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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.
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"Looper"
Sony "Looper"

Not only do you make a physical transformation, but you altered your voice and mannerisms. You seem to have really lost yourself inside this guy.

Thank you. I try to create a unique character for every movie, but this one required a really extreme and unique transformation. I studied Bruce's movies. I ripped the audio from his movies and put it on my iPod so I could listen it on repeat. He even recorded himself doing some of my voiceover monologues, and sent me that so I could listen to it in his voice. And then really the most productive of it was just getting to know him -- hanging out, having dinner, talking.

It's fascinating that you and Rian chose Bruce as the basis for who this guy is, and not you, even though you were cast first. Why did you guys decide to go down that route?

'Cause he's Bruce Willis [laughs]. And I think that that makes sense, in this case, that the younger man defer to the older man.

Would you be down to talking about your directorial debut?

Oh, of course, man! I'm glad you asked about it.

Now the film's about a porn addict. Given that you wrote it, and you play the lead guy, is it at all autobiographical?

Ah, the character's very different from me. It's a story that's not just about porn. The porn's a really good symbol for how we all kind of objectify each other. A guy addicted to porn is a good cinematic, visual metaphor for that. That's something we confront a lot, especially in our culture today -- the way the media works, the way the internet works. We're all so ready to pigeonhole each other to labels and surfaces. That's kind of what the movie's about.

As far as the movie being autobiographical, I wouldn't claim to be guiltless. We all are guilty of it to a certain degree.

" As far as the movie being autobiographical, I wouldn't claim to be guiltless. We all are guilty of it to a certain degree."

You wrapped shooting on it, right?

Yeah, we're editing it now. I think it's turning out great. Scarlett's fantastic in it. She's really transformed herself in this movie, speaking of transformation. Her character's totally different from anything that I've seen her do. Tony Danza's playing my dad!

How did this whole thing come to be? hitRECord is such a success, but it's such a collaborative endeavor on your part. Is this a result of your experience spearheading that, or is this something completely separate that you've always wanted to do?

I always wanted to direct a movie. hitRECord, I love it, but it's a really unconventional process. I do hope that one day hitRECord is able to make a feature film, and I think that's in the cards for us. But before I felt capable of leading a collaborative medium to a feature in such an unconventional way, I thought it was important that at least I make on in a conventional way.

What gave you the confidence you could pull it off?

It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But I've seen it done a lot of times, and seen some of the greatest do it. In 2011, I got to work with Rian, then Christopher Nolan, and then Steven Spielberg. Even though the latter two are more well known, I would put Rian in that same echelon. Getting to spend time with those three directors was pretty key in me feeling courageous, or crazy enough to give it a try myself.

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






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