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Director Rian Johnson joined stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt at Comic-Con International to talk with reporters about Looper, the futuristic action thriller.
Gordon-Levitt plays Joseph Simmons, who works in the year 2042 as a “Looper,” as assassin whose targets are delivered to him from 30 years in the future, where time travel exists and is used illegally by the mafia as a way to remove problem individuals and leave no trace. But when Simmons’ new target is an older version of himself, it leads to a conflict he never expected. The Simmons is played by Bruce Willis, while Emily Blunt portrays the mysterious Sara.
In the film, Gordon-Levitt wears prosthetic makeup to resemble Willis, and worked to mimic the star’s voice, poster and delivery. The actors laughed about how the makeup startled some people and led to an interesting first encounter between Blunt and Gordon-Levitt.
“I arrived on set and no one had told me Joe was wearing prosthetic makeup,” Blunt explained. “I’m staring at him, probably oddly, because I couldn’t figure out why he looked nothing like how I imagined! And then I started to have this kind of brain-melting experience, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, I am not speaking to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I’m speaking to his stuntman!”
“My favorite is when your parents were on set,” Johnson interjected, prompting further laughter from the actors. “And they were even freaked out by it!”
And how did Willis react to seeing a younger version of himself?
“That was one of the highlights of the whole thing, Bruce seeing me for the first time and tripping out a little bit,” Gordon-Levitt explained excitedly. “It’s hard to rattle him. He’s seen a lot and he’s an understated man, so to get any reaction out of him is pretty exciting!”
But beyond the carefully crafted prosthetics, what did Gordon-Levitt do to imitate his famous co-star?
“I think the thing I focused on most was his voice,” he explained after some consideration. “I find the voice is what I look for first and foremost with just about every character I play. … And Bruce was really accommodating and open and collaborative in helping me do that. He recorded himself reading some of my voiceover lines so I could hear how he would sound saying them, which I thought was really cool.”
“I wrote the script with Joe in mind,” Johnson revealed. “We had stayed friends since we made Brick together, and we’d just both been dying to work with each other again. And thank God, he said yes.”
But what brought Blunt into the project? “I’m definitely not a science nerd, I’ll say that,” she admitted with a laugh. “But I read about 30 pages of the script and I was already on the phone with my agent. Hadn’t even got to my character and I was like, ‘Get me this movie!’ It’s so rich in complexity. … I think I needed a few reads of it, for sure.”
Concerning her character Sara, Blunt said, “I think it’s the same for a lot of actresses: You look for female roles that aren’t objectified, that aren’t simplified, that aren’t simply the reactionary role to a fantastic male role. This character had such a singular voice … and she had a really rich past. And it was a challenge for me, and I do look for that now. I really look for asking myself that question, ‘Oh, my God, how am I going to do this?’ That’s what I aspire to every time I take on a new role.”
Regarding the many action/adventure films he’s appeared in recently, Joseph Gordon-Levitt remarked, “I have a pretty eclectic tastes in the movies I like to watch and also the movies I’m inspired to work on. I don’t think action for action’s sake is so fun, but when it helps tell the story, I love doing a good fight scene. Some of my favorite fight scenes I’ve ever done are in Brick … I think violence begets violence and I don’t think the way to solve any sort of conflict is with violence.”
Adding to that, Johnson said, “In many ways, the movie’s about this thing you see in action movies — but also, unfortunately, in real life – this notion that you can solve a problem by finding the right person and killing them. The very title of the movie, Looper, [is a reference to] the notion that that kind of thinking creates this self-perpetuating loop. And what can we do as human beings to break that?”
The experience of this movie has also influenced Gordon-Levitt’s new experience behind the camera.
“I just directed a movie that I wrote called Don John’s Addiction,” he said. “I do think that having a 2011 where I worked with Rian and then Chris Nolan and then Steven Spielberg — I couldn’t ask for a better year leading up to directing a movie for the first time. And those three directors actually have a lot in common. Rian is obviously less known than Chris and Steven at this point, but I think when all is said and done, they’ll actually be three directors who are regarded in a similar fashion.”
Looper opens Sept. 28.