Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the hardest working actors out there, and has been for some time, despite being just 31 years-old. From doing a plethora of lauded indie work to frequently showing up in critically acclaimed “mainstream” flicks such as Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, the introspective guy’s focused efforts to his craft are leading him into a rarified spotlight.
The upcoming release, Looper, has JGL starring side-by-side with one of Hollywood’s elite in Bruce Willis. Without giving too much away, Gordon-Levitt is cast as a younger version of Willis’ character. So the natural question to ask is what angle he took to accurately portray the veteran performer?
“I actually focused on his recent movies,” said Levitt. “I was less concerned with creating a young Bruce Willis, and more concerned with creating a character that could match with the current Bruce Willis. So I watched most of his recent movies; particularly Sin City was one I kind of fixated on. And I would just watch them and rip the audio off those movies and put them on my iPod so I could listen to it on repeat. Bruce even sent me, recording himself, doing my voice-over monologues, so I could hear what it would sound like in his voice.”
Gordon-Levitt went on to say that the most beneficial tactic was just hanging out at dinners and talking regularly with Willis, and letting it all seep in. Well that, and spending three hours in the make-up chair having his face prodded with glue, to enact a more physical likeness to what his 57 year-old co-star may have looked like at his character’s age.
Looper is essentially a sci-fi/drama. And this marriage of both genre worlds has been well-received by both critics and audiences the last few years. The next question posed to Gordon-Levitt was whether or not he factors in how certain genres are being received at theaters before signing on for the role?
“I focus on whether I connect with the filmmaker and if I’m inspired by their work,” he said. “And whether or not the material inspires me and the character in the material makes me want to become that guy.”
“I think every genre has its virtue and strengths. Looper is my favorite kind of sci-fi in that it’s not really focused on the shiny gadgets and spaceships or whatever. It’s about a basic human question. But it uses sci-fi as a springboard to dramatize that question; which is basically, what would it be like to sit across the table of your future self? What would you say?”
The man who provided JGL with that opportunity of “talking to your future self,” is his friend, writer/director Rian Johnson. Back in 2005, they worked together on Johnson’s indie pic, Brick. So is it more-or-less pressure when working for a good buddy?
“(Laughs) Rian and I communicate really easily and that’s a huge help. He expresses himself clearly, but also, we know each other so well that I feel very able to understand exactly what he’s looking for. And that to me is really my job as an actor: to get the best understanding I can of what the director has in mind and give that to them. It definitely helped that I know him so well.”
We closed our telephone chat yapping about if people’s perception of his career stature bugs him with regards to now seemingly becoming an A-list leading man. As mentioned in the opening, the guy has been a leading performer in an assortment of award-nominated independent features (50/50, 500 Days of Summer), though the general public believes that this past August’s Premium Rush, was his first true opportunity.
An example that was tossed out by yours truly is how many people think I strictly just review movies. I told him that it can be irksome or even annoying at times when people do not realize all the other aspects of my journalistic duties/coverage. Gordon-Levitt’s articulate and candid thoughts on the matter:
“To me that’s what is interesting about movies or any kind of art form, because everyone has their own perception about it. And I’m always fascinated to see what people make of it.”
“What reminds me of your experience is when people come up to me but they’re not interested in movies. They’re just interested in that I’m famous or rich, and that to me is always awkward. But anyone that comes up and that has actually seen a movie I’m in and thought about, that is always an interesting conversation for me.”
“I’m always happy to hear when someone has actually connected to some work that I’ve done,” he continues. “People have been saying this to me about Looper, ‘I saw it and was talking about it with my friends for hours,’ and I love hearing that! That means what I did was meaningful to someone else. And to participate in that is deeply meaningful and something I deeply appreciate.”
Looper opens everywhere on September 28th.