Rian Johnson Spills Details On His Time-Travel Movie Looper

By David Wharton | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

Director Rian Johnson made one hell of a first impression with his film Brick back in 2005. The much-acclaimed movie combined the tropes of detective fiction and film noir with a high school setting, and further established Joseph Gordon-Levitt as one of the most talented young actors of his generation. With the upcoming Looper, Johnson is reuniting with his Brick leading man for a twisty tale of time travel. In a new interview Johnson has revealed a few details about Looper‘s convoluted plot, and the challenge Joseph Gordon-Levitt had in playing a younger version of one of cinema’s best-known stars: Bruce Willis himself.

For those who haven’t been following the movie’s development, Looper casts Gordon-Levitt as a near-future hitman with a twist: the targets on his kill list have all been sent back in time. That sounds like a challenging enough gig in and of itself, but then JGL’s character is hit with a serious problem: his next target is an older version of himself (played by Willis). Is he committed enough to the job to commit temporally displaced suicide? If his older self fights back, does he risk creating a paradox and erasing himself from existence? Mix those sort of headache-inducing questions with ninety minutes of JGL and Willis trying to murder each other and you’ve got the makings of a genre classic.

Johnson told the Los Angeles Times that Gordon-Levitt had to spend three hours a day in makeup. This involved using practical prosthetics to make him more closely resemble Willis’ iconic mug. As Johnson explained:

That was really scary because you commit to that and there’s no real way out of it. But the biggest thing is Joe’s performance, he’s really doing Bruce in a big and daring way, but he strikes a balance between obviously imitating Bruce and also building this organic performance.

Johnson said he enjoyed tackling science fiction because it’s the “tea-kettle cozy of genres,” in that it easily fits over other genres. That said, he was well aware of the challenge of making a time-travel movie, admitting that “Time travel just never makes sense.” His way of avoiding many of the pitfalls of a time-travel story was to use the conceit as a launching-off point, rather than the crux of the entire narrative. He compares Looper to the original Terminator, in that “time travel is used to set up this impossible situation between these people and then that situation plays itself out.”

Looper hits theaters on September 28th, pending no collapses of the time-space continuum.