In the past two months, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has really started to branch into bigger pictures. Being the breakout of Inception, he collaborated with Christopher Nolan again in this summer’s The Dark Knight Rises and raced across New York City in Premium Rush. Even in his days as a youngster in Angels In The Outfield, you could tell this kid always had star power.
With Looper, he proves he can handle his own in the action genre (as if his turn as Arthur in Inception didn’t show that already.) Rarely, if ever, has the man given a bad performance and Looper continues the trend. It also marks his third collaboration with writer/director Rian Johnson.
We had a chance to sit down with Mr. Gordon-Levitt to discuss Looper and his upcoming Don Jon’s Addiction. No Batman (or Robin) here.
Starting out at such a young age, and we were just talking about Pierce [Gagnon], was there anything that you imparted in him?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Yeah, it brought back a lot of memories. I started when I was six and Pierce was five when we shot this. First I just want to say he did such a great job, so proud. I wouldn’t give him advice, because he earned my respect as an actor and I always 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 liked it when people treated me like a child.
When you were studying for the character of Joe, you also had to study Bruce Willis. How did you come up with his mannerisms?
JGL – My favorite thing as an actor is to transform and become somebody else. When I see it on the screen, if any of it reminds me of me, I’ve messed it up. I always want to disappear. My favorite actors are chameleons. It was just perfect and ideal for me. One thing I noticed was Bruce has such a powerful presence on screen, you would assume that he’s loud. He’s not, he’s actually quite soft spoken. He doesn’t need to raise his voice. That was one thing I noticed, that I tried to incorporate.
When you saw the make-up, was it strange to you how subtle it was?
JGL – Yeah it was. When I met Kazuhiro [Tsuji] he did my make-up on G.I. Joe, did my prosthetics on that which was more of a transformation. But yeah, it was very strange.
During that big montage where it transforms from you to Bruce Willis, there was a red button on Willis. Was that something from your hitRECord?
JGL – It’s a funny coincidence, to be honest. Yeah, if you look closely they’re different than the hitRECord buttons.
When it comes to the mechanics of time travel movies, how are you wrapping your head around that?
JGL – I enjoy it. The mechanics of time travel in Looper are really simple. It’s one of those time travel movies that’s not really about the time travel. It uses it as a springboard to answer a basic question of ‘what would you say to your future self if you could meet them?’ It’s fun to work it out.
What was your impression of this movie’s future?
JGL – If you keep prioritizing the rich getting richer, you’ll have the streets lining up with tents in Kansas City. Looper isn’t really about that. I think it’s kind of graceful and subtle how Rian just put that into the background.
Rian wrote this character for you. Why do you personally think that is?
JGL – I think that’d be a better question to ask him. What I’ve heard him say is that I really like becoming somebody else and this role would require the actor to transform himself, and match to an other actor. And I think he knew I would get off on that challenge.
Do you think he kind of knows what you want now because you’ve known each other for so long? Do you have a secret language?
JGL – Yeah. I don’t if I’d call it a secret language, 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 think. It’s my job as an actor is to understand what the filmmaker has in mind, and deliver the ingredients that he or she needs. Rian is definitely able to communicate to me what he wants.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest director’s in the world, and you just finished your first feature. What did you pull from Rian specifically?
JGL – I wrote one called Don Jon’s Addiction and we just finished it. One thing I noticed with Rian, Chris Nolan and Steven [Spielberg] is that they strike a great balance between two ends of a spectrum. On the one hand they’ve really done their homework and have a very thorough, preconceived vision of what they want the movie to be. On the other hand, they’re open to spontaneity and collaboration. That spectrum is what at the heart of what makes a good director. At what point do I say ‘Nope, I’m going to stick to my guns and we’re going to do it that way I always envisioned it’ and at what point do you say ‘Ok, we’re going to go in this new direction.’ Getting to watch Rian do that everyday, and Chris, and Steven, all three of them are really good and striking that balance.
Have you started to edit Don Jon’s Addiction?
JGL – Yeah, we have. I love editing. And I’ve been editing for about ten years. I got myself a copy of Final Cut Pro, and I’ve made lots of little videos, that’s what we do on hitRECord. Getting to be editing this movie, I’m working with a great editor named Lauren Zuckerman, it’s so much fun. In any movie, the performance is not made by that actor, it’s a collaboration of the actor, that filmmaker, the writer, and the editor. So much of the timing is really dictated in the editing more than the day on set. It’s different than theatre where what an audience experiences is what an actor gives them. In a lot of ways I think theatre is much more the actor’s medium. Film has to be a collaboration of a lot of people.
Looper is in theaters everywhere now.