in which he stars alongside Julianne Moore and Scarlett Johansson); and heading his multimedia studo, hitRECord.

[Editor's Note: This interview originally ran during the Toronto International Film Festival. "Looper" opens September 28.]

"Looper," which kicked off the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night, is the next film out of the gate for the actor, and it marks his reunion with his "Brick" writer-director, Rian Johnson. Set in the future, "Looper" imagines a world where if the mob wants to kill someone, they send their target 30 years into the past where a hired guman (a Looper) awaits to execute them. Gordon-Levitt plays a Looper who is forced into survival mode when the target they send back for him to kill turns out to be his older self (played by Bruce Willis).

Indiewire sat down with Gordon-Levitt in Toronto, shortly following the world premiere of "Looper," to discuss the challenges associated with playing a younger Willis (he dons a prosthetic nose to resemble to "Die Hard" star in the film), and going behind the camera for the first time.

"Looper"
Sony "Looper"

You've become quite the action star over the past three years, something I for one didn't see coming. Did you?

Well, I really do like physicality in movies [laughs]. I don't know if I have an answer to that. The term sounds good to me.

Rian was ahead of the curve in terms of seeing you as an action type -- he started writing this, with you in mind, 10 years ago, right?

It wasn't long after we started shooting "Brick" that he started telling me about this time travel idea that he had. I mean, speaking of action, the action sequences in "Brick" are great. They had no money, which kind of makes them even cooler. The fun of them are in how well thought through, and how clever he is with the choreography and the camera work. He doesn't rely on big special effects, or anything like that. He's brought that same ingenuity to his filmmaking in "Looper." Now he does have the scale of a Bruce Willis action movie.

What did you first make of the completed script when he sent it to you?

I mean I loved it. I'd be hearing about it for a while, so my expectations were high. And then they were met. I loved it as a story, but also as a unique challenge for an actor. Because the premise of getting to sit down with your future self, that's fascinating. That means that I'm going to have to create a character that somehow convinces the audience instantaneously that this other actor and I are the same dude. That's what I really get off on when it comes to any acting job. I like performances where you can't see the actor, where you see the character on screen.

"I like performances where you can't see the actor, where you see the character on screen."

Given that you were cast first, did you play a part in the casting of Bruce Willis as your older self?

I mean I was involved. This is the film where I have an executive producer credit. But I wouldn't take any of the credit for Bruce getting involved. I think Bruce has a real talent for taking his enormous cachet as a huge movie star, and finding cool unexpected pieces of material to lend himself to. "Pulp Fiction" or "Twelve Monkeys" being two great examples.

When did the prosthetic nose come into play? Was it always envisioned that you would physically transform yourself to resemble whoever was cast as the older you?

Yeah. We always thought we would do something with makeup. But obviously we didn't exactly know what until Bruce came aboard. Bruce and I have compeltey different faces, so the makeup team was reticent.

The thing is, we didn't feel like we needed it to be exact. We just needed it to be enough to suggest to the audience that, look, these are the same people. I think that's what we did.

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper, Interviews






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