Not so with Rian Johnson's "Looper," which impressively manages to balance the sci-fi, drama and action elements, all seemingly with minimal effort. In "Looper," we follow Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hired assassin who's tasked with killing people sent back in time from the year 2077. Things get complicated when he's assigned to take out his older-self (Bruce Willis).
Moviefone sat down for a brief chat with Johnson, who gave us all the inside information on his creative mindset, his inspiration and what prop he had to take from set.
I group "Looper" in a similar vein to "Back To The Future" and "Terminator" in that they have original, solid concepts. So many movies are remakes or rehashes of older films. Did you go into this wanting to create a truly original concept? Thanks, first of all, since those are pretty huge movies to compare it to. Secondly, no, the notion of originality is never a conscious starting point for me. The thing I enjoy is growing something, from the first seed of an idea all the way through to the end. I'm a very slow writer, and I'd love to be making movies faster, but I'm realizing that what makes it worth it for me is this process. I'm like, "Let's do this quickly before everyone realizes we're frauds and makes us stop!" Sincerity is a more important quality, I think, than originality.
I'm hesitant to hang my hat on the originality peg, mainly because you can see the nods to several other movies in "Looper" -- including "Witness" and "Akira" and so many others. That actually might be the problem with so many movies that aren't landing these days: it's possible that the lack of originality is a symptom of a bigger problem.
Another thing I loved about this movie -- the trailer doesn't reveal the plot! [Laughs] Well, that's the thing. You think you know what's going to happen, but you actually don't. It leaves a lot off the table. That was a really nice by-product of the fact that those elements were less marketable than the elements that are in the trailer. The fact that Sony didn't want to put the kid in there is less about it being a noble thing and more about selling the movie with the action. It's not a lie at all, but it's great that this huge element of the movie isn't in a single one of the promos.
You also don't butcher the concept of time travel, which so many TV shows and movies do. It put a lot of work in, that element ... but again, going back to the movies you cited, especially to "Terminator" -- I really looked to that movie, structurally. It's to the point where, when you're talking about time travel movies, you almost always forget "Terminator" because it uses time travel so deftly. [James] Cameron uses time travel to set up the situation, and then it gets out of the way. There wasn't room in there for a knotty puzzle involving time-travel logic.
And there isn't that painful over-exposition in "Looper," where, as a viewer, you just stop caring. That's a definite danger. The line in the diner [with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's characters] where Bruce says, " I don't want to talk about time travel, we'll be making diagrams with straws" -- on one hand, that was me as a writer talking, and I hope it also reflects where the audience's head is at with the story.
Tell me more about Pierce Gagnon, this amazing child actor in the film. He would sit down and do a three-page dialogue scene with these actors ... and in between takes, when the cameras were off, it's not like he was an adult in a child's body, or some kind of alien-type boy, he was a five-year-old kid. He would get rowdy, rambunctious, and if he did more than a few takes he would get bored and want to move on. But when we were rolling, it was amazing to watch him act. It was one of those freakish, lucky things; the delivery is one thing, but my favorite scene with them is when he and Joe's characters are down in a hole and they're talking. It's amazing to see Pierce really listening to Joe -- that's the heart of a really good performance, that he's fully listening and understanding. It's an extraordinary thing to watch.
You can tell me: did you take anything off set, like props and the like? I'm getting a blunderbuss -- it's like the one thing I absolutely needed to have. One of the props guys built me a shadowbox with a blunderbuss in it, and it's going to get a place of honor in my house!
"Looper" opens in theatres across North America on September 28.