Earlier this year at WonderCon, I was lucky to cover director Rian Johnson‘s panel for Looper, as I had already been a huge fan of his previous work (Brick & The Brothers Bloom). At that time, little had been known about the project and Johnson introduced the intriguing time-travel concept, as well as the amazing makeup work that would transform actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt into a younger version of Bruce Willis. So what updates have transpired on the film since March, now that its release is imminent?
Moderator Ralph Garman (of Kevin Smith’s SModcast Podcast Network) began the San Diego Comic-Con panel by introducing director Johnson, and actors Emily Blunt and Gordon-Levitt. Willis was unavailable, as he’s shooting A Good Day to Die Hard in Europe.
Johnson said he was inspired by Philip K. Dick for the concept, and wanted to explore the idea of crime syndicates of the future, and the hitmen under their employ, and the idea developed from there. Blunt was vague about her character Sara’s details, as she was afraid it might spoil the plot, but described her as cagey and a badass.
They rolled a 4-5 minute (in my opinion) spoiler-laden clip that described the world of the Looper and Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe’s particular predicament within that world, along with tons of terrific action footage.
Johnson said after they cast Willis, he realized that he doesn’t look anything like Gordon-Levitt, so they chose certain Willis facial features like his nose and eyebrows to create prostheses for Gordon-Levitt to wear, but credits the lion’s share of the performance to Gordon-Levitt’s personal embodiment of Willis.
Gordon-Levitt says that he’s not a good mimic, and proved it with a god-awful imitation of Blunt’s British accent. For research, he watched all of Willis’ films and Willis himself provided homemade tapes. Gordon-Levitt also hung out with Willis endlessly to get steeped in his accent and mannerisms.
Johnson said he wrote the role for Gordon-Levitt because he was dying to work with him again after Brick, and knew Gordon-Levitt would throw himself completely into the role. Blunt was attracted to her role from reading the script, which she described as “rich in complexity.” She said she “strong-armed” Johnson to hire her.
Garmin wondered if Looper might seem too complex for audiences to make sense of. Johnson assured him by saying his model for time travel was James Cameron’s first Terminator film, as opposed to a more complex film like Shane Carruth’s Primer.
During Q & As Gordon-Levitt was asked what the best part of working with Blunt was. He praised her sense of humor, saying that most girls aren’t naturally funny, but she was.
Gordon-Levitt said the most striking thing about co-star Bruce Willis is how soft-spoken he was for such a macho guy. Willis doesn’t have to raise his voice to prove his masculinity. Blunt sent her dad a photo of Willis covered with blood, carrying a flowery parasol. Gordon-Levitt said Willis was really inspired by Johnson’s script and passionate about working with him, and that passion overshadowed any “action movie icon” ego that one would expect Willis to have.
Gordon-Levitt said the important thing about a film isn’t the size of the budget, but the passion of the filmmakers, and Johnson is such a director, regardless of the budget. He said that Christopher Nolan (his director for Inception and The Dark Knight Rises) has the same attitude as well.
Gordon-Levitt admitted that playing Joe wasn’t much of a physical challenge, as he didn’t need to work out at all for this film, compared to other roles. Blunt credited him for creating an embodiment of Willis while simultaneously avoiding being an imitation. Blunt’s personal challenge on the film was portraying a person completely different from her own British background and upbringing.
Johnson was asked if it was intimidating to work on such a big budget tentpole picture, compared to his previous films. He said in the long run, whether it’s a multi-million dollar epic or goofing off with a bunch of friends and a video camera, it’s all about getting great performances and telling compelling stories, Looper is like a homemade film, just with a better script.
Blunt feels Looper is the best movie she’s been a part of, but the most physically challenging for her was The Adjustment Bureau, because it was draining and exhausting for her to play a convincing dancer.
Gordon-Levitt was asked who was his acting inspiration, to which he replied his favorite actors are the ones that completely disappear into their roles, and that’s what he aspires to. Looper was physically hard for him not only to have the makeup on, but to embody Bruce Willis. For him the distinction between mind and body is inseparable, and the challenges in acting the same.
Johnson considers himself the luckiest SOB in the world to work with such great actors as Gordon-Levitt, Blunt, and Willis, and it was an intense process for him to create the words to put into their mouths. He said that writing for him is no fun, and it’s so satisfying afterward to be able to be surprised by the unexpected performances of his dialogue from great actors like his Looper stars.
Looper opens September 28th, 2012.
All Photos by Dave3