The fall movie season is shifting into high gear. As September comes to a close, fans are ready for a variety of films to bite into. One of them being Rian Johnson‘s Looper, the director’s first venture into the sci-fi genre. The movie takes place 30 years into the future where time travel has been created but outlawed. A secret group of men called Loopers, are assigned to kill targets sent from the future to their past by the mob. When the organization starts going haywire, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets caught in a strange situation involving his future himself.
ScreenCrave recently spoke with Gordon-Levitt about collaborating with the insanely talented Rian Johnson. He also discussed his acting challenges and working with Bruce Willis.
Was it a challenge to take on Bruce Willis’ mannerisms?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah. My favorite thing as an actor is to become somebody else and really transform myself. And when I see something on the screen and [if] any of it reminds me of me, I feel like I’ve messed it up. So I always want to disappear. My favorite actors are the chameleons, like Gary Oldman or Daniel Day-Lewis or Meryl Streep or Peter Sellers or people like that who you don’t see them on screen. And Looper really afforded me the opportunity to transform more than I have before in a movie. So it was just perfect, ideal for me. That’s what I love the most.
Were there any nuances from Bruce that you really wanted to grab on to?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: One thing I noticed was Bruce has such a wonderful presence onscreen, you would assume that he’s loud, but he’s not. He’s actually quite soft-spoken. He doesn’t need to raise his voice; he has it innately. So that’s one thing I noticed that I tried to incorporate.
How do you wrap your head around time travel movies?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: I enjoy it for sure. And the mechanics of the time-travel in Looper is really simple. It’s not one of those time travel movies that’s really about the time travel. It uses time travel as a springboard to ask a much more basic human question, which is what would you say to your future self if you could meet them. But yeah it’s fun to kind of work it out.
Was there anything you could impart to child star Pierce Gagnon (Cid) since you also started acting as a youngster?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: It brought back a lot of memories because I started working when I was six and Pierce was five when we shot it. First off, he did such a great job; he made me so proud and the other thing I’d like to say is that he is nothing like that [character]. He’s a really fun, jubilant little guy. But I wouldn’t give him advice. I wouldn’t talk down to him that way. He earned my respect as an actor so I just treated him like a colleague and a peer. I remember when I was that age liking people who would treat me like that. I never appreciated it when people talked to me like a child. It’s like I gotta do this the same way everybody else does so why are you treating me like a little kid? So I tried not to treat Pierce like a little kid and he didn’t need to be treated that way. He really came through.
What do you think about this character was tailor-made for you? Because we know Rian wrote it with you in mind.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Well he’d be better to ask than I would. What I’ve heard him say before is he knows what I like best about acting is what I was just talking about. I really like becoming somebody else. This role would require the young actor to really transform himself and match to an older actor. He think I knew I would get off on that challenge.
Do you feel you could anticipate what he wants now since you’ve known him for so long now? Do you have a little secret language with him on set?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah, I would actually say yes. I don’t know if I would call it a secret language exactly but we’ve watched countless movies together. We’ve spent endless hours talking about movies and he’s one of my best friends in the world. That absolutely helps when you’re on set to understand how he thinks. I think my job as an actor is to understand what the filmmaker has in mind and deliver the ingredients that he or she needs so they can cut the movie together. Rian is able to definitely communicate to me what he wants.
Do you think audiences are ready to tackle that without you giving them an answer?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Absolutely. That’s one thing I really admire about Rian is that he doesn’t talk down to his audience. It’s something he has in common with Christopher Nolan. He’s a very different filmmaker and a very different guy and I love them both for very different reasons. But one thing they have in common is that they never condescend to their audience. They are not afraid to make a movie with some intelligence that an audience will… They’re confident an audience will enjoy thinking about the story. When Inception came out and was such a success, I remember the conversation that I had with Rian because we had already been talking about Looper for quite awhile at that point. He was just so ecstatic that Inception sort of proved that even in today’s culture you can really have a movie that asks an audience to really think about some things and audiences dig it. We felt that it would really help us get Looper made.
Looper opens in theaters September 28.